Re-enchanting ourselves – an extract from The Enchanted Life

With just one week until The Enchanted Life: Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday by Sharon Blackie is published, here is an early extract from the book:

Re-enchanting ourselves

Once, we had contracts with the plants and animals who share this world with us. We would treat them with respect; like them, we would take only what we needed from this earth and no more, and they would share their wisdom and medicine with us. They’d be companions on our journey through a life that can sometimes be hard, but whose loads are always lightened by communion.

We’ve come so far from that old wisdom. We want to know the stars, to solve all the great mysteries of the universe – but we don’t even know ourselves, or how to be in relationship with the land, animals and plants around us. Now, we occupy a world in which there are no longer penalties for cutting down a sacred tree; instead, the greatest of rewards can be found in extinguishing entire forests. We have created a world for ourselves in which the president of one of its largest countries can gleefully sign a law which facilitates the shooting of hibernating bears and wolf cubs, and large sections of its population actually applaud. This is not a sane world. And as a consequence of our multiple insanities, this world we grew up in, which we have taken for granted, is not only changing – much of it is dying.

To alter that state of affairs, we need not only to act differently, but to be different. It’s not enough to march against this and that, or to sit at our desks signing online petitions protesting against the destruction of more green places to indulge our avarice, or more heartless culls of wild animals to avoid inconvenience. All of these are good and important things to do, but to create real, permanent change we’ll need to fundamentally shift the way we see the world and our place in it. If we can re-enchant ourselves – fall in love with this complex and mysterious, animate world all over again – then we might stand a chance.

Begin, if you will, with a tree. Congratulate a young, fragile willow on its summer growth. Watch the first turn of the leaves of an old ash, all scars and stories, as she begins to grow autumn sleepy, just as you are. Feel the dreadful heave at the roots of the tall birch after the winter storm, and wonder what sense it is that tells you how the deep roots had nearly lost their hold, down there past the iron lick of the lower soil and onto the fractured rock. Do you hear the bruising of the deep roots, find yourself wanting to reach out and touch the bark of the tree that withstood the wind – knowing that you too have withstood a storm or two in your time? The graceful birch, that lady of the woods whose silver-white bark is like no other’s, and you.

The Enchanted Life by Sharon Blackie is published on 27 February 2018.