We Must Cultivate a Connection to the Natural World
Developing a deeper bond with the earth establishes and sustains self-healing and community.
I grew up in sunny, urban South Florida, with color and vegetation exploding at the seams. Sandwiched between the Florida Everglades and the Atlantic Ocean, the city that raised me is brimming with parrots, palms, hibiscus and tropical fruits.
In the same breath, we sit at the forefront of the climate crisis.
The beaches are not the same places that taught me the physics of sandcastles or how to treat Portuguese man o’ war stings. Instead, native vegetation has been removed, erosion has ensued, tides have risen and change proves itself once again as the only constant.
Early on in my agricultural career, I began to realize not just how disconnected people were from their food, but also from themselves and their surroundings. Shifting circumstances seemed to arouse fear, instability, even abandonment. Farming was my framework for reorienting myself in an ever-changing world. It supported me in laying the groundwork on which to understand the importance of sustained health in myself and my community. All the while, the practice perfectly illustrated how everything is some kind of meal, feeding our minds and mitochondria, guiding me into a relationship with that which holds and heals.
The Landscape Around Us Is a Living Organism
I, too, had been blind to the web of connection we are each so deeply woven into—the world of interdependence overshadowed by the story of the independent pioneer. At first, I found it hard not to be upset. The reality of understanding how many of these spaces are actually left to share, and who has safe access to experiencing them, highlights the trying balance of urgency and patience. Nonetheless, like the slow unfurling of a flower, it became clear to me how deeply our varying environments impacted wellbeing, from the individual to the collective. However uncomfortable, there is deep pleasure in lifting the veil of disconnection.
Over the following years, I found myself farming in different parts of the country. Upstate New York was where I built my foundation in herbalism, where I fell in love with the wild and cultivated mint family, Lamiaceae (think mint, basil, oregano and thyme). They made my body feel alive. Northern California filled my eyes and heart with the golden hues of summers and sunsets, while my nose sought out the scents of dry heat, grass, eucalyptus and salt. Southeast Michigan taught me how to root, and provided me with nourishment through companionship. By growing crops like burdock, rose, elderflower and dandelion, I learned about the senses and energetics; bitter clarity, sweet protection and the umami of life. I often moved states with the seasons, snowbirding from parcel to parcel, chasing an endless growing season for a while. Then, I landed back in Miami.
Revisiting the land that raised me was like settling back into a familiar hug from an old friend. Just like an old friend, time had passed, life had happened, we each stood with our own stories, the land holding eons to share. As I write this, I also want to explain why I have chosen to personify this place. The landscape around us is living. It is a multifaceted organism that has respirating, moving, living, dying, dynamic parts. It is a macro reflection of us, and we are a microcosm of them. As we step deeper into the pool of emerging tech, I hope humanity never feels so far from nature that we no longer recognize ourselves as a part of it. We are nature.
The Earth Is Always Changing, and We Must Bear Witness
As I begin again to work with the soil, so familiar and strange, I am often reminded of the variety of bugs, minerals, seeds and sediments, buried in this earth. Pushing back settled topsoil, the multidimensionality of every space, every moment, is revealed. This reflection acknowledges the same diversity in both myself and in surrounding communities. The planet feels exciting to come home to because it is always different. Just as there is an opportunity to be born anew in every moment, as we faithfully continue shedding skin and regenerating with each lunar cycle, we can too embody the new person already in existence without feelings of separation.
The soil carries memories, holds bones, births flowers—is alive. In the humidity and heat of the South, things can change quickly. Imagine the heat generated from a compost pile and its ability to transform food scraps into rich soil in a matter of weeks. The climate acts similarly, embodying transformation. True to Heraclitus’ words, “All things flow, nothing abides. You cannot step into the same river twice, for the waters are continually flowing on.”
There is courage in choice, and wisdom in acceptance. Like the seeds planted by our ancestors, may we continue to navigate an ever-evolving world with patience, resilience and care.