Inspired by Steve Thorp’s 21soul programme, I recently took my ‘ecological self’ out on a walk. 21soul is a new online course, coaching and training practice based on an integration of psychology, life practice and ecology. It aims at helping people live and work authentically, deeply, ecologically and creatively in the context of these challenging times. It is for those who carry great sensitivity, intellectual curiosity, creativity and anger at the state of things. The programme works on the basis that there are three strands to the self; the social self, the ecological self and the soul self.
After engaging with the course materials for some time, I took my ecological self for a walk at Croig, a wild and sparsely inhabited bit of the coast on North Mull. It took a while to tune into her, until well away from the car and paths. Once in what felt more like wilderness, she began to walk beside me. We were looking for the secret beach. Approaching the rise of the land that obscures it, the ecological self became increasingly aware of surfaces, textures and natural colour palettes.
Eventually, the quiet inlet revealed itself. We were alone; Just me, the ecological self, some sheep and two oyster catchers. The ecological self is happy to be on her own. Not that she doesn’t like to be with people, but is content with herself and nature. She took off her shoes, after days of chilly weather it felt good to have her feet in the sand. Scanning the shore, she was pleased to see it littered with shells; something we needed to collect for a dreamcatcher-making workshop.
Working our way down the beach, we began to gather. The ecological self is a collector; finding natural objects is a way of honouring nature’s abundance. This act is absorbing, meditative and fulfilling. She noticed all the different colours of the shells she collected. In tune with her art after a productive morning in the studio, harvesting these goods felt like an extension of the day’s free flowing creativity.
We carried on up the coast, picking up the odd feather. She likes to walk, and spend time in the body. At this point I noticed that my core and hands were tingling with the power to create. Time passed very, very slowly. The ecological self isn’t interested in what time it is.
I spied a path down to another hidden inlet, and we make our way down to the beautiful blue and white sand cove. Picking a path down over the rocks, I was hit by a sudden stench. Death. With a bit of a shock I see I am almost about to stumble over the rotting carcass of a sheep. Morbid fascination takes hold for a few seconds as I work out what animal it was, and observe how the remains of the skin stretches over the bones…and then I felt very sick and moved quickly away.
Wandering back down the road, I realised I was hungry. Two young sheep went to cross my path, but froze cautiously. They looked me straight in the eye, and I looked back at them for what feels like a long time. The ecological self questioned if I could eat them if I had to kill them, or pick their flesh from their bones whilst still in the arrangement of something once living? There was an accusatory glint in their eyes. Feeling somewhat ashamed, I walk on. Having been 90% vegetarian all my life, I now feel the need to make this an active life choice and haven’t eaten meat since this walk. This is a choice also motivated by Em Strang and Susan Richardson‘s poetry workshop I attended earlier this year on the theme on animals; which involved writing from a non-human perspective.
Back in the studio I washed and sorted my treasures. The ecological self relishes this kind of task; for she is practical and enjoys the work of treating these finds like precious objects.
Whilst picking up these shells I thought about how each shell is a tiny home, now uninhabited by the beings who once lived there.