When I saw the first edition of EarthLines I had an immediate rush of excitement … the merging of nature and culture; the recognition that we are part of what we see, not separate. I loved the absence of adverts for crystal suppositories and quick-fix shamanic apps for your iPhone. But at the same time I loved the acceptance that there are things we cannot measure that are as important as the bald statistics on which I might argue a case about hedgehog survival. And I loved its local-ness. It is produced by a ludicrously small team (Sharon Blackie and David Knowles) up on the Isle of Lewis and the material I have read has been so much more familiar than the exotic output of the nearest competitor, Orion.
So I determined that I would try and write for EarthLines – though I could see I was setting myself a challenge as this is a magazine that right from the start has attracted some of the most important names in modern non-fiction. Robert Macfarlane, Jay Griffiths and George Monbiot are all supporters.
And today – on my desk – a copy of Issue 4 – in which I have been allowed to write about Love. It is thrilling to be given the space to think – and I am pleased with finding what I wrote a few months ago still seems to make sense!
I find that when I start talking about the love I have for the natural world many people start to get awkward – perhaps it is simply the use of the word love? But if not love, what other term is there to explain the deep sense of connection and desire that flood through me when I get a chance to experience a little bit of the wild? I could argue that it should be referred to as ‘biophilia’ but that term is already deeply embedded in the work stimulated by E O Wilson.
I think we should get over our squeamishness and embrace love. As I argue at the end of the article,
‘What I love about this love is the way it forms such a virtuous cycle. We will fight to save what we love and what we love is in turn helping us. As with all love, it is not without its risks. Because to open yourself up to feel deeply means that if what you love dies, you will suffer the pain all the more acutely. And so it is with out relationship to nature. We see it being kill, we are hurt, but this pain must stimulate us into action. The alternative is to stand aside and let it happen.’
It will surprise few of you to know that my inspiration came from a hedgehog – but I now recognise that this is not necessarily going to be the same for everyone. In fact just today in the Guardian, the poet John Burnside writes of beautifully of his totem, the hyaena. And in The Beauty in the Beast I explore the passions of fifteen ambassadors for this wonderful wild love.
I rarely get didactic – I prefer to encourage people to go and get the experience and then just hope for an epiphany! But in EarthLines I do begin what could be a dangerous path of making more demonstrative statements …
‘To prevent the numb non-reaction to the destruction of so much beauty, we need find our way into profound love.’
And here is another – EarthLines is a beautiful, intelligent and precious publication – it will only survive if we subscribe … so please, order at least the most recent issue (and get to read all of my article) … and consider helping spread the importance of appreciating the culture of nature.