In earlier times, when nature was perceived as alive, with intelligence and soul, people bonded with nature much as people bond with their pets or family now. This bonding process engendered a certain kind of attitude toward nature. It is an aspect of what Edward O. Wilson calls biophilia—a genetically encoded or innate emotional affinity toward all other life-forms on Earth. It means a deep fondness for, connection to, and love for life forms and living things.
We can begin to undo the cultural conditioning that teaches children that thinking defines their value, that Earth is dead, that other life-forms intrinsically possess less value. Bringing nature indoors is one way to begin bonding with life.
Here are a few ideas for welcoming the natural world into our homes.
* Stones, rocks, pebbles. Placed in bowls or in a ring around a vase, heaped in a small cairn or put singly in a special place of honor, the infinite variety and solid beauty of stones add grounding and stability to our homes.
* Plants. Many potted plants need very little care, and they repay a minimum of effort on our part with so much benefit: plants filter the air we breathe and add vitality and good green energy to our rooms.
* Sunlight. Cheering, uplifting sunlight is such a necessity for the human body, mind, and spirit. Open the curtains and let it stream in.
* Windows to the elements. What do you see when you look out of your windows? If you are fortunate to live in a place where nature isn’t overpowered by buildings and concrete, consider opening up a wall to create a window overlooking a special scene. Annie’s bathtub is surrounded by windows; when she bathes, she soaks in the spaciousness of sky, the majesty of trees, and the freedom of wild birds in flight.
* Gifts from the animals. Some of us find special treasures when we walk in nature: A feather, a cast-off antler, a shred of snake-skin. Consider bringing these inside to honor the animals.
* Seasonal reminders. We can bring bare branches indoors, place them in water, and watch the new leaves emerge in spring. In summer, we can put a handful of lush grass in a vase to appreciate. A few nuts and colorful leaves connect us to the spirit of fall, and pine cones and evergreens help us celebrate winter. Find your own ways to mirror seasonal changes inside.
* Tabletop fountains. It isn’t difficult to create small water fountains for our home. The gentle sound of trickling water is soothing and the principles of feng shui say that fountains create good energy. For easy directions, see /greenliving/good-fortune-fountain-how-to.html.
* Tabletop gardens. Fill a pretty container with soil and use it to create a miniature garden in your home. These can be both seasonal and fanciful: in Winter, for instance, you could imagine a gnome garden with moss, evergreen twigs, and quartz crystals to evoke ice.
* Flowers. Flowers are an instant cheer-up, such lush reminders of the natural world. If you compost them when they begin to fade, you won’t waste them: they can help to nourish your garden. We like to choose organic flowers, since most commercial growers rely on harmful pesticides.
* Decorate with food. Many of us love to put a bowl of cheery oranges, lemons, or apples on the table, or heap a few pumpkins and squashes on the countertop in the autumn. Food makes a lovely natural decoration, as long as it isn’t too quickly perishable, that connects us to what we eat. Be creative: There is so much beauty in food!
* Birdfeeders visible from your window. We may not be able to let the birds inside, but placing a birdfeeder where we can watch it from indoors makes it feel as if they are in the room with us.
* Fresh air. If the air in your area is fresh, open your windows as often as possible to let it in! And be sure to use all-natural cleaning products, furnishings and building materials so your air is fresh even when the windows are closed.
* Nature-themed artwork. The next best thing to being there is having a painting or photograph of a natural scene or wildlife on the wall.
* Companion animals. Sometimes we forget that pets are part of nature (as are we), but when we watch a cat stalking its favorite catnip-filled mouse toy, or a dog worrying a bone, we can see the wildness peeking through!
* Choosing natural materials. Using all-natural household products, bedding, building supplies, and furnishings all add up to a home that resonates with nature—and is more healthful for you and your family.
Adapted from The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner (Chelsea Green, 2002). Copyright (c) 2002 by Stephen Harrod Buhner. Reprinted by permission of Chelsea Green.
Adapted from The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner (Chelsea Green, 2002).