If I wasn’t blind, lazy, and addicted to frozen pizzas and technology, I’d never come inside.

Last night, I stepped outside and was greeted by the moon gleaming through a thin nightgown of swaying clouds. The land was luminescent, everything covered in wool.

I stepped into the vacant street and was rocked by a rough gust of northerly wind. The cold tore through me, leaving only my innermost parts unmoved. I laughed. Laughed with the power and at my own fragility. Laughed as all my pompous illusions were carried off with my body heat. Then I went inside—I don’t have a death wish.

I’ve never known an ache or pain—both mental and physical—that nature can’t ease at leas a little. Sometimes, it just helps me to put things in perspective. It reminds me, “I’m not different from this. This is what’s behind me.”

I’m not an optimist, though. Nature is harsh. That swaying daisy might as well be bathed in blood. The living depend on the dead. but that doesn’t make nature cruel. Cruelty and kindness are human understandings; nature isn’t human. I think it’s important to be mindful of that.

Without that understanding, our day-to-day lives are pretty much the same as Alexander Supertramp setting out unprepared into the Alaskan wilderness. Nature isn’t just the outdoors with all of its birds, squirrels, rivers and trees. It’s these words, it’s these meanings, this mind and body.

It’s a principle, a way. We just happen to feel closer to it when we get away from all the plastic. But, once again, that’s just human perception. We’re never apart from it. Hell, we’re never even apart from perception, for that matter.

My fairly spiritual take on nature is one of the things that puts me on different page than a lot my Zen peers. My practice is earthy. It’s fire, wind, and rain. That’s why I’ve never totally vibed with Secular Buddhism. Too much polyurethane, not enough sweat and dirt.

This isn’t for everyone. I’m always mindful of the lay of the land, of life and death. I can’t look away from gorgeous open skies or rotting roadkill. This keeps me grounded and reminds me of what’s at stake.

My mom hates watching nature shows because there’s always death involved. I probably got my love of animals from her. She takes in, vets, fosters, and homes stray cats. It’s her passion.

She’s so filled with joy when she’s able to save a kitty from the wild and give it a good home, but there’s a lot of pain too. Sometimes, a cat is too feral to be homed. Sometimes they get sick. Sometimes they die. She tries her best to push that part away, and this causes a lot of suffering.

We never leave the wilderness, we just get lost in thought.

There’s no such thing as a domesticated animal. One way or another, the wild always scatters our illusions and roars through the silence: “This is the big picture!”

We’re often unprepared for this eventuality. We forget.

For me, one aspect of mindfulness is never forgetting the big picture, never forgetting this perpetual dance between life and death. I wake with it in the morning, and fall asleep beside it at night.

Its optimism is in its function, not its form. Ever since my anxiety attack a few weeks ago, it’s made for a better life. A more grounded life. I had to face my fears and scream through the storm to uncover it, to get back in touch with the land.

My practice is organic and elemental. It’s like cool water, magma, ash, and a cool breeze all in one. It’s rot and rust; it’s a cleansing rain and bare breasts in the moonlight.

This is my life. And who is it that sees? Principle is essence. The only thing that isn’t subservient to nature is nature. So, be nature.

1 Comment

  1. I think we read that it’s an imperative to remain part of nature, especially in our cities and suburbs, or we risk fetishizing wildness as an “other,” which makes it easier to destroy what’s close to home.

    This works for our essence, too, probably. We’re wild creatures desperately trying to pursue/tame our cravings. Tending to ourselves is almost taboo in this culture. We have to help others and suck it up. Seems we should probably cultivate our own growth first. Stay healthy so we can save more cats?

    Liked by 1 person

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