Unrooted, Head in the Trees

artwork by Oriana G. G. Hirschberg

“We have broken our equilibrium.”-Sebastião Salgado

The frenetic pace of the digital, idea economy leaves us empty. Endless days spent behind artificially lit screens takes its toll on our eyes and our souls. We are left floating, unrooted, lacking. We decide to unwind and flip on a Netflix documentary. Our escape within the prison we’ve created. And yet, this documentary inspires us, stirs something deep within that’s been dormant for a long while. Moving images of awe inspiring mountains. Endless expanses of sand dotted with cloaked figures. We watch, mesmerized by the skillful motion of a human moving up the trunk of what must be a hundred year old tree. These images spark a fire that’s always been there, kindling at the ready, only waiting for a match.

It’s not just a nature documentary but a portal into another way, a way that life could be, if we were born in a different time, in a different place, in another reality. It leaves us wondering “how do we rediscover our connection to the earth, to the natural world?” We suddenly want to throw away our modern lifestyles like last year’s pants that are a bit too snug. What was once comfortable now feels like a self-consuming trap. We want to adopt a more “primitive” way of living. A way in which we use our bodies as our tools and as our means of expression, not just as vehicles carrying our minds from place to place.

We desire a grounding. An unearthing of that deep wellspring of knowledge we’ve left sitting stagnant for so long. We desire our hands on rough bark, our feet squishing in cool, muddy earth. We yearn for more.

And yet, these dreams feel like just that, dreams. Baseless fantasies, phantasms of a now defunct way of being in the world. Something we want desperately, something that, on a cellular level, our bodies are craving, but something we are unsure of how to attain. Where would we even start? It’s a desire that we give up on and ignore. A yearning relegated to passing thoughts, “oh, to know what it was like to be alive then.” 

But if we can’t take up a new way of living that throws us into handmade huts and requires us to forage, hunt and be one with the elements, to live like our ancestors and indigenous counterparts, then what do we have left? What can we do to quench this thirst? How can we find a way to be re-born in our current state? To ease our grip a bit on the realities of modern life, to not let our daily minutiae and anxieties blow up into monolithic clouds of stress and pressure. How do our dreams of a more tactile, harmonious life become actualized?

The answer isn’t immediately clear. Of course, we can turn to the obvious suggestions of disconnecting more from our smart phones and laptops and setting aside time for hikes and camping trips into whatever wilderness is around us. These are objectively good and sound things. But these answers don’t feel satisfying. They are merely short-term fixes, no better than the instant gratification we receive from the red rush of notifications on our Facebook profiles.

Instead, the answer isn’t so clear cut. It requires a transcendence in order to reach a grounding. A rising, above romantic ideas of “natural”, prehistoric living. Above condemnations of technology. It’s about recognizing that a hot shower and wireless Internet are beautiful things that propel us forward into new possibilities. They are instruments of our daily rituals not many of us would be willing to forgo in our search for balance and connection with the natural world.

No, it’s not about condoning the trappings of modern life, of course it isn’t. Rather, it’s about tuning into a new frequency, one we often lose sight of amidst all of the distractions. Our gut frequency. That powerful inkling we often feel when we are onto something good or about to step into something bad. It’s this original natural power that lies within all of us, a direct line to our ancestors, both a relic of our past and a tightrope to our future. The one thing that can help us feel more connected to our environment than any romp around the jungle could ever hope to achieve (not that I have anything against a good romp around the jungle..) but a thing that requires careful attention to stay in line with.

It’s this, our connection to self, that we are missing in our modern way of living. Although it may seem like the self is running rampant from all the ego-affirming activities we are saturated in by the minute, from followers to likes to curated profiles, these projections of “self” aren’t what we are craving. They aren’t deepening our relationship with our true nature, but instead, inflating an image we create through selected words and pictures.

What we are actually craving are the simple things that keep us rooted within our bodies and the world around us. The things that help us feel okay with who we are and what we are doing. The things that give us that reassuring feeling that we are headed in the right direction. A movement made that releases something from deep within. A story written simply because it settles our mind and makes us feel whole. An evening spent watching the reflection of the sun as it sinks into the water, the light lingering well after it’s gone under . The things that look like introspection and sound like a quiet promise we make to do what feels right for us and for those we love, moment to moment. A trusting and a release from self-inflicted obligations. Moving forward by staying still.

When we can remember this fundamental connection, we can find solace in our natural inspirations — from a documentary watched on a laptop to a few days spent camping in the wilderness — rather than feeling a desperation to inhabit a time or space where we can never belong. It’s only then when we can take these inspirations as cues to heed more closely our personal flow and internal rhythm, rather than feeling like we are missing something within our grasp. We can smell that sweet whiff of nostalgia of a life never lived, but we don’t let it overpower us.

When we can take inspiration, not desperation, from the salt of the earth, we can find our balance. A balance that allows the frenetic pace around us to be viewed from a place afar. A place where we can sit on a rock and find beauty in the static, not ourselves lost within it.

*This post was a collaboration with the immensely talented, Oriana G. G. Hirschberg who dreamed up and created the drawing for this post based off only a page of my scribbled notes and floating ideas. I’m beyond thrilled with what she came up with! Do go give her a follow to see more of her beautiful work and send her some love if you like what she does.

The Salt of the Earth, a breathtaking film following the life of the acclaimed photographer, Sebastião Salgado, is the nature documentary alluded to in this post and the impetus that began the journey to unearth these words.

(Visited 136 times, 1 visits today)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *