The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

Adapted from my book A Blackbird’s Year: Mind in Nature – out now.

My previous posts have a basis in research and science. However, I’m also interested in more creative routes to nature connectedness and the resulting insights into how mind and nature occupy one another. For me, writing on foot in the local landscape, describing the joy of shared nature, is also thinking about the process that is mind. The act of writing is not simply an output of thought, a substitute for speech or recording of knowledge – writing enables and shapes our thinking. Sentences carry thought and help create new thinking, so writing in nature also develops our thinking about our relationship to nature.


A great place to read The Living Mountain

This is particularly true of classic writing such as Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain where, without recognition, Shepherd demonstrated new thinking in line with that of the philosopher Merleau-Ponty. From the opening page of The Living Mountain, Shepherd tackled mind head on, all of the reality that matters to us, is a reality of mind, that non-matter which is our every conscious moment, an impenetrable graphene conducting the only thoughts we ever know, but which cannot carry the landscape away – hence our need to return, again and again to understand it. The book is a phenomenology, a study of consciousness and lived experience that takes place on the mountain and captures the very act of being. How the body is our own instrument of discovery, that can be fettled and tuned to see the depth of being, like a telescope can see a deep field view of the Universe, yet neither is ever fully understood. Lying on the mountain, in that place between insentience and alertness, Shepherd found an uncompromised connection with the earth where the mind holds a flame of nature into the depth of slumber and becomes uncoupled, the sense of self and familiarity of place dissolves, such that the mind is a void until one awakes and is human once more. Shepherd joins the realities of self and nature and joys in the perception of the world, each sense a route into what nature has to give, channels of existence in the natural world such that mind can impregnate matter and create a living spirit that can walk out of the body and into the landscape.

About Miles

Professor of Human Factors & Nature Connectedness - improving connection to (the rest of) nature to unite human & nature’s wellbeing.
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2 Responses to The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

  1. I like this from near the end of the book: “Simply to look at anything…with a love that penetrates to its essence is to widen the domain of being in the vastness of non-being.”

  2. Pingback: A Year of Nature | Finding Nature

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