Monday, October 12, 2009

He Dared to Call it She

skyward

Did you do it as a child? Lie down in a field, look up? Did you watch the clouds— see now a dragon eating a fairy... see the fairy morph into a boat sailing away from fire? Did you let nature show itself, name itself, speak?

During a year of daily outdoor solitude, I saw the world with childlike openness. The hemlocks were Rip Van Winkle, sleeping. The pine a manly tree of life and then a mother's lap. A bush, leaning with crooked fingers seemed to be Grandmother. The squirrels were cowboy vigilantes.

I took this as imagination's fine work, based on deeper sensibilities that urged themselves upward— the way I suspect certain languages were formed, that assign gender to words (Why is a table feminine in Spanish, and why a painting? Why is money masculine and an eraser masculine too?)

Rereading May's The Wisdom of Wilderness: Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature, I noticed what I had not observed the first time around. May experienced nature as a She. I know he struggled with this at some level because he says...

I've thought about it a lot. I considered that the whole experience might be my own creation. It began in a midlife time when I had suffered losses and was under stress. Could my psyche be kicking up its Jungian heels and manufacturing a disembodied woman-sense to meet some unconscious need? I could never say for certain...

I'm guessing that some of us might struggle with May's experience too, particularly since he concurrently sensed the Divine in nature. I think May knows this. I think it's partly why he spends a moment trying to explain. But then he forgets about defense and simply shares his experience. He dares to name the She he senses... like a child, simply watching the clouds, letting them speak.


Sky photo by Sara. Used with permission.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Glynn said...

That was the same impression I had in reading this chapter -- that he was looking at the wilderness through the eyes of a small child.

Beautiful photo, by the way.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

i have experienced nature as male and female but mostly male. i think this is partly because my south african world was mostly rugged, big, manly, wild. but here in ireland i see the feminine. i see the comfort, the green, the calm, the patience. God as both is a powerful concept to ponder.

as always LL your writing takes me to far far away places.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Maureen said...

I re-read that second paragraph several times. Lovely. It brought to mind Sondheim's "Into the Woods".

God gave us a gift in giving us imagination. The wonder is how it helps us navigate out of the wilderness sometimes of our own making. A wilderness created out of imagined slights, imagined fears, dreams, questions, something more powerful to give weight to our own being.

Investing nature with the feminine gender doesn't (to me) seem like such a stretch; after all, don't we say, "Mother Nature. . . "? Creator, nurturer, lifegiver.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Bina said...

"...I saw the world with childlike openness."

That statement struck me...and stuck with me.

Thanks for this post...
Bina

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Marcus Goodyear said...

I'm going to betray my Freudian leanings here. For me Nature means water and water is female. Like Maureen said, "Mother Nature" implies she anyway.

I admit I get a little nervous when May almost interchanges Mother Nature and God.

But then, he is deliberately pushing the boundaries. And really, this book is a matter of him breaking the rules we have for talking about such things.

Makes me wish I could get in a kayak right now...

5:08 PM  
Blogger Monica Sharman said...

I wonder if I should do a bit more of that myself---forgetting about defending myself and just saying what I think, what I experience? And trusting others to give me the benefit of the doubt...maybe?

6:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for putting this out there, L.L.! I think we all have been a little cautious about these parts of the book.I love this thought: seeing the world with childlike openness.

Most children don't draw lines around what they imagine. Seeing a feminine force in nature is not such a stretch, really. God is our parent--mother and father. I think it is this naming that makes me nervous. You know "the Power of the Slowing"...I've only called that Power One Thing.

But I love what Monica says, that maybe I need to be more open this way.

:)Laura

7:00 PM  
Blogger Lorrie said...

I always think of the creator as male and the creation as female..

Great post. Wonderful picture.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

I came back to leave this quote I came across this morning. It's from Greg Wolfe, who contributed a "reflection on presence and abstraction" to Commonweal:

"Problems arise when the encounter is forgotten and the presence is lost, when all that is left are fragments, abstractions, discourse...."

How many of us push deep down our encounter in the Wilderness, losing the presence that might have re-made us whole?

12:03 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

Childlike openness - I like that and want it - again.
Nature as She was comfortable for me. I agree with Lorrie, I think of the Creator as He, but creation as she. Not sure why, maybe the Mother Nature aspect. May does push the limits of my mind in this though; his She was almost human somehow. I am eager to read on.

10:08 PM  

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