The wild way

Posted 1/8/20

A parent’s gifts come in many forms. Some of the finest given to me by my mother, Dorothy, and father, Ormond, have been an appreciation for the natural world, for music, for art and for words. …

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The wild way

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A parent’s gifts come in many forms. Some of the finest given to me by my mother, Dorothy, and father, Ormond, have been an appreciation for the natural world, for music, for art and for words. Each has guided my life in ways that continue to unfold with beauty, healing and grace. When they come together, the potential for transformation is unlimited. 

I was reminded of this recently when a dear friend, Nancy Ference, drew my attention to “The Lost Words: Spell Songs,” a musical companion piece to the thrilling work of authors Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, “The Lost Words.” 

According to its website, www.thelost words.org, the book began as a response to the removal of everyday nature words from a popular children’s dictionary. It has since evolved into a protest at the loss of the natural world and a celebration of the creatures and plants that share our lives. Folk by the Oak Festival (www.folkbytheoak.com) commissioned “Spell Songs” and invited eight musicians to respond to the book and art.

Nancy provided a link to the closing song, “The Lost Words Blessing,” which can be heard at the website above. That this song led her to think of me is a blessing in itself. It’s given me a renewed compass for a path through the coming year, as I step down from my position as executive director of SEEDS (Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support) to assume more intense support of my parents at this stage of their lives. (Learn more about the SEEDS opportunity at www.seedsgroup.net/executive-director-search).

The song encourages devoted attention to the natural world, as well as giving voice to what one encounters therein: “Walk through the world with care, my love, and speak the things you see.” By way of example, my parents encouraged this way of being throughout our lives. 

For me, it led to the 2013 launch of Wonder Watch as co-founder of Heron’s Eye Communications, sharing images of natural wonder (www.instagram.com/heronseye). It also spawned artists’ residencies, both locally (www.sandylongphotos.com/galleries/lemons-brook-farm) and at Shenandoah National Park (www.sandylongphotos.com/galleries/shenandoah-national-park). 

The photos in this column were selected in response to “The Lost Words Blessing” and its messages honoring the immense value of the wild. My parents also taught us to appreciate animals for their endless gifts, and I’ve had deep bonds with dogs throughout my life. The pup depicted here is Raven—a feisty little terrier adopted from Dessin Animal Shelter a few years ago.

The last line of the song urges, “And when every hope is gone, let the raven you call you home.” While Raven isn’t a bird, she is a big fan of the wild—and always eager to adventure into it. My parents gave me the gifts of a lifetime, and with this special song as a lifeline, we will find our way.

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