Sitting among the trees
Where do you walk on your daily exercise? Do you take time to look, listen, wonder and reflect? Do you give yourself time to simply enjoy being there, wherever there is? With Defiant Dandelions last week, we began a series of blog posts about walking, pausing and being present, being aware, being there in the moment of the movement. Now, here is a guest post from Graham Harvey to take you along a riverbank
Recently I have been walking from home along the banks of the River Tyne. While pausing to enjoy a special place by the river, I remembered a throw-away sentence I typed many years ago. I asserted that contemporary Paganism is not a “spiritual path” but a “sitting among the trees”. People often say they have “come home” when they discover Pagan ways of celebrating ordinary seasons and ecologies. This is, I think, what my assertion meant.
But I have been considering journeys again. Walking will do that. That is my experience of what happens when I walk a path and find a place to stand or sit among trees or rocks or flocks of other creatures.
The diversity of ways of being Pagan must mean that people come to appreciate different beauties (to echo Keats) in their celebration of the world. I now identify myself as an animist Pagan. This is not about believing in spirits. Rather, it is about seeking appropriate ways of showing respect to other beings (animals, plants, rocks, rivers, bacteria, humans). There is, I think, no such place as “nature” from which humans are distinct. Only diverse multi-species communities. Similarly, our homes house many other species (e.g. cats, spiders and bacteria), sometimes more than can be found in industrial fields.
Not everything in the world or in our homes is safe or nice. There is the virus of course. And not all humans are pleasant. But “respect” is not the same as “like” or “welcome”. The animist path is a journey to find one’s place in the community of life. Social distancing from all the species among which we co-evolved is not possible. Our daily permitted exercise might be a good way to find ourselves back on a shared path with other creatures.
Graham Harvey is Professor of Religious Studies at the Open University and author of Animism: Respecting the Living World
All c. G Harvey
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