flannelbeeLately I have been wondering about sensuality, intimacy, desire and eros, and how these words can apply not only to our relationships to each other, but also to nature, land and place.

Terry Tempest Williams, author and environmental activist, writes of an “erotics of place”. Unfortunately, her phrase has been misunderstood, not surprisingly, in our over-sexualised culture. Terry writes that “erotic longing is the foundation of connection. Eros develops from the realisation that we are incomplete and fragmented – that our mask of wholeness that we present to the world is an illusion.”

Terry believes that there is a key distinction between the erotic and the pornographic. The erotic is based on genuine connection to, sharing with, and acceptance of another’s whole being, in intimate ways. Pornography involves domination, control, and the perception of another as a mechanism for satisfying desires. She calls pornography as “sensation without feeling”. From this perspective our current relationship with nature, land and place can only be described as pornographic, as we (mis)use the body of the earth, pollute it, gouge it and destroy it.

We hunger for deep connection, for communion, with each other and the land that supports us. This hunger arises from heart-felt desire. And desire is the pathway into our passion and the fulsome embrace of our unique journey in connection with our souls, each other, and the earth.

Joanna Macy, Buddhist scholar and deep ecologist, says this: “For when we see the world as lover, every being can become – if you have a clever, appreciative eye – an expression of that ongoing, erotic impulse”

How do we fall in love, make love, with the world? How do we develop an “appreciative eye”? We need to see the erotic impulse at the very heart of the earth, at our existence. Gravity, for example, is not only a force that keeps us on earth, but iis also the erotic impulse at the heart of the universe, the energetic attraction between heavenly bodies, including us, that keeps everything in right relation.

Maybe you could go to the beach and feel how the land body embraces the pulsing sea. Or sit beside a river and feel into the way the land holds the flow of river with understanding. Watch a flower blossom as it yearns for intimate connection with the sun. We can be like bees and pollinate the world with our love, and our desire for connection and intimacy.

Since our bodies don’t lie, we must allow our bodies to be heard, in all their sensuous richness. In engaging with an erotics of place, we must pierce the heart by bypassing our head, our discursive and analytical mind, and allowing the world to enter us through our senses.

I’ll finish with some more words from Terry Tempest Williams: “We need to feel the the magnetic pull of our bodies toward something stronger, more vital than ourselves. Arousal becomes a dance with longing. We form a secret partnership with possibility.”