If you took a glance around your house right now, chances are you’ll notice a few odd and ends of nature lying about; that stone from the trip to Yosemite, a unique piece of driftwood from Matador Beach, Perhaps even something somewhat macabre; like a bone of some small animal found just outside the manicured area of the rest stop when you stretched your legs, got curious, and hopped the fence after pulling off some empty stretch of the 5 freeway onQuestion: When is the last time you picked up one of those items and just held it and allowed that story to rise back into the present? If you were to pick up one of those pieces right now, how would it feel to take that moment? What new details of that event, or revelations about your current day to day, would suddenly become important to acknowledge? And then further, if such new things did come to mind, who would you like to share that with? A friend? Lover? Partner? Family member? Daughter or son?
The Power of Place
I am fascinated by recall and the objects that trigger them. While manufactured objects hold their own power to somehow ‘store’ memories for us, I personally find that the items I find out on the landscape hold the most potency for expanding my consciousness; if no other reason that the fact their “original programming” has not been diminished though a processing by humans. The thing is what it is. It’s an uncluttered, pure expression of the Earth’s intelligence through mineral, vegetal or animal. This can put me very quickly into a state of wonderment, curiosity or awe. My intellectual mind is dropped into a hypnotic sleep by the master mentalist of the landscape. How rare is this! How lucky and blessed did I feel when I found the perfect, rusty black-tipped Red Tailed Hawk feather after bushwhacking for hours out deep in the Sespe? The surge of connection, immersion and flow with nature and myself I felt in that moment was powerful and offered me a transformative sip of alchemic absinthe transporting me immediately into and ecstatic gasp of joy and revelry. Something is transmitted and programmed deep in my psyche that is beyond words and understanding of the modern mindset. I somehow know that something just got ‘in’ though and need not be concerned with what is meant by it, I know it is goodness.
I bring these things home often, but not all the time - sometimes it’s best to leave hallowed objects on the altar of their finding - but when I do, then end up on a small 12x18 piece of oak lumber sitting on the shelf next to an array of books, many still unread. This is my nature table; an idea brought to my awareness by the teachings of Jon Young some years ago. I got into the habit of curating my more poignant outdoor finds into one place, as opposed to strewn about the living quarters. I’ve had many nature tables over the years but as I have moved here and there, I have gotten into the practice of returning all items back to nature; I’m not much of a pack rat. Besides it would take some time to prepare some of these delicate and tiny items for transport; the 7-sectioned rattle left behind by Rattlesnake, seen by chance when looking down at just right moment while hiking far out on a overgrown foot trail. What did Rattlesnake think about in that moment the ability to rattle the saber was taken a way? There’s the dead scorpion awaiting me at the threshold of my door upon leaving for a morning walk one time. Did he make a pilgrimage to my home to die? Is there something sacred about my dwelling that I have not seen? There’s a pebble from this magnificent place. Now, I forget where.. it’s been sitting there so long, but that makes this pebble no less magnificent to scrutinize form time to time. There’s the Coyote paw print perfectly preserved in the middle of a fragile plate-sized, sun-baked geometric craquelure of hardened river mud from the middle of the desert; magically lifted unbroken by gentle fingertips from it’s silty vault. A moment from some other time when that land was flush and engorged with water, preserved like the feature panel of some ancient triptych. Where was Coyote going on that day, I wonder every time I examine it, in that exposed and endless, beautifully forlorn, lonesome landscape?
"“Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.” - Gretel Ehrlich
These moments evoke such powerful feelings that are hard to name adequately. I bring these stories in from their wide-flung places. Minuscule evidence of events, beings and happenings that could never, ever cross paths all find a harmonic commons on this small table which is a touchstone of what makes a house a home for me. Each piece rarely bigger than what fits in a hand or pocket recall the entirety of the entanglement of the natural world to me each time I hold or observe them. Their wildness tame my restlessness with modernity and convenience. I am reminded with each piece that nature has not perceivably - if at all, improved its efficient and dulcet technology for aeons, whilst I hive in anticipation for endless upgrades to devices insurgent in their return to earth, isolate in their obsolescence. These little sacred pieces teach me.
Nothing brings more joy from my nature table though then relaying a story to a curious friend. The incredulous process of invoking the imagination and imagery in another’s mind with the sounds we make, called words, always delights. What I like best about stories from the nature table is that they are truly exclusive, unique and private to me. The stories gifted to me from these tiny treasures I bring back inform how people see me in my own natural, authentic state, free from preanecdote and prologue. I like this. They are the most sincere stories I have to tell.
Start a nature table. This simple but sacred act of noticing the small fascinating stories all of life and the planet is living in each and every unfolding minute across all of ancient geologic time will open a rich door of connection to yourself, others and this incredible planet we live on.