Do you feel it? The movement? Can you sense it tugging on your soulstrings, beckoning you hither? This way or that way, we will always move, the switchbacks of our life paths only visible in the rear-view.
Everything on our planet is characterised by its refusal to stay still. Everything moves, and in a particular direction. But which, and why? And how can that help us understand our own direction? Because we are in a time of great change, and the roads are many.
I’m standing at the crest of my land, in the shadow of my cabanas. This is the human zone in the scape, the area where I spend the most time and exert the most influence. In a few weeks, once I’ve repaired the roofs, it will be the place I sleep in, wash in, cook in.
Raising my head up from the rim of my wheelbarrow, I spy the walnut tree that sits at the lower end of my terrain.
“Hey, this way,” she murmurs from afar. “This way.”
I feel the summons not in words but in...in... an impulse. It’s one I ignore, because I’m hunched over, mud smeared up to my elbows, sieving clay for mortar. Yet an hour later, something is still nagging at me, an arboreal finger scratching at the back of my mind. I haven’t visited the tree. Thus movement begins.
As I step through the grass, round the brambles and over the rocks, I’m constantly invited this way and that. Distractions are everywhere. The ash tree calls loud enough that I make a detour. As I finger the lattice of her trunk, and sense The Movement of life itself, I ponder on the direction each branch takes. Of course each one is searching for light, but how various their ways of attaining it! Every single branch creates its own unique path to the sky.
I move again. Down the slope, which is itself moving. Down. It follows the call of gravity. Picking my way through a gap in the stone wall, I see iris stalks pushing fresh through the dirt. Straight. Direct. Vertical. There’s no messing about with the bulbs. They are the Roman roads of flower stems.
Finally I arrive. How different the vista from the walnut tree. I can almost see into the arroyo from here. The water is dancing down there, reeling from rock to bank, forming its own glassy road.
“Do you see? We are all moving in sync,” whispers the walnut tree. “Everyone is doing their job.”
If you are guardian of a natural space for any length of time, you will notice this too. Everything knows what it’s doing, and everything has a role. Brambles protect, flowers attract, rocks give structure, water and soil nourish, sunlight energises, bees pollinate, ants clean, worms compost, and on and on it goes. Everyone’s path weaves into everyone else’s, creating a miraculous network of movement.
Staring up at her bare crown, my eye glides along the walnut’s boughs. They curl and twist in ways quite different from the ash. The ash is an upward mover, arms ever reaching aloft, looking for the sky. The walnut prefers breadth to height. She has another mission.
If the walnut were human she would look at the ash and compare herself. “Maybe I should be striving to go higher,” she would say if she felt inferior. If walnuts trees were ideologists, they’d have placards saying, “walnuts are the way!” And then sit around and bicker about exactly which kind of walnut was best.
But of course trees (as far as we know) don’t suffer inferiority complexes, or ideologies. For them there is no hierarchy, no pyramid of importance, no one “right” way of doing anything. There is only the urge to move in a certain direction. And from tree roots to wind patterns to gulf streams, everything participates in The Movement while embodying their own special dance.
Suddenly, as I stand beneath the walnut tree, I feel the call. I want to express my intuition in words, write about The Movement, and let it speak through me. But in an instant, a terrible heaviness crashes upon me. As I clutch the walnut’s trunk and my gaze sweeps the vale, the devil on my shoulder snarls.
“Pah! How is writing about nature and movement going to help anything? You need to do more! Protest. Or go to Africa and fight the poachers. Or plant a million trees. Now. Time is running out!”
We are in a time of great challenge and change. The old-and-established is shaking. The new is crouched below the horizon, waiting, and who knows what it holds? It’s easy to feel lost in such times, and not know what we should do. But ‘should’ is part of the old. It’s a man-made linguistic structure aimed at coercing us to do something we naturally might not. Who needs this unsolicited advice from our inner guilt police?
In truth we know what to do. Even with all the gimmicks and manipulation and addiction vying for our souls, we know. Because we are living Gaians, thus part of the pulse of life that has evolved in and over this planet. It courses through our veins, igniting our passion and stoking our wonder. From the far side of our hearts it beckons, nudging us this way, or that. Perhaps the steps we take appear meaningless, like my amble to the walnut tree. May be they don't even appear to be a step, such as pausing for a week or a month to allow some zeal to bloom. Yet everything we do is as vital as each breath.
We all know. Really we do. The trouble is we don’t act on what we know. We listen to other people, copy their way instead of forging our own. Or we chicken out. Or we can’t be bothered. Or we are guilt-tripped into doing or not doing, or cajoled by someone else’s reason. But it could all change in an instant. Because when we follow the invitation, and step along our natural path, the world begins to transform into something altogether different.
The pressure is on us all now, and many are the soapbox orators parading ideas as divine truth. Some say it’s all down to the economy. Others claim tech is the answer. Others point to psychological causes, and others spiritual. Some people are busy trying to break down the old system, others are trying to come up with ideas for a new one, yet others are on the front lines fighting for environmental laws, while some are protecting animals. Some people are reducing their meat intake, while others are creating sustainable smallholdings, some people use their art to express their ideas, others are protesting, some folk are creating Edens and Arks, others are sharing information, and others are working out what to do with waste.
Such a marvelous array of activity could only exist on Earth! But will we support each other in our missions, or cut each other down because we think our way is ‘better’?
It’s absurd to jump upon one branch and assume it’s the root of it all (roots very rarely occur in the singular, they are networks). There isn’t a hierarchy of impact, but an ecosystem of influence, and every single living being has their own part to play.
The Movement of life is within us, speaking through our emotions and our imaginations, calling each of us to be who we are. Everyone has a job to do, a path to walk, or perhaps just the tiniest step to take. Now is surely the time for us to participate in the dance of our world, and take it.
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Atulya K Bingham
Author, Lone Off-Gridder, and Natural Builder.
"Reality meets fantasy, myth, dirt and poetry. I'm hooked!" Jodie Harburt, Multitude of Ones.