We are having a fearfully dry winter here in northern California.  Summers are all but rainless, with only the coastal fog keeping this region from total desiccation in the summer.  You can tell where the fog gets when you visit northern California.  Are there lots of trees?  There is lots of fog.  Traveling east, the fog thins and so do the trees.  

But winter this year has been as warm as it has been dry, and the first flowers of spring are beginning to raise their blooms amid the grass that sooner than normal will turn what we call gold, and most other folks, brown. I hope we have a foggy summer.


Making lemonade out of our seasonal lemon, I have been hiking the wilder parts of Sonoma County in the sunny weather, and each time I do I am amazed at the difference in my perception upon getting even a little way out on a trail.  Sight, hearing, touch, smell, sometimes even taste.  All change.  But more subtly than that, I feel a presence that changes as where I am at changes, but always with a continuity lacking in the city.

I am immersed in countless fields of energy from everything making up that network of biological relations we call an ecology.

As a society we ‘know’ that nature consists of inert rocks and rain, and animal and plant life that are far removed from the august heights of human consciousness.  Yet when someone’s life goes amiss, when a week has been too hectic, or when the pressures of daily existence call out for release, many of us, Pagan, Christian, Atheist, and all others, often find release and peace in nature.

Surrounded by inert rocks and water and dumb plants and animals.  Sort of strange, that, when you think about it.  Best not to think about it because that kind of thinking just ets in the way.  It’s good for changing a tire, not for a walk along a ridge or through a grove.

Our bodies and deeper selves are far more perceptive than our minds, molded and shaped as they have been by a culture whose leading ideologies left, right, and center, see forests in terms of board feet, fish in terms of maximum sustainable harvest, and land as something to own and control.   If tourists seeking to see fish or forests bring money, then they can be preserved as investments because the money is more important than they are.

But if we have exercised good sense, in nature our bodies feel peace, openness, release from care.  Our imaginations find beauty all the way from the mountains on the far horizon down to the innermost details of a blossom.  Our civilized minds say: these are just ‘subjective’ imaginings with no ‘objective’ reality. Our bodies and subtle minds say otherwise.

The definition of ‘objective,’ that something is impersonal and made up of data uncontaminated by the senses, best seen as numbers, describes no world at all.  It is instead a powerful incantation to blind us to the one we’ve got.  Businessmen and college professors tend to be pretty good at this kind of magic, but they hardly have a monopoly on it.  Yet even they, when they get out in nature, often feel something different at a visceral level.

We Pagans, and those other spiritual paths that see the sacred as immanent, have a leg up on these folks in learning to see our world.  We know that there is more than official reality admits of.  Much more.

But many of us still lack the vocabulary to describe it.  We feel what we know in the wind, or in a subtle difference sensed in a grove of trees.  “My skin, my bones, my heretic heart are my authority” as the old song goes.  But my skin, bones, and heart are poor authority to the objectifying mind.  

That lack of vocabulary we suffer is the price of the power we exercise over things.  Words can connect us and distance us, and Western society has specialized in words that distance.  Our world has become made up of things, not of beings.  We can connect with a being, but not with a thing.   Our proper relation to things is to control them, ignore them, or destroy them if they get in our way

Until our lives get too hectic, and then we head to a place we do not control,  ‘unspoiled’ nature – the adjective is telling – for release, peace, and perspective.

We Pagans can help our society to reconnect.  Honoring the cycles of life, phases of the moon, wheel of the year, whether through ritual or just paying attention, we reconnect.  I think helping people to experience a stronger connection, with the earth, with all our relations, and with one another is the most priceless gift we can bring to our society.

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