Does size really matter?

March 3, 2014

In a review of the book ‘Conversations with Barry Lopez’ by William Tydeman, the reviewer (Peter Reason) writes:

Lopez’s work places issues of justice and politics alongside those of beauty and spirituality. He describes his work as ‘a quest for the divine […] a desire to identify and celebrate the numinous dimension of ordinary life’, those moments of seamless coherence when one is in touch with that which was ‘there before space and time’. His writing is ‘a deliberate attempt to re-infuse the ordinary with the extraordinary, to re-infuse material life with spiritual life’.

I read these words and I want to shout “Yes!”. This is exactly how I want my work to be perceived.


More importantly, beyond my own work, this is how I would want everyone to perceive their own lives: grounded in the numinous.

Numinous is a common enough word in eco-literature where “sense of place” is being described. From the Greek verb “numen” (to incline the head; or, the Latin: to nod), numinous refers to a revealing or suggesting the presence of a god; inspiring awe and reverence.

I can only nod as I watch the bee zoom past a human form of beauty to where she knows true gold resides: deep in the pumpkin flower.



Usually, numinous is associated with the big picture. Where one is standing, feeling small in a grove of redwood giants. Or, at the base of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

However, there is no better or easier way of intimately understanding what numinous means than to patiently observe the small hearts working wonders everywhere in nature — from one’s own backyard, to one’s veggie patch or verge along the city sidewalk.

By bowing down to observe the myriad of small things who work to keep the earth alive, one starts to feel what the dictionary can only explain.

For me, it is in the small heart of things that I most often bow. A simple arrangement of cherry tomatoes growing, first green, than red with ripeness, has me on my knees in gratitude for all that is/was ‘there before space and time’.


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