Terry Tempest Williams, naturalist and author, realised that she has lost her own sense of poetry, that her rhetoric had become as brittle and hollow as her opponents. She was desperate to retrieve what she had lost. What did she do?

In an interview on New Dimensions, she tells her story: “I went down to those beautiful blue waters, call it a prayer or a plea, and I faced the sea and said: Give me one wild word and I promise I will follow. And the word the sea said back to me, and the word that I heard in my own heart, was mosaic.”

There are two unusual aspects to this story. Firstly, Terry ventures into nature, in this case the seashore, and simply asks for this one wild word. She trusts she will receive the word she needs.

The second unusual aspect is that Terry actually allows the word she received, mosaic, to guide her on a seven-year journey, firstly to Italy to study mosaic, then to a research study on prairie dogs who are treated as a critical part of the desert mosaic, then to Rwanda, where community healing occurs through the building of a memorial building using mosaic.

In our modern world, we wouldn’t normally go outside and seek answers. Perhaps our usual response to a personal crisis would be to use “google” or to see a therapist! Perhaps we need fewer therapists, and more elders? Perhaps the elders are like the old knotted gum trees in the forest, who have weathered the storms of life.

How would we gain wisdom and answers from nature? We would need to let go of our concepts of nature. We would need to shift into a participatory mode of interaction, and treat nature as an intelligent “other”, worthy of respect.

We would need to let nature reveal itself to us in its own way. Perhaps to heal our broken relationship with nature the word mosaic can help guide us. As Terry Tempest Williams says: Mosaic is not simply an art form but a form of integration, a way of not only seeing the world but a way of responding to it.

Perhaps the next time you are facing a life dilemma you could try going to your favourite place in nature, sit quietly, ask a question, and listen.

Perhaps you will sense a response, not necessarily in words, but in a place deep inside.

Give it a go: I think I will.