Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Organic Psychology

I have a new person to envy: the author Sue Hubbell. Particularly the Sue Hubbell who documents her beekeeping in A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them. Part of her routine is to fill a thermos with coffee and go down to watch the bees. I picture her leaning against the warm bark of a tree trunk in the sun, watching carefully and then taking thoughtful notes.

It’s not the bees that I envy, although I do treasure an occasional glimpse into their productive world (note: Hubbell writes that an entomologist who tagged bees [I picture him applying microscopic security bracelets to their hair-thin legs] found that they spent a lot of time idle. A lesson here?). It is the regular contact with nature that I envy.

Yesterday I walked the three miles to work. I’ve had walks with more sights to report, more deer and herons and swans. But yesterday I simply cherished the smell of the day and the marsh warming up and the sun on my face. I smiled at the squirrels, who rattled about the trees bordering the water. In my pocket I carried two elegant and perfect leaves, species unknown. A three-year-old girl waiting for the bus with her sisters chased me to bestow this gift, squeaking “Happy Birthday” as she bestowed them. They were my talisman, my memento of the peaceful start to my day. That walk was the ideal mix of exercise, contact with nature, and contact with people at their best. Older children alone and younger children with their parents waited outside for the school bus, and they, too, seemed to be relishing the quiet and sunny morning. If only I could start every day this way.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a like-minded soul this week. Michael J. Cohen, a Director of the Institute of Global Education, heads up Project NatureConnect, an initiative that recognizes a link between many of our problems and the extreme disconnection with nature that is epidemic in the modern world, aka Natural System Dysfunction. The remedy? Organic Psychology, an approach that helps reconnect psyches with natural systems. I am intrigued by this mindset, which sounds simple and radical all at once. I am learning more about it. Cohen has been identified as a maverick genius, and there are many layers to his work. My own initial take, looking back on my week, is that children may be good guides for this approach, little organic psychologists or facilitators in their own right. Twice this week Gavin and I let furry caterpillars traverse our arms, and on Wednesday we followed a warty toad as it leapt across our lawn. These moments were graced by a quiet pleasure, a sense of connection, and temporary amnesia from time and tasks at hand.

I love to catch myself at typos and read into their Freudian slips. I often type right instead of write, a very revealing slip for me as writing is what rights me. I chuckled reading back this entry, for at first I typed warty today instead of toad. It is a task-laden day before me, a long list of postponed chores and responsibilities. But later I will relish a walk in the woods, maybe another caterpillar or toad moment. It’s something to look forward to.

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At 5/28/2007 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What wonders a simple walk can bring! Try walking to work EVERY day. Three miles would be about an hour's walk, right? Imagine what a rich life you'd have if you did that, not to mention the enormous health benifits you'd reap.


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