I drive south, seeking Fall in new places. Mountain after mountain rolls before me in waves across the landscape. Ribbons of the Blue Ridge Parkway intersect thick forests in every shade imaginable. Clouds race across the sky.
An entire mountain appears rusted in place. Upon closer inspection, a bright orange leaf begins to grow brown and crisp at the edges; the impression of rust an illusion created by distance.
I round a curve and there is the whole spectrum of color again. As I drive further my world changes and then changes again. The forest is in motion along the side of the road, a dappled world of shadow and light.
Life is always in the setting of Nature. It is landscapes like the ones I show you here that will shape our futures; places like these that will shelter and weather our joys and mistakes.
If you think hard enough, every memory you possess is probably accompanied by a mental snapshot, a panoramic image of the specific PLACE in which it occurred.
It is these places that provide the framework and the texture for our lives.
“What is the purpose of my life?” “How should I live?” “What structure should define the way I look at the world?”
These are a few of the questions that people always seem to be asking themselves. The places they go looking for answers in vain are as numerous and as varied as the questions that spawn these quests.
How strange that humans should burn so fervently with questions, yet lack the sense of where to find the answers. We must look outside of ourselves, into the world that made this perception possible.
In the Cherokee creation story, the Buzzard flies out over the land to make way for the arrival of the animals. When he reaches their ancestral homeland, he is tired. As his wings flap they strike the ground. Wherever they hit there forms a valley, and when his wings lift again a mountain thrusts forth from the ground.
The Cherokee have a deep and abiding reverence for the land. Their stories were always rooted in a specific PLACE in order to establish and reinforce this reverence.
By including the mountains in their tale of origin, the Cherokee are reminded of their stories everyday. To answer the question of what their life should be, they need only look around them. The mountains rise and fall in all directions, dominating the landscape. The lessons of those stories stand large against the sky, and the Cherokee remember to live in balance with all things.
To listen to the Cherokee tell you their stories for themselves, check out this post.
I think of this when I look at the mountains too. I stand small and brief amongst them, and I feel grateful to be a part of this great, majestic, swirling multitude. I look to the intricate balance of the forest for its instruction. I bend my life to the curve of the stone as I journey in search of my own answers.
The sacred nature of PLACE is not just a philosophical idea. It is a practical responsibility. We must protect our natural places, such as they still exist in our world.
It is a tragedy that humans, who are capable of such good, invest so much time and energy into destruction. When you seek to destroy nature, you conspire against life itself.
As the year winds itself down, let us look to Nature for direction. When the last leaf of the season falls to the ground and we settle in for a cold, gray winter, there will still be the promise of Spring.
In the Autumn of a long age of destruction, let us humans begin again. Let us lay down the old and dried up parts of ourselves, and strike a balance with the PLACES we are in.
Where to start, you ask? Look around you. Whether the nature of your place is as majestic as a mountain, or hidden behind the hard, rough edges of a city, the natural world still exists somewhere around you. Go looking for it.
Plant a tree. Pick up trash. Change everything about your life, or change one thing. Do something small. Start easy. Keep doing it. You will make a difference. I promise.
Be like the leaves. Give yourself over to the world around you.
Here are a few resources to get you started. If you have a resource you’d like listed here, please contact me.
Don’t forget to follow LOCUS: A journey in search of PLACE!
Plant a tree for just 10 cents! Help support this amazing organization in their tree planting efforts all over the world!
Help support the WWF in their mission to stop the degradation of our planet’s natural environment, and build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. This website offers great resources, information, tips on green living, and ways to get involved. Check it out!
A great list of organizations working to protect the wild spaces left in the world.
Join the Sierra Club, the United State’s most influential grassroots environmental organization.
A free e-book with 101 ways to get started today!
Enjoying the fall photography? Click here to see more.