The call of the wild might just be the calling of our soul. A new anthology of nature writers and poets explore this possibility in The Soul Unearthed: Celebrating Wildness and Personal Renewal Through Nature. It is within the sanctuary of the wilderness, far from their computer screens and local espresso vendors, that these highly acclaimed writers find their strongest voice. As a result, the writing is as gritty and down-to-earth as it gets–vivid stories of encounters with animals, wretched weather, fear, humility, and, ultimately, with spirit.
Bringing together spiritualists and naturalists, Cass Adams‘ first book „The Soul Unearthed: Celebrating Wildness and Personal Renewal Through Nature,“ is a collection of short pieces by more than fifty writers who share their personal experiences of renewal and transformation in the wilderness.
Offering a diverse range of testimonies, „The Soul Unearthed“ airs the voices of „outdoor educators, deep ecologists, environmental activists, storytellers, wilderness guides, rites of passage guides, ceremonialists, gender specialists, therapists, physically disabled people, poets and nature writers,“ including award-winning poets Robert Bly, Maxine ‚Kumin and Brooke Medicine Eagle.
Replete with prayers, poems, reflections, ritual chants and „interviews, „The Soul Unearthed“ teaches one, through a variety of rich approaches, how it is possible to be „refreshed and transformed by what is wild in the Earth – and in ourselves.“
Adams, the collection’s editor, says the idea of „The Soul Unearthed“ came about while he was sitting on his porch „reflecting about the impact wilderness had made upon my personal unfolding.
„I thought it would be really powerful to have a collection of work about wilderness experiences and then also to get work by some of the cutting edge writers in short, dense pieces,“ he recalls.
When asked how this book differs from the works of Thoreau or Emerson, Adams says, „The times are very different now. Thoreau was trying to get people to live more simply and we need to do that today more than ever… But he wasn’t looking at the loss of species and major destruction that we face today.“
„The Soul Unearthed,“ he says, is about „a wisdom that embraces the challenges of our current ecological crisis, concurrently, with the age-old reverence that tribal people have held for the earth.“
Adams, who grew up in Crested Butte and is now finishing a Masters Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology from the Naropa Institute in Boulder, co-founded Men’s Wilderness Retreats through which he has led ritual-based wilderness excursions for men in the mountains and deserts of Colorado and the Southwest.
„There are a lot of fine writers in the book, some of the best on nature today,“ he says.
„And I also think it’s a good book for exposing people to writers they may not be familiar with.“
Dolores La Chapelle, Terry Tempest Williams and James Swan are among the variety of authors who come from the US as well as Canada and Australia.’Soul Unearthed‘ digs up talented personal writing .
–Rhonda Claridge, Telluride Daily Planet; September 24, 1996
„In everything that is life is the law written. You find it in the grass, in the tree, in the river, in the mountains, in the birds of heaven, in the fishes of the sea, but seek it chiefly in yourselves. For I tell you truly, all living things are nearer to God than the scripture, which is without life. God so made life and all living things that they might by the everliving word teach the laws of the true God to man. God wrote not the laws in pages of books, but in your heart and in your spirit.“
Space limitations for this review prohibit examination and discussion of the words attributed to Christ. They are offered here to suggest the depth and quality of what one will find in a copy of The Soul Unearthed.
Those who have an aversion to organized religion will find a wide range of topics relating nature-based spirituality, deep ecology and the „emerging field of ecopsychology.“ Adams has arranged the book around eight categories-Spirit of Place; Quests and Rituals of Renewal; Men, Women, and Wildness; Animal Encounters; Teaching in the Wild; In Mourning, Defense, and Celebration of the Earth; Extra-Ordinary Wilderness; and Wilderness Ethics: An Emerging Perspective. Authors include famous individuals like Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry, Anne LaBastille, Matthew Fox, David Oates, Terry Tempest Williams, Roderick Nash, and others. It seems safe to call The Soul Unearthed an eclectic collection sure to provide something of interest to most any reader interested in the human/nature relationship.
Perhaps the highest compliment this reviewer can pay to The Soul Unearthed is to dare suggest that Aldo Leopold would approve of what Cass has assembled. Leopold’s greatest dream was that a critical mass of humans would come to embrace a „land ethic“ and treat land with the same respect and dignity as espoused for people in documents like the Bill of Rights. He fretted, however, because in his day he saw no evidence that philosophy and religion had considered matters regarding ethical treatment of the land. He would rate The Soul Unearthed „two thumbs up, way up!“
–Charles Yaple, Taproot; Spring/Summer 2006