Whole Earth Monographs:
Charting Experiences in the Natural World
(scroll down a bit for the TEMPLATE)
The Idea (revised 6/14/2021)
I have been impressed by the wealth of credible information available on the internet for medicinal plants when searching with the word “monograph.“ In an herbalist’s training, the research and writing of a monograph is used as a vehicle to develop a deeper intimacy with a specific plant*. The Whole Earth Monograph (WEM) is an analogous process - a vehicle we can use to get curious, and then describe the “entanglements” we discover in the Whole Earth Ecosystem. It can aid us in the journey as we shift more of our relationships with other Beings from “objects” to “subjects,” deepening our human intimacy with the more-than-human world.
Building a Library
This is a resource that will grow overtime. Each person‘s contribution — from beginners to the most practiced — will bring nourishment, color, and harmony to the whole. You might connect with the maple tree outside your apartment where you’ve been living for a decade, and share your insights using the WEM template as a guide. I am diving right now into the world of lichen, and you can travel vicariously with me through reading my Lichen WEM. I have put a tab/page on my The Academy of Natural Rhythms website where we can co-create a library.
The Questions… Cultivating Curiosity About Another Being
We build our WEM reflecting on questions that are carefully worded to push gently on the limits of our current worldview while, at the same time, to minimize assumptions about the life we are meeting. For example, “Do they sleep?” becomes secondary to the question “What are their organizing rhythms?”
These questions could be asked in the third person (observer) or, as we get more comfortable to be in closer relationships, in the second person (relational). On the current iteration of the WEM template, I have mixed the perspective around. It is best to ask these questions of a Being while they are in their home/natural environment. I also like to make sure I allow enough spaciousness in time so that I can have periods when I just am sitting quietly without asking any questions. Relationships take time.
The “Being” you choose as the focus for your WEM could be any life force that you are endeavoring to know more intimately - shifting them from being an object that you observe to a subject that you relate to. They could be…
The goal of the questions is to guide our curiosity, to help us be more “porous”** to the experience of the “entanglements”*** among and between all that surrounds and holds us. To ensure that this process is not exploitive, it is important to frame it with a sense of respect, reverence, and reciprocity*. My particular practice for that is usually a combination of land stewardship (e.g. picking up trash) and offering words (songs) of praise, gratitude, apology, and blessing.
THE WHOLE EARTH MONOGRAPH TEMPLATE
Your Act of Reciprocity:
Diagram suggestion: Place a representation of the being in the center. Diagram a representation of the ecosystem in which they thrive. Add as many “entanglements” as you are aware of. Push at least one edge of your awareness. (eg. go wider, smaller, slower…)
*I was first introduced to the concept of specific plant intimacy through a course I am continuously enrolled in entitled Intuitive Plant Medicine. Thank you, Asia Suler. As part of that experience, I connected with my first plant ally… moss… and that put Robin Wall Kimmerer on my radar, along with her teaching about respect, reciprocity and reverence. Thank you Robin.
**”become more porous…” a beautiful antidote to separation. Thank you, David Abrams
*** “Entanglements” can have a negative connotation, but in our new understanding of the ecology of life on earth, entanglement is the best description of what’s going on. I might even say it is synonymous with the life-giving flow nourishment. Thank you, Paul Stamets, Merlin Sheldrake and Suzanne Simard
I hope you will contribute to the evolution of The Whole Earth Monograph Library.
About the Author
Sarah Gabriel has been learning and teaching about "Human Sustainability" - the flow of energy and resources that keep us healthy - for decades. She finds deep nourishment in the Aha! moments that expand our world view.