Not very long ago there were people living close to the Earth, honoring, celebrating and respecting life through prayer and beautiful ceremonies. These people understood nature’s many gifts. All their food, clothing, medicine, tools and materials for their homes came from their immediate surroundings. Understanding the natural world was critical for their health and survival. The Earth was Sacred to them. Who were these people? Our ancestors…that’s right, All our ancestors knew how to live off the land…or perhaps, to live With the land would be more accurate. They had strong physical, spiritual and emotional ties to Nature. There was no air pollution, no water pollution, no litter, and there were no garbage dumps. They lived in balance with the land.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

By contrast, in our high-tech fast-paced world today, it’s easy to see how we are gradually distancing ourselves from the natural world. Nature, for the most part, is viewed merely a commodity to be used and used up anyway we see fit.  And, most of our experiences with Nature today come in the form of outdoor recreation. Many of us spend that time racing around the woods and waters on various machines “doing Mach 3 with our hair on fire!” Sadly, going on a Nature walk or fishing on a quiet riverbank somewhere is considered boring to most people. Whatever form of outdoor activities you prefer, one thing’s for certain…you’re missing more than you realize. Nature is the one constant in all our lives, and is perhaps our greatest teacher. Our ancestors instinctively knew this. Unfortunately much of their knowledge has been lost forever.

Nature was created perfectly. Our job is not to try to control it, but to perceive it. The natural world is amazing and very complex. We are merely a strand in this beautiful web of life. Our ancestors understood this delicate balance and went to great lengths not to upset it. Perhaps the foundation of their wisdom was that they didn’t consider themselves to be more important than Nature. They were grateful just to be a part of it. The result of their knowledge was that they were self-sufficient. In other words…they could take care of themselves! Today it seems, most people want to be taken care of. We have much to learn from the relationship our ancestors had with the Earth. There’s an old saying…“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day… Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Maybe we should be teaching people the skills to take care of themselves, instead of sending them a welfare check every month. Hmmm…interesting thought.

Most of us punch a time clock, work 50 weeks a year and plan for our retirement…you know that time when were finally going to have some fun and live our lives. Sadly though as hard as we work, most of us are still one paycheck away from the poorhouse. We have become dependent on society. There is little or no self-sufficiency in our lives today. Ask a child where food and clothing comes from, and you’re likely to hear, from the Wal-Mart Super Center. Our society it seems, wants to provide everything for us. We are soon heading toward a cash-less society where all our purchases are taken directly out of our bank accounts, with the convenient scan of a plastic card. It’s all pretty scary if you ask me.

Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not suggesting that we all run away and live in the woods happily ever after. That’s not realistic. It’s clear that technology is here to stay. However, I believe that we need to find a better balance in our lives. In a finite World, resources are not infinite. If we keep the best of non-polluting sustainable technology and incorporate some of the self-reliant skills of our ancestors, I believe we can lead fuller, healthier and happier lives. Hopefully, as a result, we will become the true “Stewards of the Earth” we were meant to be, and lessen our impact on the environment with the positive choices we make. “Through love, education and compassion we can all make a difference on this planet and protect the Earth for future generations.”

Here are a few suggestions that can save you money, free up your time to spend with your family and friends, and live a happier life.

  • Plant an organic garden this Spring
  • Learn to identify and use wild edible and medicinal plants
  • Learn to hunt and fish
  • Barter goods and services with friends and neighbors
  • Learn to identify animals, birds and insects
  • Go tracking at least once a week
  • Read a good book such as Back To Basics by Readers Digest
  • Walk through wet grass with your bare feet
  • Cover yourself with mud and bask in the sun
  • Smell every flower
  • Dance naked in the rain
  • Smile at a stranger for no reason at all
Wild Wanderings with Richard Cleveland, teacher of outdoor skills at Earth School in Tryon, NC – a self-trained Naturalist and local fishing and nature guide. For more information and list of programs visit: