Nature is impartial, amoral, and chaotic. It is we, the conscious ones, who bring loving kindness, cruelty, meaning and order to it all.
Consider that your loving family dog was meant to gnaw the belly of a still living elk calf, that your house cat will toy with a half dead mouse until it dies of exhaustion, that infanticide, polygamy, and eating one’s mate are all part of the natural order of things.
Mother Nature is a blank canvas for our projection: the noble lion, the foul and evil snake, the loving and playful dolphin. We see a hawk and wonder what it symbolizes in our life, not thinking that we are seeing it because we are near its home.
It makes as much sense to imbue a sighting of our neighbor with prophetic meaning. Yet, I’ve seen a raven foretell the death of a relationship, been moved to stillness by a juniper tree, been sent into the depths of time by a fern on a canyon wall.
Underneath nature’s neutrality and randomness is a profound, compassionate silence. A complete absence of judgment or taking sides, an absolute abiding of whatever cruelties we enact on each other, whatever poisons we pour into Her.
On September 11 ten years ago, I was leading a group of students on a backpacking trip down Arizona’s Blue River. We’d been out for two weeks, when on the 12th an envoy caught up with us, a copy of the New York Times in his hands.
Soon after, my co-leader and I stood holding a young man, usually full of hubris and good humor, as he sobbed in shock and innocence lost. I raised my head to the sky now empty of planes, contemplating the Earth shifting beneath our feet.
Above, a band of violet-green swallows careened in joyful circles, chattering the ecstatic essence of Life.
James MacAdam is a Renaissance Dude. He spends much of his time working with NGO Watershed Management Group to green cities across the Southwest U.S. He has studied widely and deeply across various spiritual traditions including yoga and Zen, is a (currently inactive) certified Anusara Yoga instructor, and has found major health challenges to be one of his most powerful teachers. He is a tree-hugging nature buff. James writes a monthly column with an integral perspective on sustainability and the green movement, entitled “Thinking Beyond Green” for The New Southwest. Links to his most recent columns are here. James lives with his wife Rachel and their miniature poodle Teddy in Tucson, Arizona. You can find him on twitter, facebook, and on his blog.