Monday, May 14, 2012

inspired: humanplanet


They say that if you’re open, you can find inspiration anywhere. Who “they” is, I’m not quite sure, but I know I’ve heard things like this before. What “they” don’t say is to beware of distraction, multi-tasking and lethargy because these are the great enemies of inspiration. I’m the one who said that.

Thankfully, I found some inspiration this weekend. My housemate and I have been watching HumanPlanet, produced by BBC. Think National Geographic in stunning documentary form — with a slightly over-dramatic English-accented narrator. Each hour-long episode focuses on one habitat (mountains, oceans, rivers) and how the people in those regions live. Equally as interesting is the “behind the lens” segment at the end of each episode, where they spotlight how they shot one of the stories from the episode.
 
So many of the stories in these documentaries are of people who have learned to live with nature because they are forced to in order to survive. Watching last night, I thought of Mary Oliver, a poet who had a deep connection to nature. Most of her poems draw on animals and plants for metaphors to bring themes to life. I once read that she woke early in the morning and instead of writing first (like most writers), she took long, silent walks through forests and by water. She lived in Massachussetts, and yet I suspect she had that same sense of surviving by the land that some of these people from other countries and cultures do. To her, observing nature was life, and in its metaphors and symbols she found her power to live. It got me looking at the documentaries in a different way.

One story showed a river that, flooded during monsoon season, crashed and tumbled. The narrator called it angry, a description that seemed a bit contrived to me. I thought, who says those waters are angry? Maybe they’re dancing, or laughing. Who says those waters aren’t having a raucous good time? Who says these kinds of things can’t be done violently? Sure, if you fall into the river, the might of it will probably sweep you to your death, but let’s remember that death isn’t all bad. (I’m speaking metaphorically here.)

Then there was also this incredible bridge made entirely of a tree’s roots. Each spring, the man who planted the tree coaxed the roots to grow and spread in a particular way, and now he was teaching his daughter to do the same, because the bridge was not yet finished and its shaping would continue beyond his life. It was a reminder of how long and strong roots are, how they can be tended to in such a way that they bring life not only to that tree, but to other living things around it.

Another river, gentle in one season, became violent in the next. I’ve experienced that kind of change in seasons, and that nature permits, or even causes this change gives permission to us all to let the seasons of life have their way.

Where are you finding inspiration?

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