Janet Gavin
Lake Forest, CA











The Mother Earth Archetype
in Nature Writing

by Janet Gavin

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The Mother Earth Archetype in Nature Writing
          While examining accounts of some of the most celebrated modern-American nature writers, I noticed how they and others consistently find sanctuary in the wilderness and draw a sense of peace and security and courage and strength from an intimate attachment to the natural world. At the same time, I found their writing so rich in mother images and mother-child themes that I wanted to determine what significance could be found in this passionate identification of the human "child" with Mother Earth. My conclusion is as follows:  


        Environmentalists have argued, with eloquence and courage, that the land and seas and wildlife must be protected and that the wholesale destruction of the wilderness must end. They can't persuade us more effectively that our physical survival depends on a healthy environment, that if we continue to strip our forests and arable lands, to pollute our air and oceans and water supplies, and to destroy the wildlife, we will indeed perish. But what this examination of wilderness experiences shows is that nature is just as important to our emotional survival, and that our spiritual connection to the earth is profound, innate, and unbreakable. We don't really fly to the wilderness, as some say, in hopes of "getting away from it all," but in search of intimacy. We are drawn to nature not, as many believe, merely for a love of its superficial beauty but because we have with it a deep and everlasting bond. And if we fail to recognize and cherish and preserve that bond, we not only sentence ourselves and our descendants to an eternity of spiritual poverty, we commit, in the deepest and most horrifying sense of the word, matricide.

Janet Gavin


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