By Deb Matlock

Since childhood I have experienced a deep, personal, and communicative connection with the earth, the world of spirit, and the animals I encounter. As a child, I spent endless days exploring the natural world and my first best friend was a dog named Jenny. Since then my life has been formed and enriched by my relationship with all life around me.  Whether it was playing with my dog, watching grasshoppers, saving earthworms, or marveling at the fact that I could plant a seed in the ground and watch it grow into a gorgeous flower, my understanding of who I was came through experiences such as these.

It is these relationships and experiences that have formed my sense of self and have guided my life.  I know this is true for many of us.  All it takes is one deep relationship with a river to make it such that we need to be near water to feel whole.  One faithful friendship with an animal companion can lead us into a life of companionship…adopting and offering a home to so many.  Spending childhood time in our grandmother’s greenhouse, watching her trim, water, and talk to her plants, can make it impossible for us as an adult to leave the last remaining plant on the shelf at the garden center. These experiences add to our sense of who we are as human beings.  Perhaps, they even make us human.

hand holding autumn oak branch

“What makes us human” is an age-old question and one very worth pondering.  In asking this question, I am joining a large, ongoing, controversial conversation.  This conversation has gone on in science circles, religions circle, art circles…in small groups of family and friends and in large auditoriums filled with curious minds.

While I think the discussion is fascinating and complex, I think the answer may well be quite simple.  To me, it seems that we are human because of our deep and sacred connections with all of life.  As stated by David Abram is his profound book, The Spell of the Sensuous, “…we are human only in contact, and conviviality with what is not human.”  To be human, we much reach outside ourselves and see the reflections of life in all the beings of the world.

This is a deeply held truth for me.  I have no idea who I would be without the more-than-human relationships that have always formed the foundation of my life.  What would I do with myself if it were not for my desire to live in deep communion with the animals, plants, and lands all around me?  Who would I be?  Who would any of us be? Let us go forward in honor and celebration of the deep and sacred connections all around us.  We live in a truly magical world full of so, so many opportunities for deep and sacred connection!

Deb Matlock grew up in the mountains of Colorado and is deeply committed to nurturing the connection between people, animals, earth, and spirit.  She has spent twenty-five years working as a professional environmental and humane educator and naturalist.  Additionally, Deb offers shamanic-style spiritual guidance, animal communication, nature connection workshops, and retreats through her business, Wild Rhythms.  She is passionate about helping people find connection and deep spiritual meaning in their lives and in the places where they live.  Deb holds a Master of Arts in Environmental Education from Prescott College and is pursuing her doctoral degree in environmental studies at Antioch University New England. 

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