American eco-philosopher Lyanda Lynn Haupt has written some of my favourite books exploring human relationships with our clawed and feathered neighbours (Mozart's Starling, Crow Planet, The Urban Bestiary, etc. ), so I've been eagerly awaiting her latest, Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit -- and what a lovely book it is. Haupt often weaves memoir into her nature writing, but Rooted is her most personal and poetic book yet: a paean to the more-than-human world and our intrinsic connection to it.
Drawing on the work of botanist, biologists, artists, mystics, folklorists, and fellow nature writers (from Rachel Carson to Robin Wall Kimmerer, David Abram, and Sharon Blackie), she discusses issues of science, art, and faith to illuminate means of rooting ourselves in the land around us, whether we are native or immigrants, and whether our lives are urban, suburban, or rural. In a world with so many people on the move (likely to accelerate due to climate change), this is a discussion we need to be having. How do we root, and how do we re-root? What if we must re-root again and again? This book is a guide, full of good advice -- simple, practical, and effective. And for those who haven't yet read Carson, Kimmerer and the rest, Haupt provides an introduction that is warm, accessible, and inspiring.
"In this time of planetary crisis, overwhelm is common. What to do? There is so much. Too much. No single human can work to save the orcas and protect the Amazon and organize anti-fracking protests and write poetry that inspires others to act and pray in a hermit's dwelling for transformation and get dinner on the table. How easy it is to feel paralyzed by obligations. How easy it is to feel lost and insignificant and unable to know what is best, to feel adrift while yearning for purpose.
"Rootedness is a way of being in concert with the wilderness -- and wildness -- that sustains humans and all of life. The rooted pathways offered here are not meant as a definitive list but as waymarkers and fortifications for all of us seeking our unique, bewildering, awkward way through the essential question of how to live on our broken, imperiled, beloved earth. It is the question Thoreau asked. The one that Mary Oliver, who passed just before I wrote these words, has perhaps framed most beautifully: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
"We all come to know our own lessons as they spring from the study of our households, our woodlands, our watching, our footprints, the trails of kindred wild ones that cross our paths. Our intelligent feet, our making hands, our listening ears.
"The word rooted's own root is the Latin radix, the center from which all things germinate and rise. The radix is the radical -- the intrinsic, fervent heart of being and action. Rooted lives are radically intertwined with the vitality of the planet. In a time that evokes fear and paralaysis, rooted ways of being-in-nature assure us we are grounded in the natural world. Our bodies, our thoughts, our minds, our spirits are affected by the whole earthen community, and affect this whole in return. This is both a mystical sensibility and a scientific fact. It is an awareness that makes us tingle with its responsibility, its beauty, its poetry. It makes our lives our most foundational form of activism. It means everything we do matters, and matters wondrously.
"Amphibious, we wander at the singular, radical intersection of science, nature, and spirit. Here resides a multifaceted understanding of the interdependence of earthly life and the engaged activism that such an understanding inspires and requires. Here are the interwoven pathways of inward, wild stillness and outward, feral action. At this crossroads there is intelligence, and sacredness, and wildness, and grace."
All and all, I can report that this beautiful book was well worth the wait.
The art today is by my friend and neighbour Virginia Lee -- who is as deeply rooted in myth and the Dartmoor hills as any artist could be, and I couldn't admire her more.
"I use my own visual language," she says, "to explore themes of transformation and connection to nature, creating realms where deep aspects of the psyche are embodied in folkloric characters and revealed in the mythic landscape."
If you'd like to see more of her wondrous work, visit her website, Facebook page, or an article I wrote a while back: Mythic Landscapes: Virginia Lee. And please seek out her magical publications, including The Frog Bride, Persephone: A Journey from Winter to Spring, The Secret History of Mermaids, and The Enchanted Lenormand Oracle Deck.
The passage above is quoted from Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (Little, Brown Spark, 2021); all rights reserved by the author. Posts on Haupt's previous book: Mozart, starlings, and the inspiration wind and Wild communion.
The paintings, drawings, and sculpture above are by Virginia Lee; all rights reserved by the artist. The titles are: Lost and Found in a Forgotten Land, In the Heart the Woodland Wakes, Miss Birch, a detail from "Once upon a tree, along a wandering path...", Nesting in Future Love's Embrace (sculpture), Three Hares Tor, Moor Maiden, and Heart & Hearth by Hound Tor.