Bluebell's EyePhoto by Earthfire Institute

Close your eyes and think back. Can you remember a moment when your life was touched or transformed by a species other than your own?

Maybe it was when you were a child, and you developed an unbreakable bond with a dog or cat—one that can only be described as love.

Maybe it was when you were walking in the woods and suddenly came face to face with a beautiful doe and your eyes met and held for just a few heartbeats before she jumped gracefully away.

Many of us have had these moments. And while they might have been brief, they alter us in powerful ways, reminding us that we are not alone. We are nested in an ever-widening web of connections—not just with our families, friends, and communities but with the millions of other plant and animal species that exist with us on Earth.

These moments are too important to be just a warm memory. Indeed, if we allow them the weight they deserve, these moments can help us heal ourselves and our planet.

In our own lives, the experience of connecting deeply with and learning to value another life form—whether it’s our dog, a deer in the woods, or the forest itself—can offer us new sources of knowledge, strength, and joy. But beyond that, falling in love with another being or part of the natural world can instill in us the passion to defend it, drawing on our newfound wisdom to create practical solutions to ecological crises. Simply put, with deep connection, we are moved to protect what we love.

This is the essence of Reconnection Ecology—to recognize, value, and draw on the energy created by these transformative encounters with other species to support a richer view of life on our planet, our place in it, and the magic available to us through the natural world.

Many of us intuitively have a deep longing for more in life, a sense of yearning; a loneliness. In our frenetic and technology-driven culture, it’s increasingly difficult to recognize what’s missing. Reconnection Ecology is a practice that can reawaken us to what we’ve forgotten: that each of us has a deep and visceral connection to nature. It is our birthright.

Scientific research says deepening our relationship with nature is good for us. Over the last 15 years, the body of scholarly research on nature’s benefits to our physical and mental wellness has grown exponentially: today there are more than 1,000 evidence-based studies on how exposure to nature can improve our wellbeing. As author and Children & Nature founder Richard Louv has said, “They point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning.” Research also shows that connecting with nature can help us heal from physical or emotional trauma, inspire our creativity, and more.

Reconnection Ecology is grounded in this research, but it goes beyond it too. Scientific objectivity around ecological issues is invaluable. However, used alone, it can disconnect us from the wisdom of our heart. Our understanding of the natural world needs to be more than intellectual or we’ll miss the most profound truths about who we are, our potential, and our place in the community of life that we share on our planet.

So what happens when we connect deeply, and love and wonder begins to flow?

In the case of Earthfire we have come to this understanding through loving, living with, and working to heal the rescued wild animals under our care over the last 20 years, starting with a litter of newborn wolves. Our work has resulted in the astounding stories of healing that helped Apricot the wolf, Cucumber the wolf, Windwalker the cougar, Teton Totem the grizzly bear, and so many more, that have helped change how we see each individual animal and their ability to heal themselves and us. It is their stories, and what their stories can teach us about living differently on our Earth, that we want to share with the world.

But we don’t need to start a wildlife sanctuary, or even visit one, to begin connecting more deeply with nature and all it can teach us. We can do it anywhere, with any life form.

The power of Reconnection Ecology is not only in helping us make those deep connections, but also learning to trust them—and giving them the real weight they deserve in our lives. If we bring our relationship with nature to the forefront of our thinking, and act on the wisdom we receive from the other species we encounter, we are able to imagine and develop creative, practical solutions that are aligned with how nature really works.

Each month of the coming year we will explore a new aspect of this way of seeing things, through the lens of Reconnection Ecology. We warmly invite you to share your own experiences and thoughts.

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