From the pain of separation to the love of belonging


Agnes Becker, a white woman in her late 30s lies on the forest floor and unearths a Trooping Funnel mushroom. Photo by Siobhan Calder Photography

"Whatever our gift, we are called to give it
and to dance for the renewal of the world. 
In return for the privilege of breath.” 
- Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

I stand at the doorway and wave goodbye to my husband and my little daughter. They are visiting family in Devon while I go up to Glasgow for a conference.

As I close the door the ragged sobs are pulled from my aching chest. The separation from my wonderful partner and my little girl cuts deep. This is the longest I've been away from my little one since she was born, since we were one connected with water and umbilical cord. I close my eyes and remember the snuggle of her soft body as we read a book in bed that morning. The tangle of fuzzy hair, warm breaths and cheeky smile.

I busy myself tidying the empty house and I reflect on the parallels with our separation from the earth. How it makes us ill. Unlike saying goodbye to my little one the separation happens so slowly many of us don't realise it. How gradually we are taught our worth depends on our productivity and work output. How slowly by overriding our needs to be with the land, with green places, our body starts to contort and twist to stay OK. But the pain of separation is deeply rooted and eventually we can't push ourselves any more and we may try to numb it, pathologise it or just maybe we listen.

Perhaps we are all seeking that need to become one again? To belong?

Everything in our universe came from the big bang. The atoms in our bodies, in the soil, in plants and insects and animals all came from explosions in long dead stars.

I think deep down all of us remember that we are one and maybe we're all searching for the feeling of belonging again. 

The wonderful thing is that much like I will purposefully make my way to see my loved ones again, we can also purposefully seek out to re-establish our relationship with the more-than-human world and through this relationship realise we are and always have been one.

If you are feeling pain too or the numbness of separation from the earth I want you to know that to step back into relationship with the more-than-human world takes the smallest thing: paying loving attention. Just as when I am with my little one, or when you may be with a friend, paying loving attention opens us up to sharing and being thankful for their joy, it also opens us up to caring and being there for them when needed.

You can do begin to pay loving attention to the earth right on your doorstep. Spend a few moments each day getting to know one plant, one bird, one fungus. If you see them in need, tend to them as you would a little child or a friend - water the plant or feed the bird. Just that little step of noticing and reciprocity will open up a world of remembering and aliveness and love as you begin to get to know the beings that you share this world with.

Slowly, the sea of green of the forest will turn into a complex network of organisms living and breathing and supporting and competing. The world around you becomes alive and we realise we are part of it all.

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If you're interested in exploring your relationship and deepening your relationship with the more-than-human world on your doorstep, I welcome you to sign up to the waiting list for my upcoming year long programme ‘Rewild Your Soul - a year seasonal adventures’, opening for enrolment in September 2022. 

Our journey will start in autumn by digging our hands into the depths of the earth exploring our roots, values and the fungal-root relationships in ancient forests. In winter we embrace the dark velvet night and reopen the dreaming space as we learn about the stars, stories and unconscious. When spring arrives we tend to our homes as places that support and nurture us to be while peeking into the tangled hedgerows where birds are making nests and laying their precious eggs. By summer we are ready to joyfully step outside into the wildflower meadow exploring the collaboration between flower and insect as they create seed – a powerful metaphor of how we can each use our beautiful, unique gifts to celebrate and give back to the earth.


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