I would have to say it is a kind of quest at this point; a reclamation. To strip down one’s life to the point where one can reacquaint oneself with what it means to be alive–and yes, what it means to be an animal. Modern society has deprived most of us in the “first world” of knowing and understanding our place in Nature, in the Universe, in life.
We can sit back and think about what it means, or talk about what it means, but without experience, none of that amounts to understanding anything, really. And, you might ask, why is that important? For many it is not. For me, and people like me, it is very important. It is spiritual. It is a lesson in understanding things on a small scale so that you can understand things on a greater, cosmic scale. As above, so below, is really a true notion: Like the electron that orbits around the Proton of Hydrogen, so we on Earth orbit around the Sun which fuses Hydrogen into Helium.
What does it mean to be a part of nature? What does it mean to be cold when it is cold, hot when it is hot? What I have found so interesting is how my body has adapted quickly to the fluctuations of the seasons, the temperatures, the length of day. I am tired for a reason when my body has burned a lot of calories just to stay warm. I look at my animals outside, and I am more like them then I was before–at least in my conscious mind. I am not really any different then them, only I am their steward because I care for them. But, in turn, they provide me with sustenance, so it is not a superiority I feel over them, but a sense of privilege and obligation. We feed each other. We care for each other. We know each other.
I try to learn their languages, rather then leave it all one-sided. They do their best to learn mine. All animals have different utterances that have different meanings. And, non-verbal communication as well. They look me in the eye, so I owe it to them to do the same.
What we take from the Earth we must give back, if we, as humans– as animals that are a part of Her, are to survive. We must give back so that the cycle of life can continue. This is a huge part of life that modern society is so removed from. The fact that life is born from death and decay; that it is the breakdown of life that creates that which feeds and nurtures life. That is fertility. The ground is made up of the bodies of billions. It is a living, breathing organism from which the plants feed, grow, and in turn feed the animals. We are an integral part of this system, be it by contributing our excrement or our bodies when we die. I cannot say we give our waste, because in Nature there is no waste, only continuity.
I look out on a rainy day like today and see the layers of mist that coat the valley below us. Every drop of water so precious to all the life here. I think of how I can subtly shape the land so as to hold this gift, so that when there is drought we can all survive. I shape the land by watching the land and working with her. The water has already made its way, I only need to expand these paths, or slow them down. The land speaks to me the way the animals do. I take the time to listen because I am one with them–a part of them.
Gone is the sterility of my former life, and I am the healthier for it. When I am able to build my den in the forest of things from the Earth: clay, stone, wood; I will have an environment that is healthy and holistic. I live now in temporary quarters that are less comfortable, but a lesson in what it is to be at the mercy of the elements–to a degree. I am dry. I am able to have heat. I am still on the grid, still transitioning more and more.
There was a mistake made in the pathway that mankind took to get to where we are now. A mistake in the demonization of where we came from. There is no shame in being an animal. There is only shame in not realizing we are animals and therefore beholden to the same boundaries and responsibilities of all life–to remain in balance with all of Nature, our environment, our home.
Modern society is on the precipice of its own destruction. It is grinding up resources so quickly that there will be nothing left in a markedly short period of time. When we, as a species, blow up whole mountains, poison all water aquifers, pollute the seas and extinguish the life within them–all for what really? What price a tank of gas? Really? Will you pay for a tank of gas with the life of your child or grandchild. Is going to the mall really that important to you?
I strive now to live without. To live without material things, to live without fossil fuels, and that which they produce. If I cannot produce it myself, or trade someone close by who can, then I do not need it. I really don’t need much to stay alive. I really need much, much less.
It is not easy to transition. It takes time. It takes work. It takes ingenuity, and determination. What most people see as “sacrifice,” I see as peace, harmony, love, life. Wealth is not money. Wealth is not possessions. Those things are not really real. We really only have ourselves. Wealth is what we choose to make of that.