I was recently asked to name a book that changed my life. A few came to mind, but I ultimately picked Green Mansions, by William Henry Hudson. I probably read it when I was about 10 years old, so I’m pretty shaky on the plot. But what I do recall, and what had a profound effect on me, was the character Rima and her oneness with the natural world.

To refresh my memory, I looked at the Wikipedia entry about the book and was shocked to learn that it was a romance. I remember none of that. I also suspect that the book was somewhat racist in its portrayal of Indians. if so, I was oblivious to that too. What stuck with me was Rina’s deep affinity with nature and how humans have lost that awareness.

Recently, I saw the photos and videos that some friends took on their trip to Tanzania. Lions roaming freely, herds of wildebeest, hippos bathing in swampy water. What a joy to see these creatures living as they should, free to roam and to congregate with their own kind.

I have no plans to re-read Green Mansions, fearing that I will find it very different from my early childhood impressions. Instead, I will remember it as an allegory about our lost connection to the natural world, one that we must surely rediscover if we are to survive. As poet Mary Oliver so eloquently wrote:

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.