Re-wilding Paris: Part One – Terrorism and turning to nature in times of grief

This three-part series explores what it means to “re-wild” as I invite nature in from the periphery with respect to Paris terrorism, climate talks and philosophy.

Re-wilding Paris: Part One – Terrorism and turning to nature in times of grief

(15th November 2015)

“The old Lakota was wise. He loved the earth and all things of the earth. He knew that man’s heart away from nature becomes hard. He knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon leads to lack of respect for humans too.” ~ Chief Luther Standing Bear

Like you, I feel shocked and deeply saddened by the Paris terrorist attacks. The injustice and inequality that currently exists in the world can feel insurmountable.

Something that gives me hope in tough times is nature, the more than human world of which we’re a part.

Whatever’s happening in our human lives, we’re fortunate to still have beautiful wild nature to turn to.

Did you know that following 9/11 New York’s parks and botanical gardens had record numbers of visitors?

Whenever I spend time with nature, particularly when I’m grieving, I feel healed and replenished. Research studies now demonstrate some of these benefits.

The practice of slowing down and spending quality time with nature is a form of re-wilding, claimed by some to become the next biggest human movement*.

So what is re-wilding?

According to Wikipedia, to re-wild is to return to a more natural or wild state; a process of undoing domestication and of returning to our human wildness. Though often associated with primitive skills, it emphasizes the development of the senses and personal relationships with members of other species.

According to eco-psychologist Dr. Bill Plotkin, “…to be fully human we must fully inhabit our sensuous animal bodies, our enfleshed forms inextricably embedded in an animate world. By re-wilding ourselves in this way, we moderns will re-wild our world as well…” ~ Bill Plotkin

Re-wilding is about bringing our mental, emotional and instinctual intelligences back into balance with one another. It’s also about recognising that nature as a whole has its own intelligence that we can tap into.

It emphasises the instinctual – the intelligence offered to us through our body’s senses – because for the past few hundred years this one’s been most on the outskirts of our awareness.

How do we re-wild?

The most effective way to re-wild and develop your bodily senses is to spend time, preferably alone, in the company of wild nature.

Re-wilding is difficult to get wrong, as poet Mary Oliver counsels “you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves”. And in the company of wild creatures – the animals and trees – my experience is it happens as if by osmosis.

The healing and softening of our hearts that comes through re-wilding is nature’s windfall that awaits us whenever we’re ready to turn to it. Often this is when we need it most.

As in New York on September 11, I know the parks, trees and animals of Paris are, in their own unassuming way, supporting the city’s people in this hour of deep need. To them I bow in thanks.


*At a screening I attended earlier this year of a must-see film, Love Thy Nature, the female presenter quoted the Huffington Post as positing “rewilding to be the next biggest human movement”. While I couldn’t find the precise reference, I did find these great articles one, two and three. And regardless of the original reference, I think the woman’s onto something!

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