I’ve recently read Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations, Volume 1, Planet, edited by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gavin Van Horn, and John Hausdoerffer. It’s a beautiful little collection of short essays by ecologists, philosophers, professors, and others sharing information and stories from different viewpoints on our kinship with all of Nature. There are 4 other volumes in the series that I can hardly wait to read!
The ideas set forth in the book stirred so many personal memories, and caused me to realize that there are numerous others who believe not only that we are a part of Nature, but also that other forms of life are just as important as ours. We didn’t evolve to decide the fate of those often considered lesser lives such as animals, trees, soils, rivers, and oceans by our short-sighted endeavors. We are here to protect them as much as they protect and provide for us. Our forgotten ties with Nature are addressed in a particularly touching essay by Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist & professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry. She writes that we have always been fed, provided for in every way, sung awake in the morning, sung to sleep at night, and taught by Nature. Since the beginning, she explains, Nature has loved us, but we’ve failed to recognize it. (For a bit more on this, check out my post Does the Earth Love You? based on Kimmerer’s delightful book Braiding Sweetgrass.)
Another of Kinship’s essays that really spoke to me is by Bron Taylor, professor of religion & environmental ethics at the University of Florida. He writes about the ways in which we establish feelings of kinship with Nature. Direct, visceral, sensory experiences in Nature – including experiences of awe and wonder at the beauties, mysteries, and sometimes terrors – are a common pathway to kinship sentiments, he explains.
Spending time in Nature, encountering majestic landscapes & wildlife, was certainly the catalyst for me. And it all started in the wilds of Northern New Mexico. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in the southernmost part of the Rockies, are found in this region that stole my heart. Its highest peak is found in Taos Ski Valley, which reaches an elevation of just over 13,000 feet. Hiking in the ski valley during the warmer months is a visual treat. Dense aspen trees and conifers hug the trails, and the aspen leaves change from a gentle green in Spring to brilliant reds and golds in Fall.
Much of the northern part of the state is either lightly developed or not at all. Taos Pueblo, a multi-level adobe complex about a mile north of Taos proper, is the longest continuously-inhabited community in the US. It is said to have been built between the years 1000 and 1500. Like the Great Pyramids and the Grand Canyon, it is a World Heritage Society site, one of our planet’s most significant historical cultural landmarks. The few Native Americans who still live within its walls have no running water or electricity. Currently, the Pueblo is used primarily for sacred ceremonies and is open for tours on non-ceremonial days. During my visit, I purchased sage and cedar smudge sticks that had been freshly rolled by an elder. This divine scent is quintessential Northern New Mexico to me.
There are other aspects of the area that take my breath away. Unforgettable sunsets over its sliver of Rio Grande and skies with double rainbows. Rivers and streams flanked by mountains, cottonwood trees, and vibrant wildflowers. Piñon trees growing close enough to the roads that you can pull over and fill your pockets. And if you’d rather view the loveliness from inside your car, a plethora of scenic drives, including the Enchanted Circle and the High Road to Taos, await you.
It’s an area replete with adobe houses, earth ships, and other unconventional set-ups that its residents call home. It has a long history for being artsy, and there are loads of musicians, writers, painters, sculptors, and artisans to keep that history alive. Downtown Taos, and the tiny villages in its proximity, have a great many galleries, from the fancy to the simple. I believe the beauty of the area works to inspire its artists, in the same way it inspires me.
As a result of experiencing this and other exquisite natural beauty, I know in my heart that we are one, neither superior nor inferior, with all other life. Like the first Kinship volume sets forth, protecting Nature and allowing all other forms of life to flourish reciprocates the love and care She’s always provided for us.
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