White Cloud Press, 2014
Pbk: 160 pp
Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk McCain
The thoughts and emotions that are stirred awake in us when we walk in a desert landscape have a different quality from those engendered by a walk in the depths of a forest. Different again are the ideas and images that come to mind when we marvel at a mountain peak or stand in a high place and look across a valley. And when we gaze out at the ocean or sit on the bank of a fast-flowing river or find ourselves in the middle of a grassy field, the inner scene changes again.
In this unusual book, Mary Reynolds Thompson studies these deep connections between the Earth’s primary landscapes and what she calls the ‘soulscapes’ of our inner lives and how this connection can be used for emotional healing and spiritual transformation.
As she reminds us: Humans, after all, weren’t placed on Earth; we emerged out of the earth. Every day we consume part of the Earth in order to stay alive. The great landscapes of the earth are our ancestors; they arose from the Earth just as we did, and their energies evoke deep feelings and potentialities within us at both conscious and unconscious levels. And she quotes Thomas Berry, who said: Beyond our genetic coding , we need to go to the earth as the source whence we came, and ask for her guidance, for the earth carries the psychic structure as well as the physical form of every living being upon the planet.
This is the exact purpose of her book, to encourage us to turn to those archetypal wild landscapes in our search for wisdom and healing and to show us that we can still do that even when we are at home, through meditation, through journaling and through a whole range of exercises and guided visualizations.
Each ‘soulscape’ contains qualities that our fast-paced, high-tech, noisy world tends to undervalue and dismiss. But they are qualities we need if we are to remain healthy. For example, the desert shows us the importance of simplicity and silence in our lives, the forest teaches us how to deal with fear and uncertainty and the oceans and rivers reveal the nature of flow. Mountains inspire us and encourage us towards our highest purpose and grasslands are all about productivity and giving back to the Earth.
Anyone who realizes that rocks teach, mountains inspire and forests encourage will soon come to recognize the parallels between the damage humans do to the planet through fracking and mountaintop removal and clearfelling and the damage we do to our own souls when we condone or ignore these practices. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. This book is all about a healing that moves in both directions.
Any Nature-loving person who values books that focus on personal and spiritual growth will probably enjoy reading this and finding new ways to relate to the landscapes that inspire.