Land not Nature

Sunrise over the bluebell woodland at Badbury Rings, Dorset.
Sunrise over the bluebell woodland at Badbury Rings, Dorset.

I never liked the term, ‘nature’. I don’t know what it means. It’s an abstract idea that, to me at least, means nothing. It’s a word that takes the real, concrete existence of the land and makes it an airy, thing without form or substance. 

I use the term ‘land’ instead. Land means something. Everytime we step outside, we are standing on ‘The Land’. When we kneel beside a stream, and look into the clear water, we are kneeling on The Land. Our food grows from the soil and the soil is The Land. 

Smoky Mountains range photo
Cherokee, NC, Smoky Mounatins National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway,

We can touch it

We can look to the mountain, and the mountain is clearly the land. We can watch a sparrow flit from branch to branch in a tree, and know the tree grows from the land. 

We can watch a loved one being burying deep underground, and know they are returning to The Land. We can sprinkle someone’s ashes, and watch as they swirl and blow in the wind. We know they are not lost, they don’t drift out into space. They become one with the air, the wind, bind to raindrops, and become water in a stream or dew clinging to a leaf. 

The Land is where we begin and where we end. No matter where we lay our heads at night, we are still sleeping in the bosom of Mother Earth. And Mother Earth is The Land. 

Oconaluftee River in Smoky Mountains

Abstract Thinking

Often we hear of people who speak of ‘reconnecting to nature’. I always feel sorry for them. Because they are obviously thinking in abstract terms. And as long as they think of the land beneath their feet in abstract terms, they are lost. The Land beneath their feet is very real. 

What would our relationships be if we only thought of each other as not existing in physical form but as an abstract ideas, without flesh or feeling? Our relationship would break down. How could we communicate? How would we love each other? Do we love in the abstract? Or do we love with loving words and kind deeds? 

Can we love an abstract idea? Can we love the idea of a puppy, but not the puppy herself? 

A wooden walkway in the Cherokee Botanical Gardens in the Smoky Mountains
A wooden walkway in the Cherokee Botanical Gardens in the Smoky Mountains.

All that we need

Everything we have, everything we need is from The Land. Traditional indigenous prayers thank Mother Earth (The Land), the Waters, the Plants, the Animals, the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars in the Sky. A relationship is nurtured with each aspect of Creation. And we show love and gratitude not to an abstract idea but by words and deeds to the real aspects of The Land that provide for us. 

What do you think that ‘disconnected’ people could do differently? What has helped you to reaffirm your relationship with the Earth, the Land. Drop a not in the comments below.

When we harvest we give thanks. As we walk along a wooded path or a city street, we say a silent prayer. We are of the Earth, of The Land beneath our feet. 

More on Land Ethics

Words Before All Else

Living Life as Ceremony

Disconnection from the Earth: The Biggest Con

Plan B: How to Prepare for Our Changing World

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