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Biophilia

When we have spring fever, what is it we crave? Certainly not just mild temperatures; our houses are comfortable enough. Warmth outdoors, yes — warm weather, not just warm temperatures: weather, with wind and rain and sun and clouds, the fluctuations of a living biosystem.

But is that all? If we took a trip to the Bahamas, would it relieve the longing? It would be enjoyable and distracting, I admit ... but when I got back, I know I would still be on tenterhooks, wanting... what?

Not just green growing things, the Bahamas were lush. Not just new sprouts starting the year's growth: I can see lots of them at a garden center — but that leaves me even more impatient.

I want new sprouts growing out of the earth, the planet itself — and in particular, the land I know. I want to see the natural life of my neighborhood reviving and renewing: Hawthorne Brook flooding and skunk cabbage smelling and cats looking for catnip in my garden. The compost pile suddenly shrinking as it warms up and the microorganisms get active. I want the whole shebang, and I want it with my guts.

Biologist Edward O. Wilson says he thinks the reason for spring fever is an innate human attraction to other life. "Biophilia," he calls it. Makes sense to me: it's the reason we take kids to the zoo, the reason we walk in the woods. It's the delight I felt when a moose calf walked though my back yard. The affection I feel watching my plants grow.

Lakota Sioux end every prayer with "Mitakuye Oyasin" — which says "all my relations" — and refers to all beings in the world. The phrase combines blessing and thanksgiving, expresses a sense of the interdependence of living things.

Connection is the key. Caring, getting involved with the life around us. We don't just go to the zoo, we keep pets. We clean up the park, we garden. Perhaps I would develop a relationship to the Bahamas... but I'd still be connected here, too.

When we pay attention to this sense, it nurtures us with many joys. Conservation is often urged by citing horrors: loss of valuable species, destruction of soils, pollution of aquifers.... Positive motivation works better. Every flourishing garden is an activist for the environment, evoking a gut reaction of biophilia: connection with the life around us. Especially in spring.

© Copyright 2003 Catherine Holmes Clark


Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 28 March 2003

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For more information

Pick Your path to Health: Mitakuye Oyasin, All My Relations, by Cathy McCarthy

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