5 Ecopsychology poems

25 May 2020

By Elizabeth Harrop

I enjoyed writing the following 5 poems to respond to exercises set on an ecopsychology course – run online as a result of COVID-19, but with time spent alone outdoors. The course was run by the Natural Academy in the UK and was based on an exploration of Bill Plotkins the Wild Mind (map right).

1.     Belly down

I am belly down in the grass of my garden
A rose bush burning flaming orange
Bobs at my left cheek
Her petals stroke and soothe me

There-there she says
Take you time
Take your time to feel deeply
To breathe expansively
To observe in stillness

Take your time to settle into this wholeness
Which is the natural world
That sits within and around you and I

As she speaks to me
I notice one of her flowers has fallen
Blown by the wind a few feet away from us
Its crinkly dying petals
Pale and shrinking in the sun
So beautiful

A community of daisies
Dance beside it
The day’s eyes
With their pink-edged young

A woodlouse
Tiny and prehistoric
Right under my nose
Crawling into the shade beneath me

Fancy that
Me making shade
For a billion particles of soil
A million blades of grass
And 10,000 bustling little creatures
Wending their way within the highways
And byways of this few square feet of my garden

I no longer know who I am
I am merging with them all
Into a green city of imagination and infinity

I am belly down in the grass of my garden
A rose bush burning flaming orange
Bobs at my left cheek
Her petals whisper her joy to me
As I laugh with her.

2.     Dusk

As the sun sets my world becomes still
As if I am within a delicious, delicate moonlit fog
My body and mind silence themselves
And allow my soul to be free
Free to expand into the night
Into mystery.

3.     Belonging is to be here

I walked into the west today
As I walked into the woods
Entering an underworld that cannot be seen from above
A secret exploration of growth and decay
Vitality and rot

Only I have ever walked here
In this exact configuration of footsteps
All I need for belonging is to be here
Being born is enough
Is nature’s passport stamp of acceptance
As we cross the border between the spiritual and physical

Ants do not need to write sonnets
Or find cures for diseases
Do not care about being remembered
They just surrender
To their knowing of what must come next
Moment by moment

I bend down and crouch over moss and leaves and twigs
And silky wet mud
If they could look up
They would see me as a canopy
Creating dusk in daylight
A twilight surrounded by songs of the stream, the breeze in leaves
Birdsong, and the echos of love
For all of this
For all of me

I no longer see the world as countries still to visit
As adventures still to have
As a future that will unfold
Instead I am grounded into a landscape
Where a single clump of ferns
Represents a whole continent
Each unfolding frond a country with landscapes and vistas

In this moment
The fern and I belong together
A snapshot in time
Where my love for its green flesh consumes me
Just as the earth will one day consume us both

Love and longing are everywhere
In the raw exuberance of all of life
Deep in my eyes
As I look into those of another animal
Wanting to merge with it, run free with it
For we are nature

I place a piece of chocolate into my mouth
Savouring its sweet  transience
Imagining myself also melting into the earth one day
A life lived

All I needed for belonging was to be here.

4.     Sun and shade

I crossed the threshold, a metal gate
From one field into the next
The swirling wind calmed as I turned into a small nook
Sheltered by an elbow of trees

Here I will create my nest
A cushion on the ground
Damp from light rain this morning
A wild pink flower pokes like a flame from the long grass beside me
A flower from childhood hedgerows

I think
How small I am in this field
This landscape
This universe
Small like clover
Small like the beetle that just poked its head up from cracks in clay

I sense
Breeze and birdsong
Crisp air and prickles from thistles
I see another human
He stops and chats about furloughs
As I contemplate newly ploughed furrows

I feel
Warm from the sunshine
Revealed by racing clouds
Then shade again
I feel peaceful, expanded, landed
On this earth

I am the nurturing generative adult
The lambs resting by the stream are my children
I walk softly, speak quietly
So as not to startle them

I am innocent
And just for this moment
Remember nothing of my suffering that came before

I am a sage
Wise enough to know I will suffer again
And that pain weaves itself into the expansion of my life

I am a sacred fool
Cynical and mocking of authority
But yielding to the laws of nature

I am a trickster
Imagining myself a nature spirit
Turning leaves blue and the sky green

Could a nature spirit turn cruelty into kindness?
The cruelty of injury and disease
Of a wolf chased from the pack to fend alone
Intra-species kindness where whales have been known to shield scuba divers from sharks

There are no evolutionary benefits to such generosity
And so nature can be radically kind
As well as radically cruel

Sun and shade.

5.     Patchwork quilt

I imagine the unimaginable
What if during these 3 cradling wholeness days
Separated by country and covid and zoom

That while we sit online in lounges and bedrooms and kitchens
Our souls are convening around an ethereal campfire
In a dimension that is also home

Where we hug and cry and laugh together
At the same time as our faces make a patchwork quilt
Of virtual togetherness on our screens.

Liberty & Humanity

Please read some of my other poems:

The Light Behind My Eyes Has Died: A poem about the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation

Someone, something, somewhere pays: A poem about food sustainability

When the earth is cut: A poem about indigenous rights and the environment