“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.” –William Wordsworth
I recently began reading Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram. In his opening paragraph he talks about “blending our skin with the rain-rippled surface of rivers, mingling our ears with the thunder and the thrumming of frogs, and our eyes with the molten sky. Feeling the polyrhythmic pulse of this place.” He also says, “the power of language remains, first and foremost, a way of singing oneself into contact with others and with the cosmos—a way of bridging the silence between oneself and another person, or a startled black bear, or the crescent moon soaring like a billowed sail above the roof.” Or, I would like to add, a gnome. What I feel when reading Abram’s introduction is a certain rumbling, a stretching of the boundaries of humdrum reality, the lifting off that results from embracing simultaneous polyrhythmic pulses or melodies.
This, I believe, is the space where gnome encounters happen, when we are willing to loosen our control, acknowledge the being-ness of all creation, and slip into reciprocal honoring and communicating. Most indigenous peoples did this quite naturally, and others, too—particularly those close to the land.
My friend Sigrid calls it, simply, a love of life and cautions me not to be too mono-causal. “Invite people to be open to experiencing and being deeply touched by nature, and present this invitation in different ways,” she encourages. “When we cultivate relationship we find our own names. If ‘gnome’ doesn’t work, another word will.” For Sigrid, her grandmother, a life-long farmer, personifies this deep connection with nature. Her farm was small enough to actually tend—she could approach all of its aspects each day with tender, intimate knowing. She had a personal relationship with each of the farm animals and a fine appreciation for the wild creatures and plants interwoven with the cultivated ones. “The day I can’t be in the fields to see the swallows fly,” she would say, “I don’t want to live any more.”
As well as the witch burnings in Europe, Sigrid notes the “tremendous loss humanity endures from the severance of indigenous knowledge, another world that has been marginalized, even demonized. The Industrial Revolution then dulled us down with a repetitive pounding, to get rid of the possibility that the spirit world would speak to us. Control of religion also marginalized the mystics and the practice of meditation, and watered down the huge power of Christ love. Now we’re unaware of what’s going on energetically. And we don’t have much language for it.”
How can we re-learn this “language older than words,” as Derrick Jensen puts it, and rekindle our awareness of the energy that throbs through our fingertips, nudges us softly into the vibrational fields of other living things? I find, in writing this blog, that the more I immerse myself in the doing, the more wonder-filled I become, and sure footed, and fluent. I might summon this flow by reading Barbara’s notebooks or other writings that invite another level of consciousness, by asking spirit for help, then listening in my early morning reveries for the floating thought that, grasped in time, will guide me into my writing, or by remembering the little rituals, like lighting a candle and sitting up straight, slowing my breathing to match that of the tree outside my window. If I get out of the groove and go for several days without any attention or cultivation, the world of nature spirits can become a dim memory hiding out in the ancient ruins of last week. And if I sit down to write in that state, because I must, it takes awhile to quiet the oh-so-old voices that say, “How do you know you’re not just making this up? Where is your proof, where are your facts? Indeed, where is your intelligence?
Night helps! Lately I have been doing my 45-minutes of standing qigong meditation at odd hours of the night in front of my house in a circle of pines, cedars and oaks. I know I am getting somewhere when I long to share my energy with these trees, rather than dreading the slow move of minutes. This quote from St. John of the Cross has been coming into my head: “Into this happy night, in secret, seen of none, nor saw I aught, without other light or guide, save that which in my heart did burn.”