The year 2010 was a threshold year for the human race for two reasons. First, it marked the point at which we had extracted more oil out of the ground than was left in it. In other words, we had depleted more than half of the entire planet’s reserves of fossil fuel in the form of petroleum. The second event that year marked was that more of the world’s population lived in cities than in rural areas. So more us lived in dense, cosmopolitan settings than out in the suburbs or the countryside. In fact, people are currently streaming into the world’s cities at the staggering rate of one million souls every day. Both of these events may be interconnected since it is the fossil fuels that transport us to the city and also make it possible for fewer and fewer laborers to seed, grow, and harvest crops and the transport those products to urban markets where they can be consumed.
Both of these events are also significant because it tells us that now, more than ever, we are at risk for losing our last contacts with Nature with a capital N. This is not a benign separation. We need contact with Nature. We need communion with the outdoors, with open spaces, filled with the fragrances of rain, earth, and trees. Our brains yearn for it. Why do you think all those highways we travel down have pull-outs for scenic vistas? Everyone pulls in, takes out their cameras, and snaps a shot. Why? Because we are all drawn to a wide-open view that stretches to the horizon and lays the land out at our feet. Post-operative patients recover better after their surgery if they can look out at Nature, It can be mountains. The ocean. A park. A flowing river. Or just trees. It doesn’t really matter what aspect of Nature you take in; just that you have a chance to feel connected. Those patients whose hospital rooms have a view have fewer infections, take less narcotics, and get discharged sooner from the hospital than patients recovering in rooms without any views, without a visible connection to Nature.
For me, one of the greatest lessons I have learned from horses is this: each of us is born with the proclivity to bond with Mother Nature. These days, as we lose our sense of feeling embedded in Nature, we slowly acquire the illusion that we can get by without her. Or we believe we are no longer any good at connecting with the life-forms around us. The horse says to us: “Yes, all those intuitive connections with Nature may have atrophied during the course of your life but they are all still there. You merely need to start exercising them to feel them come back.” The first step is to believe the horse. He is a true and faithful teacher. He will never deceive you or mislead you. So ask your equine companion to join you on your spiritual inquiry to reconnect to Nature. Feel the horse’s comfort as he moves through his natural environment. Then ask him to show you how to connect. To teach you how to talk to trees and the winged ones and the Earth itself. Then one day you will suddenly hear her voice and understand that she is your mother. That this blue ball of a planet is part of your family.
It took millions of years to make those deposits of petroleum. And it took millions of year for all the life forms that inhabit the planet to take shape and earn their place in their respective ecosystems. And yet it has only taken us a century and half to deplete all those oil reserves. Two centuries to leave the land behind and become urban dwellers, building cityscapes instead of landscapes. The horse is telling us the planet is speaking to us and most of us have forgotten how to hear it. And yet, deep inside of each of us, is a longing to hear her voice again. To return to the land.