We are continually being told of the tectonic shifts to our survival that will come about because of global warming and climate change, and yet so many of us have no intimacy, let alone connection, to the natural world, the wild instinctual life, the call of the wild, or a place that Ted Hughes wants us to imagine with his “where the night snows stars and the earth creaks.”
How many now fish its rivers, or sit beneath an apple tree heavy with fruit, or lie on springs first carpet of green, the earth damp still, your body like a bog man lately risen from the muck and grime of March, or jump a stone wall and idle across a field under the simple eye of the sun, or wander into a copse of hazels ringed by the passing of wild ponies, finding a patch of summer-drenched grass and stripping with the one you love and adding your moans and gasps to the chants of cuckoos and the lowing of stray cows?
We are in peril of forgetting what it is that should make us want to save this world. Causes are grand things in themselves, pure water in a land of stagnant mires, but administering water is not the same as knowing where it comes from. There’s more substance in resting a foot on an unstable rock in a fast-flowing river. Maybe even more in swimming in the cold stretch of a lake, sun spangled warm and fluting with multiple ripples.
We have replaced the natural rhythms of life with clocks, concrete, spending and getting, haste and waste, the slumber-inducing effects of television, the flat holler of the stadium, the orgiastic cry of the stock exchange, the little patter of work in high-rise offices, the sonar boom of wars stifling the very groan of the Earth’s silent turn from day to night.
What’s heard now is not the harsh rasp of a crow on a winter’s morning but the chatter of media around the next dying or dead thing. Not the glare off a frozen lake and the hush hanging in bare trees, golden threads of the harsh sun binding us all together until dusk when the onus is on us to prolong these binds.
And the meat floating in its carton of blood under fluorescent lights? Why has this become our daily empathy with the natural world compared to the “cows on the warm hillside”?
We want to save a world that most us haven’t even set foot in. It’s an Eden still, a place only grand ideas can save. The Creation myth had us expelled for being disobedient and yet this living narrative we call life, the very stuff that is under our clay feet, we obediently refuse to enter, to wade in its muck, to feast on its fowl and fish, to hear its animal grunts and groans, to watch its high drama played out with uncurling frond, dead sparrow, dripping icicle, muddied field broken into light and shadow, the gold of life activated in the base crucible of living.