This week I started reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, a former forrester in Germany who now works actively for the return of primeval forests. He writes that forests are in fact a social network supporting the sick, nourishing the young and working together to regenerate in times of devastation. They flourish in community just like humans and a tree is only as strong as the trees that surround it. Both nature and nurture are recognised as having an impact on lifespan with the ‘maternal instincts’ of mother trees playing a role in the nurturing of young trees, passing on their legacy through their fungal root connections.
In our human world, it seems nature and nurture are also inextricably linked. Entangled together manifesting as our innate disposition and our inner voice, influencing our behaviour, our relationships and our longevity. We are a potent mix of our essential selves and the accumulated experience of those that have come before us. A cocktail of DNA and generations of lived experience.
Today being International Womens Day I’ve been thinking a lot about the women in my family who have had the biggest influence on me, those that did the bulk of the nurturing, my mother and grandmother, and the generations of women before them. Most were matriarchs, not in the stereotypical Jacquie Weaver Animal Kingdom crime family kind of way, but in a quietly determined, resilient and tenacious way. Some may not have had control of the purse strings or a public voice but they wielded immense soft power. They were women of strength who persisted in often difficult circumstances providing love, nourishment, education and protection. They were the hearth keepers and the storytellers, the custodians of family myths and legends.
Knowing the stories of the women that came before has anchored me into a greater network of kinship across generations. It has also helped me better understand myself. To sort the nature from the nurture. The ancestors male and female pass on values and virtues, but they are not always benevolent sometimes imposing themselves as self limiting or fixed beliefs and unhelpful patterns of behaviour. Thankfully they are only our guides and not our masters and by acknowledging and understanding the influence of the spirits that walk beside us, we have the power to nurture, guide and protect those that come after us.
Walking. I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all of my ancestors are behind me. Be still they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.
Linda Hogan, Naive American writer