Wednesday, July 17, 2013
California Wilderness: Find your Calling
This entry begins where I am sitting on a small island of stones in Yellow Jacket Creek, just off the Eel River. Douglas Firs grow above and around, while wildflowers and vibrant green shrubs populate the soil closest to the water. Bees, dragonflies, butterflies, water skeeters, and other insects (more bugs than are within my current comfort zone, actually) buzz and hop around. This small stretch of the creek is my sit spot, the place in this unfamiliar region of Yolla Bolly that I can get to know personally, that I can visit daily to be with my thoughts and observe nature doing her thing.
Jon Young recommends the sit spot as the single best practice for creating a meaningful connection to nature; I and several others in the group have taken the sit spot as our 40 day practice. For the past few days I’ve made the short walk to this spot, getting to know the landscape of the journey as well as the spot itself. With my grandma’s bandana tied over my braided hair and my mind wide open to adventure, I feel like a child. With innocent curiosity I look and listen and feel. What is the magic behind this beautiful natural place? How do river and rock, fly and flower, trees and bees interact and exist harmoniously, becoming one entity, one ecosystem? How is it that simply sitting quietly here has such a profound effect on me? These are the questions I ask, and nature subtly responds.
In class we explore these topics, inquiring about humanity’s place in nature and nature’s place within our own lives. The readings are relevant to our experience in the wilderness, and themes from class mingle with my own observations and thoughts. Of particular interest to me is William Everson’s Birth of a Poet, the Santa Cruz Meditations, a collection of transcriptions of his thoughts and lectures to a UCSC class in 1975-76. This book seems to speak directly to me, a current UCSC student concerned with the state of the world and open to new possibilities for my precious lifetime. Everson discusses broad topics such as the uniquely American relationship between people and this land, and personal topics like how we can each find and follow our own path.
He speaks of finding one’s vocare, their calling. I’m thinking about my vocare, my own role in healing our relationship with nature. Somehow those thoughts feel different out here, immersed in nature itself, than in the front country. One phrase we’ve been exchanging around may help explain it: though there is a lot of work to do, we are human beings, not human doings. Being with nature, being nature, is crucial in healing nature. I’m so grateful to be exploring the real force behind my studies and ambitions: a genuine love and respect for the Earth.