April 2013: A Reverence for Life

by Brad on March 31, 2013

“The first peace is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Taka (the Great Spirit), and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”  — Black Elk

We humans are social creatures; it’s in the DNA. We’re wired for connection with one another – conversation, community, intimacy, sharing. Increasingly, in our fast-paced, achievement-oriented world, we forsake direct connection with others for the “arm’s length” connection offered by technology. We’ve traded deep dialogue for the sound bite.

We’re also wired for connection of another kind – with the natural world, the biosphere that supports all life on earth. It seems we often forsake that connection, too, seeing the earth as a resource over which we have control rather than stewardship. We’ve traded reverence and reciprocity for “resource management” (but even that we’ve done poorly.)

So while we struggle to find the lost parts of ourselves – in consumerism, spiritual seeking, achievement, etc. – we miss the fact that we’re searching for what we unknowingly gave away, the depth of our connection with one another and with nature. Perhaps it’s time to reclaim that which we’ve lost. A few simple examples from some friends:

  • A&F live close to the land, and are part of a thriving local community, too. They advocate “natural,” in lifestyle, shopping and eating. On weekends, they lead workshops to teach others about nature’s wild edibles – hands on.
  • E loves bugs. While she may not invite them into her home, she welcomes visitors anyway, holding each one in her hand for a while so as to know its story, then personally escorting it back outside after their visit.
  • N lives on a dairy farm. Her everyday life is grounded in the earth and the rhythms of the land. Her work in the world, however, is to connect others with, and then paint, angels. Between these poles, she finds balance.
  • D will sit motionless for up to six hours – in the 90° heat of the Serengeti or in the -35° cold of the Arctic – so she might touch the lives of others with her magnificent wildlife photographs.
  • B comes home many afternoons to a porcupine on his front steps eating nearby raspberry bushes. He sits next to the creature for half an hour, and listens while the porcupine teaches him about balance and trust. 

These are ordinary people who choose to be in touch with the extraordinary. Through simple acts of connecting with nature, their lives are enriched … and they enrich the lives of others with their presence. What if each of us, in some ordinary way, could also touch the extraordinary? You don’t have to become a naturalist or a “tree hugger” (although neither world hurt): it’s about reconnecting with the energy and spirit of our source. What if, in some way uniquely your own, you might live more “in nature’s image?” Where, out there, might you find new meaning, in here?

Maui StyleI suppose that, in many ways, my role is one of building bridges, from where we are now to where we may wish to go. As a part of that, this month I’m introducing a series of blog posts entitled In Nature’s Image. You’ll find them on my website here. I’ll do a new post every few days, each a simple suggestion for adding meaning to your life, accompanied by one of my images from nature. If you’d like have them delivered to you by email, you may use the green icon (“receive blog via RSS feed”) on any page of my website or right here. If we’re connected on Facebook, you’ll also find each post there.

Although the pace of your life might suggest you see each post as yet another sound bite, I invite you to ponder. You may find that absorbing the scene itself touches you. Or you may find it more meaningful to imagine what your life might be like if you were to live out the suggestion offered by the text. Just imagine. Imagination carries energy. Please feel free to share posts with others. And as always, I’d love any comments you may have.


A River Runs Through It  [Life lessons offered by nature]

Since I was about six years old, I’ve been in awe with nature. From stargazing at night with my dad to birdwatching on weekends to doing nothing in my own back yard, I found nature to offer wondrous gifts. As an adult, nature has been both a compassionate listener to my greatest challenges as well as a quiet teacher for life’s greatest mysteries.

Over the course of my life, as “way leads on to way,” I’ve been offered the privilege of bringing my love to others. For 20 years, I’ve led nature tours to some of North America’s special places – polar bears of Hudson Bay, summer on the Arctic Circle, British Columbia’s pristine wilderness coast – guiding hundreds of people in exploring nature’s wonders. And the nature story isn’t complete without many personal pilgrimages to my favorite place – Hawaii.

Over these years, I’ve noticed a shift in my relationship with nature. Noted here are various phases, each marked by the aspect of a place I found drew me the most. I guess, as is true in nature, nothing stays the same for all time.

  • As a child, my first awareness was of the physical science of a place. For example, early lessons about the Arctic Circle were intriguing to me because here was a place where, on at least one day each year, I could sit still for 24 hours and experience the sun drawing a complete circle around me, never setting.  “What is the Arctic?”
  • As a young adult, I was drawn to the biological science of the place. What’s up with polar bears (or even spruce trees), and how can they survive the cold?  “How is the Arctic?”
  • As a new nature tour leader, I was drawn to the ecological science of the place. How does the Arctic “work,” and how are bears and ice and cold and wind and seals inter-related?  “Why is the Arctic?”
  • After many years leading tours, I came to find the human aspect of the place most intriguing. How can people live so happily year-round in this unforgiving land, and how have the Inuit adapted?  “Who is the Arctic?”
  • Now, after 20 years “in the Arctic,” my memories are of shifts in life perspective, how people go home (to places all over the world) after their travels and bring with them new ways of seeing home, as if for the first time. Many times I would hear, “I came to learn about the bears, but I go home learning from the bears – why we need them as much as they need us, and what makes our lives and land precious and so worth our care and protection.” Maybe I’d subtitle this one, “Where is the Arctic?”


Openings to New Possibility

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  • Eleven years of The Road Not Taken newsletters (132 issues) now available here as a single pdf file.  
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An invitation to possibility: Big ideas have big potential. They become your ideas with personal felt experience of them. Gaining that experience is often elusive because we find it difficult to step out of our own thinking so as to examine it. If you’d like to consider a “guide for the unexplored territory” of your future, contact me, I’ll meet you wherever you may be on your path, and together we’ll chart a course into your potential.  

Book of the monthLiving the Wisdom of the Tao, by Wayne Dyer. The Tao Te Ching was written 2500 years ago in Ancient China, by Lao-tzu. Its 81 verses of wisdom suggest you can change your life by changing the way you think. Wayne Dyer created this version from many translations, adding explanatory summaries of each verse. The word Tao means “way;” the text represents a beautiful view of the underlying truth of life. …  And, if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book available at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons – 508-539-6985.

 Download April 2013 pdf

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Fraser March 31, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Thank you Brad! Connecting with people and with nature is truly the heart of our existence and our vitality, and your way of expressing that is enriching and extraordinary. As you say, our relationships to each other and to nature change, but our love and fascination with them endures.
Breathing in the air of spring as I dug into my garden this weekend, I realized I’ve been doing that for 20 years in the same spot. A neighbor with their family walked by, and one of their children who had been an early grade-schooler when I first met her now has a 1-week old baby. Rebirth and renewal flooded my heart.
Everything is always shifting, and nature teaches us to embrace and enjoy change. Still, sometimes we make it hard. Thank you for supporting me in your invitation to possibility as I drill into what really matters and explore my potential.


Brad March 31, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Beautiful, Julie. I so appreciate your perspective. I love hearing about “stories that matter.” Thank you.


Corrado Paramithiotti April 1, 2013 at 9:33 am

A fat robin is watching. For the past week or so, a fat robin comes to the tree branch in front of my kitchen window and watches intently as I go through the morning routine of making coffee. He sits there, moving his head from side to side as I go through the motions.
There is nothing to eat on the branch and the gound below is just barely free of the last snow. I wonder what he may see, what he may think. Then, when I finally pour my first cup in the faint hope of becoming fully awake, he looks at me, stares me down, and in a moment he is gone until tomorrow. I actually heard myslef talking at him through the closed window and started wondering if I am losing my mind. Then again, I talk to my dogs every morning, so what is one more listener? I wonder….


RM April 1, 2013 at 6:38 pm

I enjoyed reading about your stages of understanding/experiencing the Arctic. It gives it a whole new meaning to your line “Possibility lies at the edge of your current perception.” All we question, learn, experience, reflect upon are part of the different chapters of our life. As it unfolds itself, we change and grow. It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
I’ve recently realized my life’s focus has been on the destination, not the journey. I’ve spent many years worrying about what I should be doing, how I should do it, and when it should be done. Instead of questioning what is next, I’ve had this fixed plan that I think I know what I am doing, and yet somehow I get to a place where fear sets in and I feel very lost! Then I stop trying – for fear of failure, or I won’t live up to my own expectations.

At the moment, I sit on the top of a mountain with a panoramic view of chirping birds, scurrying rodents, and white tailed deer. These animals linger, live and play freely. Why can’t I live in freedom? What is it me that is holding me back from experiencing that true FREEDOM!?

Just recently, when a task is at hand, I’ve just done it, instead of “thinking” about it. IT GETS DONE! How simple is this? How complex I’ve made stuff!


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