Featured in Rewild & Slow by Creative Countryside (04 February 2020)

Trails back to the self

Have you ever walked the way of the baboon or along the path of the fox, have you listened to the call of the owl through the ears of a badger, or known the caution of a deer at the edge of a field, for in the freshness of the dawn, before their tracks are hidden by the breath of the wind, we are able to immerse ourselves in these hidden lives, becoming one with nature and experiencing a world not far from our own, along a journey of the imagination grounded in the truth of a footprint.

It is to know a place in its natural rhythms, to listen as if these were the first sounds and to see as if our eyes had just opened, bringing our minds and imagination into the now and experiencing life differently, a single moment that crosses the divide, and to follow the trail as if it were our own.

And along the way nature reveals herself, for I now know where the otters call home, have seen where the youngsters playfully roll down the grassy bank into the sparkling stream, of the deer that passed by during the night, the tracks showing the weight of young soon to be born, and the digging of squirrels as the days shorten towards winter that evoke a sense of restlessness within myself. In this there is a resonance of being, for the trail of life is universal as we continue to walk alongside the rhinoceros and the raven.

It has been suggested that tracking was the foundation of science, of discovery by observation, but hidden within this assumption is the extraordinary ability we all have of being able to experience the world through the eyes of another, to see and think as they do, to feel, and in so doing, to deepen our encounters with nature and broaden our experience of the world.

I learned much about tracking from the first people of the land, the San Bushmen of the Kalahari, and it is still their way of being in the world that offers me a passageway into an unknown landscape as I follow the ancient trails that join the horizons, but along the way this becomes much more, as it is also a journey home.

For as I enter this land, I notice a change within myself, it is as if my senses have become re-tuned, my pulse slows and I become aware of the softness of the sands beneath my feet, this is a change that is symbolic of a pathway once divided as humanity moved away from nature and into a world of distortion and distraction and the loss of the now, but here, in this silent moment when a circling buzzards’ flight lifts my spirits and feeds my soul, nature offers me back to myself.

Here there is a resonance with the earth, and a truth in each footstep, for when we follow a well-worn trail that takes us back into nature, we are offered a journey of discovery, for as the chatter of the mind is left behind, something within us awakens as nature draws our attention to the gentle calling of a dove or a trickling of a sunlit stream. As we leave the human universe, a subtle but fundamental shift occurs, moving us away from competitive independence towards inter-dependence as we see our connection and place within the wider living world. And in awakening the deeper self we are reminded that we are of community born of kindness and compassion, our true nature, and that is why, in this space of re-connection, it is most profoundly a coming home to the self.

And the invitation is to re-claim this as our true identity, and to carry it back with us as we return to the human universe, offering our kindness and compassion to a world that seems to have forgotten.