From Walking Nature Home, a memoir by plant biologist Susan J. Tweit:
"Biologist E.O. Wilson calls humans' enate empathy for other species 'biophilia,' an inborn bond that links humans with other life. This instinctive connection may originiate in the molecules of our bodies that we hold in common with every cell of every kind of life.
"It is certainly reinforced by the thousands or millions of other lives we shelter, inside and out. There are ten times as many microbial cells in our body, say biologists, as human cells: the colony of microscopic mites that preen our skin of shed cells and other detritus; the 'bacterial nation' that populates our guts, a gastrointenstinal consortium whose individuals digest our food in exchange for shelter from the deadly levels of oxygen in the outside air; and the organelles of our cells, which are formerly free-swimming bacteria that long ago moved in and made themselves at home, as well as indespensible.
"Many of these millions are actively engaged in nurturing us. The five hundred to one thousand species and countless individual microbes that make up our gastrointenstinal consortium, for instance, aid us in obtaining nutrition by breaking down carbohydrates we could not otherwise process. They also protect the environment that feeds and shelters them by fending off outbreaks of potentially dangerous species of bacteria, and they may even regulate blood flow and capillary development in our intenstinal walls. These other lives interact so intimately with our existence that what we think of as 'I,' a solitary individual, is in reality 'we,' a thriving community.
"No wonder we have an inborn affinity for the rest of nature. It is who we are. The bonds we are born with to other species can't help but nuture our ability to link to each other."
"There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks," says Native American novelist & poet Linda Hogan (in Dwellings, her beautiful collection of essays). "Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story."
Today, in the gentle lull between storms, the hound and I walk the hills quietly, listening to rain dripping from the trees and thinking about our connections to all that is here.
Paying attention to the story.
The passages above are from Walking Nature Home: A Life's Journey by Susan J. Tweit (University of Texas Press, 2009), and Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World by Linda Hogan (WW Norton, 1993). The poem in the picture captions is by Native Alaskan poet Mary TallMountain, first published in That's What She Said: Contemporary Poetry & Fiction by Native Women, edited Rayna Green (Indiana University Press, 1984). All rights reserved by the authors.