A New Book on an Erotics of Place
"Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and the setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and equinox! That is what is the matter with us. We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars. Love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming on our civilized vase on the table."
Quoted by Lorraine Anderson
A trip on Saturday to the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver ended a long drought in published books on the relationship between landscape and erotic energy. There I found a new book entitled "Earth and Eros: A Celebration in Words and Photographs," compiled by Lorraine Anderson with beautiful sensuous photographs by Bruce Hodge.
This wonderful book continues the American Nature Writing tradition of situating human sexuality within a much large context, one not limited to other human beings or any kind of genital activity. In the footsteps of writers like Greg Gordon ("Landscapes of Desire"), Terry Tempest Williams (who coined the term "An Erotics of Place"), Ellen Meloy ("The Last Cheater's Waltz"), Katie Lee ("Sandstone Seduction"), Edward Abbey and others, Anderson blesses us with a beautiful anthology of passages that reveal the profound interconnection between the two realms. In her preface, she reminds us of the fact that :
"Eros in our world is most often narrowly understood as romantic and sexual love and lust between humans. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the earth is so often bent [by us] to our own uses rather than seen as an intimate partner to be loved, savored, and revered. Perhaps there is a relationship between our limited concept of eros and our narrow valuing of nature solely for the 'resources' it provides. We have forgotten the intimate, erotic relationship between our bodies and the earth, and the consequences are all around us."
After mentioning our corporate-industrial abuses of the land, Anderson goes on to tell us that "Eros is the only force strong enough to move us to imagine and create the new world that is crying to be born. This is my conviction. And so I have gathered voices that explore the erotic dimension of the human relationship to the earth."
Ever since junior high - when I first saw the Colorado Mountains in June with strips of snow lying across sensuously-rounded tundra slopes colored in soft greens and lavenders like lacy lingerie - I have felt an energy in the presence of Nature's beauty that can only be described as "erotic." If you really think about it, there is nothing at all "kinky" or "twisted" (attitudes which one Facebook reader once accused me of promoting) about seeing human sexuality rooted in our experience of landscape. After all, that is where it - and we - all came from!
Over the past decade, I have found less and less people willing to consider situating their own sexual nature within a broader, more cosmic context, one that doesn't necessitate having a human partner or acting out one's desires in hurtful or untransformed ways. I have in the past been accused of "spreading sex everywhere," while my true intent has been to take the intensity of our already present lust and desire and show how it is actually situated within a LARGER love affair with the beauty and grandeur of the Earth.
Even though our culture is completely saturated with erotic images, for some reason people are reluctant to take a good look at the cosmic origin of sexual energy and LIBERATE it into a much larger context - one that involves having a profound love affair with this beautiful Earth. Why, I wonder? Why are people so afraid, unimaginative, prudish and fundamentalist when it comes to exploring the link between eros and Nature? It simply doesn't make any sense to me.
One thing is for sure: I am going to continue expressing my own thoughts and experiences on the matter even if no one else understands! After all, the future of Earth's landscapes as we currently know them is dependent upon our falling in love in a much wider sense than we ever have before!
Photo: Lichen-covered rock, Vedauwoo Recreation Area, Medicine Bow National Forest, WY
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.