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Intro to SONGS OF NATURE: Metaphors of the Wild

Hmmm, have you ever seen a Praying Mantis? Oh, you would remember if you had! This peculiar insect is nature’s Frankenstein. It looks for all the world like it is made up of spare parts left over from other bugs that did not make it past the prototype stage.


A miniature, pre-historic creature with gangly legs, crab-like pinchers and a leaf for a body. God was in a whimsical mood when he dreamt into being the Praying Mantis. But look beyond the B movie exterior of this 3 inch dinosaur throwback.  What you will discover is its delicate, almost reverent praying posture.


I had a flashback just now to the first time I laid eyes on one. A child of 10 or thereabouts tripping out the front door on some errand or more likely just to indulge in a sunny day. There it was on our front porch. The oddest thing by far that I had ever seen.


It was a Taoist * moment for me. That praying mantis was the living metaphor of the Taoist opposites – the Ying and the Yang of nature. Gruesome in its individual parts and yet strangely beautiful in its totality. Startlingly odd and yet perfectly camouflaged in its environment. Peaceful in its pose and yet, I would later learn, carnivorous in its feeding.


I did not realize it at that moment but I was then and there hooked on nature. If my own front yard could yield such an oddity, what else awaited me in the fields and marshes and woodlands?


As I come to this realization now, it suddenly becomes blue sky clear that nature is the living source of my fascination with metaphor. Intellect and aesthetics intersect here in an inexhaustible supply of wonder. Every time I lace up my hiking boots and go on a nature quest, I am opening a door to metaphors of the wild.


The mountain spring of symbols I find in nature are far too numerous to catalogue here. But they all have their roots in three primal metaphors. I wonder if you’ve experienced them too.


Nature as a metaphor for our quest for beauty… It is inborn in all of us. The hunger to find beauty in our lives and in our world. This beauty manifests itself in many ways. In the exquisite physical form of living things. In the contrasts and in the mirrored opposites. In the imperfection without which beauty has no context. In the unexpected flash of colour when wings unfold.





Nature as a metaphor for the dazzling diversity of the world… We have an endless capacity and hunger for the “new”. We need to know that tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow it will have unexplored wonders. Nature is resourceful and bountiful. Every colour we can imagine, and many we cannot, are revealed in nature’s palette.




Nature as a metaphor for harmony… Even as we crave that which we have not witnessed before, we long for a pattern woven through the tapestry that brings all living things into relation with one another. The promise that it is all part of a greater plan that our follies cannot derail. We look, see just a weed and then suddenly a window is opened.





These are the metaphors of the wild that I simply cannot resist. If they resonate with you, meander through the “Songs of Nature” entries in this blog. And tell me your metaphors. I would like to see nature through your eyes as you have seen it ever so briefly here through mine.


* Taoism is a philosophy and a psychology that evolved into an Eastern faith. Tao (pronounced “Dow“) can be roughly translated into English as path, or the way. It is basically indefinable. It has to be experienced. It “refers to a power which envelopes, surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living. The Tao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance in the Universe. It embodies the harmony of opposites (i.e. there would be no love without hate, no light without dark, no male without female.)




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