I recently told you I wrote the rough draft of my next novel in just 3 weeks in July. I’m giving it a breather before I polish it up, but it’s got me thinking about some of the issues it raised in my mind. So far this is by far the most fun I have had researching anything, because it took me down trails to learning more about modern physics, mysticism of various traditions (Christian, Sufi, Native American), nature writing, Native American culture, and even poetry exclusively about the sea (God bless you, Juan Ramon Jimenez!). Chief of all was the idea that modern life is disconnected from nature, and how and why we need to get back to the creation we are a part of.
The protagonist of this new novel is a young man in crisis, whose only remaining love in life is Lake Michigan. His Odawa friend takes him to a pipe carrier of his tribe, who tells him that he needs to live near the lake until it speaks to him. This was inspired by my discovery–which seems so obvious in retrospect–that we are not living ON this earth but IN it, since the atmosphere is a part of our world, and we are a breathing, inhaling, exhaling, living and dying part of our ecosystem. I started to think, if someone was living their life in a way that cut them off from the land that gave birth to them, what would happen? How would they get back? What would that look like? How do the rhythms and music of life relate to the land they come from? How do we relate to the land we come from?
And it took an entire novel to just raise those questions. I hope I didn’t give too many answers, because that makes for crappy fiction, but my character did discover what I did–that there is a voice in the water, in the wind, in the earth, if we can still our hearts long enough to listen to it.
This week, we had some health crises in my family and things were just nuts for a while as I tried to take care of everyone while sick myself. My 3-year-old daughter asked to look at the stars when we came home last night, and just holding her hand and looking up at that deepening expanse of light in the darkness above reminded me so quickly: this will pass, but nature endures. Nature may not be forever–it is more threatened than ever before in this history of mankind–but compared to us it endures. Even if it comes down to a terrible man-made catastrophe for the earth to rebalance itself, it will. It’s simply written into the DNA of nature to harmonize. And it will. And everything will be okay.
How many people need to hear this? How many people are living cut off from the things that give us the simplest joy: the stars in the sky, the voice of the waves of Lake Michigan? I think it is essential for us to reconnect with nature in one way or another, for our own survival and sanity. The good news is that the same music flows through us. It doesn’t take long to find your way back. Just stop, and listen. You’re tuned to hear the music.