7 October 2014

Presence

I am still new to the neighbourhood of salmon, cedar and raven, and I won’t claim any insight into [the world of wild animals] more profound that this: I feel their absence when I leave, and it’s their presence that always draws me back again.
— from False Idyll by J.B.MacKinnon (2012). In Nature Pixelated (2014) Diane Ackerman relishes technology’s scope, reach, novelty, and remedies, but is concerned that, entranced by the internet and other technologies, the human brain:
has lost touch with the body, lost the intimacy of the senses, lost a visceral sense of being one life form among many on a delicately balanced [sic] planet. A big challenge for us in the Anthropocene will be reclaiming that sense of presence. Not to forgo high-speed digital life, but balance it with slow hours of just being outside, surrounded by nature, and watching what happens next. 
Because something wonderful always happens. When a sense of presence steals up the bones, one enters a mental state where needling worries soften, careers slow their cantering, and the imaginary line between us and the rest of nature dissolves. Then for whole moments one may see nothing but snow, gathering thick and wet along the limbs of an old magnolia. Or, indoors, one may watch how a vase full of tulips, whose genes have traveled eons and silk roads, arch their spumoni-colored ruffles and nod gently when the furnace gusts. On the periodic table of the heart, somewhere between wonderon and unattainium, lies presence, which one doesn’t so much take as steep in, like a romance, and without which one can live just fine, but not thrive. Those sensory bridges need to stay sharp, not just for our physical survival, but so we feel fully engaged and alive.

Image: Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Iceland via airpano.com

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