• Johanna DeBiase

It's Elemental, My Dear



I don’t think there was ever a time in my life when I didn’t have a favorite tree. As a child, I loved the maple tree in our backyard. In college, there was an oak tree I liked to visit near the campus gardens. My first book, Mama & the Hungry Hole, featured a tree as a main character. That tree was based on the apple tree in my backyard in Peñasco, New Mexico where I spent long summer days resting in its shade while I was pregnant with my daughter, Flora. Today my favorite tree is a piñon a mile walk away from my house at the foot of the nearby cerro, Tres Orejas.


When I visit my tree friend, I spend time leaning in and listening with an open heart. Trees connect earth and sky. Their roots dig deep into the earth and their branches sway with the wind as if sending messages from the air down its trunk and into the soil. In the same way, writers send messages we pick up in the air-- the inspiration, the zeitgeist, the muse, the ideas—and draw them through our bodies—our unique voice, our own experiences, our very being—into the rich soil of creativity where we can manifest it into the physical form of words. We have the gift of communication, of translating concepts and creativity into words.


Trees can grant us words, as can the wind, the rivers, the mountains, the rain, the animals and all of nature. By fostering relationships with the more-than-human world, we can pluck poetics out of the air. The elements have so much to teach us about being human, being earthlings. Our time on this earth is a nanosecond for an ancient sequoia or a canyon gorge. The elements have deep wisdom that they long to share with us if only we can learn how to listen.


The elements—earth, air, fire and water—are the building blocks of all of the material universe. Think of a plant for instance, the wind blows a seed to the spot of its perfect sowing where the rain waters it into the soil and nurtures it into a plant so the fiery sun beams can help it grow. Our bones are made of minerals. Our bodies are made of 60% water. Every cell in our body produces heat. Our breath circulates air. We could not exist without the elements.


In the archetypal realm, the elements take on multi-dimensional meanings that translate across cultures, religions and spiritual practices. In Buddhism, it is believed that everything and everyone is composed of these elements and they each exist in our body. In astrology, each zodiac sign corresponds to an element, which characterizes certain underlining attributes you can expect from those signs. In Ayruveda, every body’s constitution is characterized by the elements.


The elements also exist in the imaginal realm beyond the material world. In our western culture, an animistic worldview is very difficult to grasp. But indigenous cultures around the world have held these views for thousands of years, perceiving the natural world as sentient and filled with nature spirits that live amongst us. European fairy tales call these nature spirits nymphs, elves, dryads, fairies, gnomes and so on and stem from early pagan cultures such as the Celtic pagans or old Norse religion. The Elementals are nature spirits connected to the elements and exist in the emotional and spiritual realm. But it doesn’t matter if you believe in them or not. Setting an intention to connect with the spiritual realm of nature, allowing your imagination to be your guide and inviting a touch of magic into your heart is all you need. This is one step toward creating a relationship of reciprocity with nature instead of what our western world currently perpetuates, a relationship of dominion.


And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet
and the winds long to play with your hair.
—Kahlil Gibran

That is why I am happy to announce my first virtual course offering for the School of Intuitive (Eco)Writing. It’s Elemental, My Dear. (Why do I insist on these silly puns for my course names? I don’t know.)


It makes perfect sense to start with the elements. Elemental is primal and fundamental. Elemental is “embodying the powers of nature,” as in the elemental forces. This is perfect as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want to write pleasantly formed sentences with pretty opinions and a strong sense-of-place. I’ll leave that kind of writing to the academics and literati. I want to write the raw stuff, the words that blast off the page like lightning strikes imbued with the powers of nature. I want my writing to be deeply embodied and oozing out of every cell of my skin. When my writing is quiet and sensitive, I want it to roll over smooth stones with the grace of a tumbling river and when my writing is angry and fierce, I want it to echo through the canyon walls like a screeching eagle. Sometimes my writing might blow in quietly and quickly stir up a storm until I’m drenched and racing for shelter. But whatever it is, I want it to be like the embodied power of nature, elemental.




Each week, we will examine a variety of representations of the elements for intellectual fodder and inspiring metaphor. I will provide inspiration in the form of musical playlists, art galleries and reading materials. And of course, there will be downloadable meditations to help you synch up and embody each element. Plus, writing prompts to get you started. The live Zoom classes will entail discussions and explorations on the upcoming element, as well as opportunities to share your writing.


I am genuinely excited to take this journey with all who choose to join me. I am so looking forward to all the great material that will be created through this experience. Most likely, I will share some of my own experiences on my blog or newsletter (which are sometimes the same and sometimes not) during the summer months.


If you read this and felt your heart calling you to join me, then I hope you will listen. And as further incentive, I am offering a discount to my newsletter subscribers. Use the code: NEWSLETTER22 for a 20% discount. Please let me know if there are any hiccups while registering or if you have any questions. Happy spring flowers and showers!






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