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Knowing life through nature: a relationship with the stars

As I enter into what feels like the final "push" or the last trimester of my PhD, along with the feeling the overwhelm of wondering if a) I will ever finish and b) if it will be any good, I turn my gaze towards the focus of this study in understanding teachers' perceptions of nature and consider my own.

Nature can be known in many ways - as a biological knowledge construction through binomial names and anatomical and physiological functions, through the make-up of its chemistry or physical properties, relationally as is proposed by many indigenous cultures and others, as something to take care of and look after, in a spiritual or religious interaction, amongst many more. I move my attention to the work of Carson (1965), which is where I started my foray into research many years ago, and consider that 'it is more important to feel than to know'.

How do we feel in nature? What do we ecologically sense? What affect does this have?

I was reading Jackson and Mazzei (2012) this morning considering a diffractive way of analysing data. Their approach was to intervene (see Barad, 2007, p.50) with the data by "inserting and installing" themselves to "make sense of what happens" (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012, p. 131). In this, they are affected by the data by their encounter with it. So I ponder, what affect does nature have when we are immersed in it by inserting and installing ourselves within it?

For many years now, I have observed the qualities of nature. Much like we can describe the qualities of a person - for example, they are funny, serious, nice, kind, warm, confident, shy, clever, outspoken etc. - I also see how we can this same relation with nonhuman nature through the qualities that we can feel. On my morning walk, I love attuning to the stillness of nature that holds our suburban homes as I roam around the block and sometimes further. Sometimes the birds are playfully swooping and chatting with each other. At other times they are quiet and alert, sitting watchfully in high vantage points seemingly 'kings' of the suburban jungle; I know a kookaburra who often adopts this role.

More recently, my husband bought a proper Canon camera. He loves taking photos of the night sky and building his relationship with the stars. I recall my magic moment with the stars when I was 14 years old on my school camp and consider now what it means to have a relationship with the stars through affect, sensing, feeling.

Astrology purports a cosmic interpretation of the stars through the star signs. But what if there was something more than this: what if the stars emanated a quality that could be sensed and felt and understood?

Heracles is renowned for the 12 labours with various mythological interpretations. Recently, I read about Heracles relationship with the stars - as with many ancient philosophers such as Pythagoras - and how this relationship informed the labours.

While I am moving into this final part of my PhD, I consider what I learnt about Heracles labour of the Bull, or Taurus. One of the qualities of Taurus, as proposed by Heracles, was focus. This focus is about being aware of distractions in a way that does not merely heavily concentrate on the one thing, but does so in a way that acknowledges the self as a part of an entanglement of all other selves and the materiality of nature and the stars. focus brings steadiness and a knowingness of what is needed when, and what may come in to take you off track.

This knowing and wisdom of nature offers a precious gift as I continue this journey and deepen my relationship with the stars as a very real but often marginalised aspect of nonhuman nature.

Photo credits: Gary Plummer (

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