I was happy with myself for swapping my Way of Nature UK training in Scotland (meaning lots of travel and flying, which I wrote about here) to doing the training here with Way of Nature Tuscany with John Milton, who started Way of Nature in the US in the 1980’s. That’s a lot of ‘Way of Nature’, there, I apologise. As usual, I felt a little cynical about the whole thing as I wasn’t sure what was in it for me in the long run.
I have to admit I quickly and unexpectedly felt a camaraderie with John, especially as he has Irish roots and identifies strongly with them. We talked a lot about farming and growing at dinner and what it took to grow organically and sustainably. As he was part Native American, his family grew using the ‘Three Sisters’ method; corn, beans and squash. The corn grew up, the beans climbed the corn, bringing nitrogen to the soil for the squash growing at ground level. Great to learn about this. “Neat”, as an American might say.
Over the course of the weekend we talked about activism, environmentalism and then need for grounding within all that. His story was fascinating and definitely shone a light on what I felt could be possible for myself, having experienced what I can only describe as burnout working in the organic food sector and volunteering in other sorts of food/sustainability-centred activism. John Milton is an extraordinary, ordinary man who is down to earth and practical yet at the same time totally cosmic – an really great combo, I have to say.
So I found myself in this field as part of this course, doing some ‘solo time’. It was a beautiful field, with a hawthorn (or whitethorn, as we used to call it) and blackthorn hedge, with long grass and bramble coating the bottom, very similar to what I grew up with. It was almost impassable, but a great habitat for wild creatures. This ‘solo’ is a time set out for each participant to explore ideas and concepts and come back with some perspective. I experienced my first guided solo time (which I wrote about here) in April and it had a profound effect on me. This time was no different.
We’re all aware of weird things happening, the sort of stuff that’s difficult to explain or not ‘normal’. Anyway, at one point during my solo time I found myself on a blanket my hands and knees. Nothing unusual there, you might think. Well, as I knelt there, in a wild bristly, dry stubbly field, at 1000m above sea level in the 25 degree heat, I heard a cricket call. “Cheep cheep” it said, catching my attention. Somewhere inside I said “I can do that!”, answering the cricket with my best “cheep cheep.” After a bit I felt like I was chatting to the cricket – still pretty normal behaviour, I know. Then I saw it, making its way across the grass towards me. I was surprised and a bit excited that it might actually be coming to ‘say hello’. We continued the dialogue until the cricket clambered on to my blanket and up on to a piece of paper I had. Then I noticed it was missing a back leg. “Wow, weird!” I thought, marvelling at this freak of nature which had come to hang out with me. I noticed its bright orange abdomen and could clearly see the vibration of its one back leg as it called to me. It was definitely at a disadvantage, I mused, but it seemed to be doing ok, but that didn’t stop me from feeling some kind of sympathy for it. Then it tried to climb onto my leg and kind of fell off. I felt sorry for it and tried to help it up, at which point it took off and flew away into the long grass growing into the hawthorn hedge about 15 feet away. I was blown away. Not only because this cricket had apparently taken a fancy to me but also in my fascination I forgot that crickets could fly and got a bit of a shock when it just took off. I realised in that moment that I didn’t need to feel sorry for that cricket because it could fly; its secret weapon.
I then stood up, still a little bewildered and turned to the sky. Just as I was about to put it all behind me and get on with my life, I heard it again. “Cheep cheep” the cheeky cricket chappie chimed, once again. This time I felt pretty certain it was him again so I resumed my grounded position and called out again. Sure enough, the one legged cricket was making his way back to me. Now I started feeling a bit weird. I also kind of felt like I knew what to do, so, a couple of minutes later, when it got near I put my hand down and it hobbled straight on to it and sat in my palm. I gently lifted my hand until the cricket was level with my eyes. We observed each other for about ten seconds, but this ten seconds was like an hour and this moment felt like something out of a sci-fi movie, all surreal and super-real – the moment when the insects started telling us how shit were were and it was time to be nice to the world. THAT kind of moment, when one has an unexplainable (yet supremely describable) intimate moment with an invertebrate which could easily count as one of the most interesting interactions I had ever had with another being, amongst the countless hundreds of thousands of interactions I had had in my life previous to that moment.
“Even a one legged cricket can fly”, I reflected to myself, still totally absorbed in its inexplicable magic. I felt overwhelmed by how I sometimes diminish my own capabilities and possibilities by thinking I’m not good enough or I’m a bit broken or something, but that one crickety moment gave me something which really helped me see that we may all think we have something wrong with us, buy why should that stop us from flying? You can hobble along if you like, with your injured life, but taking off is also always an option. Wow!
I came back from my 2 hour solo absolutely buzzing about my cricket interaction and feeling that through connecting with nature in an open and grounded way, being in the moment, I can get these kind of lessons, I can grow and progress through learning from my environment, as it reflects my way of being, just like I reflect its state too. That was just ONE mindblowing experience in a weekend of deep learning and seeing this ever changing world a little differently once more. I didn’t feel quite so cynical after that.
We are nothing if not a part of nature. Go out and connect, it’s there for you.