This week, we continue our theme of ‘Bright’ with an insightful and moving post about the nature of true friendship and the natural world, by Mo Henderson.
Springtime is here, with its brightness unfolding. The yellow daffodils shine on the roadsides and the delicate forget-me-nots peer out amongst the grasses. In our garden colourful, small birds busy themselves, rummaging for nest-building material, including blue tits, wrens, finches and sparrows. The tree buds burst out in various shades from purple to a fine bright green. The evenings are brighter and as the day extends the garden calls to share the natural worlds awakening to lightness and beauty. I find springtime uplifting after the long dark days of winter and love being outside.
The poet Mary Oliver, who had a traumatic and dysfunctional childhood, describes how, amidst the trauma, she would take a walk in the woods amongst the trees and feel ‘saved’ by friendship with the natural world.
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”
Quote from-‘Wild Geese’ Mary Oliver.
The natural world seems to awaken a sense of belonging. No matter what my own conditions are, while walking with our two dogs Shiny and Chiko in the forest or on the coast I am relaxed and feel at ‘home’ with myself and the surroundings. I observe the dogs as completely living the walk, catching the scent of another animal, sniffing all the aromas of country life and chasing the birds who come close to our path. My guess is they too are totally at home in friendship with the natural world.
Feeling this sense of mutual friendship and belonging with the natural world is not the same spontaneous process between human beings. In my experience, getting to know someone takes time before feeling able to simply be ‘me’. These days people, in general, appear to have many ‘acquaintances’ but only a very few real friendships, if any. Getting to know someone well is often a slow process and observation of intentions needs wise discernment. There are some, regardless of conscious or unconscious intention, who seek friendship for self-gain, or, use flattery to mimic friendship. These types of half-lies and half-truths can fall away when one is fortunate enough to be mutually nourished by genuine friendship.
“a friend is a person with whom [one] may be sincere, genuine friendship extends its rewards beyond the personal realm and becomes the civilisational glue that holds humanity together. Friendship produces between us a partnership in all our interests. There is no such thing as good or bad fortune for the individual; we live in common. And no one can live happily who has regard to himself alone and transforms everything into a question of his own utility; you must live for your neighbour if you would live for yourself”
Seneca, a Roman philosopher, in his magnificent letter ‘On True and False Friendship’
The natural world appears to have no hidden agenda, no purpose but to be as it is, perhaps this is why we often feel a sense of belonging as we mirror and accept both the brightness and harshness of all nature’s expressions, like Buddha in the Flower Sermon, who silently held up the flower to signify the nature of things as they are (suchness).
In ancient Celtic understanding, true friendship is seen as without mask or pretension. In true friendship you can speak with honesty and integrity from your mind/heart, it is an act of recognition, of belonging and this sense of belonging awakens a deep and special unconditional relationship. In the Celtic tradition, this is called ‘anam cara’ or ‘soul friend’.
“With the anam cara you could share your inner-most self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the “friend of your soul.” The Celtic understanding did not set limitations of space or time on the soul. There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your Other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship”.
Love of nature brings a brightness which embraces presence and belonging. It is so easy to see and accept the brightness and unconditional relationship with nature, including our beloved animals. Seeing the light that shines in other human beings needs much trust and faith, can we see it in everyone and more importantly can we see it beyond our own shadows?
The natural world with all its beauty and harshness offers so much opportunity to know what unconditional friendship means. I think being vigilant and on guard with those we choose to be with is sensible, however, perhaps the half-truths and half-lies that some often use to sustain relationships are unnecessary, silence can show truth and kindness, sharing trust and loyalty with all those we meet in our lives can be a foundation for change in ourself and others. This way, like an old and dear friend, the wholesome art of love and care may help us meet our own true nature and be at ‘home” wherever we are.