"We need the tonic of the wilderness. The ocean, the mountains, the deserts, a wooded grove – all contain the magic needed to restore pure radiant energy to a stressed soul. Mother Earth in all of her infinite compassion and strength has remarkable powers to restore vitality. Wash yourself in the pure water of the streams, put your bare feet on the good earth, fall asleep in the arms of an ancient tree. There is good medicine to be found in nature." – Henry David Thoreau
The readers of Mother Earth News understand that we are each an inextricable, essentially natural part of this living earth, and that our well being depends upon our relationship to the land. Whether urban dwellers, suburban, small town, remote wildscape or country farm, our bioregions can provide the local food options, natural medicines, inspiration, and rooted identities we need to flourish. Now, after 35 year of reinhabiting and restoring the Anima wilderness sanctuary and authoring over a dozen other books, I have finally written and released “The Healing Terrain,” a 300 pages-long volume focused entirely on deepening our vital relationship to the natural world, from land acquisition and preservation to wildcrafting, gardening, wild foods, bioregional herbalism, including what it takes to learn how to be more native to place, more truly and wholly at home.
And for you, I present here the first of several “Healing Terrain” excerpts, drawn from the book’s introduction:
“We are a special blend of Earth’s many elements, erupting from its mysterious ferment, and then recycling back into the land and every life form that ever sprouts from it, and this is true no matter what our philosophy or religion. For the devout, nature is God’s perfect creation, a balanced blessing of needed nourishment and necessary challenge, and a pharmacy of the medicines we most often need. For the secular or scientific minded, it is the set of processes and relationships essential for the continuation of life on this planet – from Earth’s carbon fundament to its exact atmospheric blend. To all who truly notice, it is not only essential but amazing, fascinating, awesome!“The land provides the fertile soils for our gardens and farms, and thus the nutrient filled foods and medicinal plants we need to be healthy.
Even the sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful pharmaceutical drugs at the core of modern medical practice are simply isolations, copies, derivatives and recombinations of natural botanical compounds. Shelter from storms and the security of a home contribute to that health. From the land come not only the materials for our houses and the terrain upon which they are built, but also, most medical technologies depend upon the land’s minerals – for everything from steel apparatus to computers, radium cancer therapies to x-ray machines. In addition, to the degree that any ailment is exacerbated by rootlessness, disembodiment, imagined separation, artificial environs, indoor lifestyles and the resulting stress, reconnection to nature can itself be a natural treatment for what ails us.
“At risk if we pay nature no heed, is our sentience and awareness, wildness and liberty, growth and effectiveness, ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment. On the other hand, by deepening our conscious relationship with the natural world and a particular place we create the opportunities and conditions for increased sensual engagement and creature awareness, broadened organic perspective, greater insight, holistic understanding, dynamic reciprocity, personal liberation and re-wilding, empowerment and self-authority, uninhibited pleasures and fun, and greater effectiveness at nearly everything we might try to do in life.”
A garden is just not an indulgence for the person with taste, anymore than herbs are simply a more natural way of treating our bodies’ imbalances and illnesses, or time spent outside merely recreational.... such practices a points of connection to the planet, our regions and place, to our wild and dreaming selves, to our greatest potentials and the world we seek to envision and create.
Whenever I commit to spending hundreds of my irreplaceable mortal hours writing a book, I carefully measure its intent and purpose. When writing and illustrating “The Healing Terrain,” I could feel the importance of our species’ moving closer to the earth, noticing more, feeling more, and doing more to not just survive but thrive. It is important to us, and important to the well being of the rest of this living world, that we look not so much to heady thoughts and distant stars as to the earth we are extensions and agents of. For the sake of the planet itself, we will need to sentiently reinhabit what the poet Gary Snyder once described to me as the “real world,” a world of great consequence and heartful rewards.
Click here for more information on Hardin’s book: The Healing Terrain. You can read more of his writings on his blog at www.AnimaCenter.org/blog, in Plant Healer Magazine, and in the Natural Health section of the Mother Earth News blog beginning with "Medicines of The People."
We cannot discover ourselves without first discovering the universe, the earth, and the imperatives of our own being. Each of these has a creative power and a vision far beyond any rational thought or cultural creation of which we are capable." – Father Thomas Berry