Below is an excerpt from my essay “In these Hidden Places: An Ecology of Wild Beauty” appearing in the current issue of the journal Written River from Hiraeth Press. This essay explores the engagement of wild beauty in nature and the effect it has on personal psychospiritual development.
Written River is a free journal, full of beautiful poetry, nature writing, and art. It can be viewed online HERE. Also check out the number of great titles published by Hiraeth Press. Buy one (or more) and support the wonderful and important work of a small press engaging the critical issue of restoring our relationship to the natural world.
About Hiraeth Press:
We are passionate about creativity as a means of transforming consciousness, both individually and socially. We hope to participate in a revolution to return poetry to the public discourse and a place in the world which matters. Of the many important issues of our times we feel that our relationship to the environment is of the most fundamental concern. Our publications reflect the ideal that falling in love with the earth is nothing short of revolutionary and that through our relationship to nature we can birth a more enlightened vision of life for the future. We believe that art and poetry are the universal language of the human experience and are thus most capable of transforming our vision of self and world.
And here is the excerpt of my essay “In These Hidden Places”…
In These Hidden Places: An Ecology of Wild Beauty
Do you think that somewhere we are not Nature, that we are different from Nature? No, we are in Nature and think exactly like Nature.
-C. G. Jung
Serpent’s Egg Grove was calling to me this morning, so off I went…
It’s late November. The trees are bare now. The wild flowers are gone. The fields and meadows seem to miss them, and sharply bend rather than sway in the wind. The forested ridge to the south is also bare, and everything is brown, with the exception of some berries and apples still punctuating the branches with a bright red. Standing on the hill just outside of Serpent’s Egg allows a view through the bare branches and bramble into the center of the grove. There is a spirit wheel made of vine there, hanging from one of branches, adorned with a lone feather. It isn’t visible from here, but I know it is there.
Nature is beautiful. We often say that, but what does it really mean?
As living things, we are together with nature in an active and collective ecology of aesthetics, so to understand what we mean when we say nature is beautiful, we should ask not what beauty is, but what it does. Since our participation in this ecology occurs through the perception of our psyche, it will be useful to first place the term psyche into proper context. Tracing it to its Greek roots, we find that psyche is not limited to the idea of the mind or brain; this limitation only grew into fashion in the 19th or 20th century. Before that it was used to denote a wider sphere of human experience – the Greek psykhe was more an idea of soul or spirit. The understanding of psyche, as soul, not only deepens our ability to know on the level of conscious awareness but also allows knowledge from the deeper, unconscious parts of the soul to emerge into that conscious awareness. This numinous process is a quality of the psyche that has been commonly recognized. The comparative religionist Rudolf Otto, for example, described the experience of the sacred through psyche as mysterium tremendum et fascinans – mystery, fear, and fascination. With this broader, and more accurate, understanding of the psyche, we can now engage on a more solid foundation the question of what wild beauty does.
We can clearly see that it is through the numinous functions of our complete psyche – soul – that we encounter beauty in nature. This wild beauty isn’t composed of just line and form and color, though that certainly is important at times. It isn’t something exclusive for “people of taste.” It isn’t hard to know when we witness wild beauty – the experience ignites some inner process that transcends and mocks the galleries and critic’s pen, and invites everyone to participate. The sense of belonging that is engendered by such aesthetic experiences can only be mirrored through representations in art or other cultural artifacts. Within the awareness of our belonging, we know that wild beauty is not separate from us, trapped away in objects or things, but is an inner and outer process of witness and creation. The soul responds to wild beauty in a way that unmistakably says, “this is beautiful, and I am one with it.”
Read the rest of this essay and other nature writing in the current issue HERE.
Also be sure to check out the past issues in the archive.
About Written River:
Written River is a literary journal published bi-annually by Hiraeth Press which focuses on poetry and non-fiction prose exploring nature and our relationship to it. Published on the Summer and Winter Solstices in digital format, we strive to encourage the discipline of eco-poetics and return the voice of the poet to the body of the Earth. Eco-poetics is poetry in which the energy of the ecosystem flows through the poem, creating a written river of words which ebbs with the creativity of the entire Earth community. Written River marks the confluence of many streams and many voices as they flow back into the nourishing ground of the watershed.
1640s, “animating spirit,” from Latin psyche, from Greek psykhe “the soul, mind, spirit; breath; life, one’s life, the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body; understanding” (personified as Psykhe, the beloved of Eros), akin to psykhein “to blow, cool,” from PIE root *bhes- “to blow, to breathe” (cf. Sanskrit bhas-), “Probably imitative” [Watkins]. Also in ancient Greek, “departed soul, spirit, ghost,” and often represented symbolically as a butterfly or moth. The word had extensive sense development in Platonic philosophy and Jewish-influenced theological writing of St. Paul (cf. spirit (n.)). Meaning “human soul” is from 1650s. In English, psychological sense “mind,” is attested by 1910.
 See Hillman, James. Re-visioning Psychology. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992. Print. p. 2
 See Otto, Rudolf. “HathiTrust Digital Library – Das Heilige, über Das Irrationale in Der Idee Des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen.” HathiTrust Digital Library – Collections. Web. <http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.32106000132115;page=root;view=1up;size=100;seq=18;orient=0;num=x>.