I've been thinking a lot lately about the way humans relate to nature, or more specifically, how many of us tend to view ourselves as seperate from it. It's odd when you really think about it. I mean, we know intellectually that we are a part of the natural world but a majority of us act as though we live outside of it. A great many of us have been shaped to view the world as a resource from which we extract both our needs and our desires. When I sit down and consider the real cost, beyond money, of many of my possessions, I am struck by how little I have really thought about the cost of my consumption on the planet. It is shameful beyond words and sometimes I still feel powerless against the giant, dominating force that is capitalism with its dark magical powers of persuasive marketing. Indeed, studies suggest that willpower is futile in the face of such coercion to consume.
Many Indigenous and First Nations peoples live harmoniously with the natural world and find meaning in place. On a trip to the Kimberley several years ago I learned from Aboriginal guides that this relationship is deep, vivid and very real. I remember walking in Mimbi Caves and where I saw only rocks the guide pointed out a pregnant belly and a long snake. Listening to the stories of the caves, told over thousands of years, was like entering a portal to another world. The caves came to life, whereas before they had felt dead and cold like a tomb. They took on a new significance and suddenly the caves were a place we were communing with, rather than simply exploring.
It strikes me that forging a relationship to the land on which I live is of utmost importance in nurturing the kind of fulfilment that will lead me away from an endless path of material consumption. Simple as that sounds, this has been something of a revelation for me. Even though I have gardened for many years and been a tree hugger my whole life, I haven't ever sat very long with the idea of being in relationship with the place I live before. The longer I do sit with it, the more I understand how terribly cruel I have been, and the more I wish to make amends. I have started planting more native plants in my garden, let go of my rage at the possums eating all my veggies, leaving fallen plant debris for the insects and lizards to hide in, being more mindful of controlling invasive species in my garden (there are so many!) and I've been trying to improve the nutrient impoverished soil that surrounds our home. Further afield, I have begun to really observe the places I walk to around these suburban hills, without my phone, just like I used to do all those years ago before we had the distractions of technology.
In the studio this is translating into a desire to express these relationships. My garden journal is out again and I am ready to get painting some more of the critters that call my garden home. I am researching local fungi and have plans to dig into the history of my suburb and some of the local, natural sites. I have this creative urge to honour this land that sustains me and the ones I love. I think I am begining to let go of those beautiful days living by the sea and I'm embracing these beautiful days of living in the hills. I resisted this place for so long and that left me unfulfilled. In learning to recognise myself as being in relationship with this land I have also learnt to love it.