by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Photo by Bear Guerra
I LIKE TO WALK early and am often alone on the beach, the ocean and the birds my only companions, the tiny sanderlings running back and forth chasing the waves. Some days the sun rising over the headlands makes a pathway of golden light to the shore. Today, the fog was dense and I could just see two figures walking in the distance, until they vanished into the mist, leaving a pair of footprints in the sand until the incoming tide washed them away. It made me wonder what will remain in a hundred years, when my grandchildren’s grandchildren are alive? Will the rising sea have covered the dunes? Climate crisis will by then be a constant partner, and so many of today’s dramas will be lost in a vaster landscape of primal change.
Sensing this reshaping of the seashore, where the waves roll in from across the Pacific, makes my mind stretch across horizons. How this land and our own lives have evolved. One story of science says it was only seventy thousand years ago that humans left Africa on their long migrations across continents, arriving here on the Pacific coast just thirteen thousand years ago, when the Bering Strait was dry land and not ocean; or possibly they came earlier in boats down the coast. But how was life then, long before the written word, when we traveled as small groups, communities of hunters and gatherers?
They may have carried few possessions, but their consciousness contained a close relationship to the land, to its plants and animals, to the patterns of the weather and the seasons, which they needed for their survival. Fully awake with all of their senses, they had a knowing, passed down through generations of living close to the ground, even as they migrated across the continent. Today we are mostly far from the land and its diverse inhabitants. Cut off from these roots, we have become more stranded than we realize, and while our oncoming climate crisis may present us with many problems, we hardly know how to reconnect, to return our consciousness to the living Earth. It is as if, having traveled to the far corners of our planet, we now find ourselves in an increasing wasteland without knowing how to return to where the rivers flow, to where the plants grow wild. And unlike our ancestors, we cannot just pack up and move on, because this wasteland surrounds us wherever we look, like the increasing mounds of plastic and other toxic material we leave in our wake....
Walking the shoreline, watching the little birds searching for insects, my awareness drawn to the sky, the sea, and the shifting sands, I wonder at this gulf between the simple, magical awareness of our ancestors, and our present-day mind, as cluttered as our consumer world. What has happened to our consciousness, now divorced from the multidimensional existence that used to sustain us? Did we need to exile ourselves from this primal place of belonging? And now, as we tear apart the web of life with our machines and images of progress, is there a calling to return, to open the door that has been closed by our rational selves?
When the fog is dense and you can only see a few yards in front of your feet, the world around becomes more elemental. Watching each wave come to the shore is like watching the breath. Sometimes my feet become wet from the rising water, or I move further up the beach. I try to keep my mind empty, part of the sky and the waves, simple, essential. Here nothing is separate, and the inner and outer worlds are closer.
You can read the entire essay at: https://emergencemagazine.org/essay/where-the-horses-sing/