Umvelt

Umvelt or umwelt: the world as it is experienced by a particular organism.

The Scottish naturalist John Muir, born in Dunbar just along the coast from where I’m typing, declared:

‘When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.’*

Everything is present to everything else, but we often do not know it.

As I come into contact with this tree or this hill, as I watch this bird swoop across my eyeline or this hornet flit around the garden, I become connected.  When I stop objectifying the world around me and allow for all this presence to teach me, perhaps there will be a better world in me, rather than the climate change I am:

‘Could a national park be seen as a place of poetry?  Line by line, step by step, we wander along a path unknown to us, but in the process of discovery, we come to recognise ourselves in each tree, each plant, each bird and face our longing to reconnect with a larger world beyond ourselves.  Rather than fear the wilderness ahead, even climate change, we are present inside it.  Fear is replaced with engagement.  Relationships are forged, resiliency as a species is enhanced.’**

For other thoughtful reflections on the relationship between ourselves and trees, see Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings post Consider the Tree, and Jacques Goldstyn’s poignant children’s story of the child whose best friend is a tree Bertolt.

(*John Muir, quoted in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)
(**From Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)

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