We constantly refer back to the natural world to try and discover who we are. Nature is the most potent source of metaphors to describe and explain our behaviour and feelings. It is the root and branch of much of our language. We sing like birds, blossom like flowers, stand like oaks. Or then again we eat like gluttons, breed like rabbits and generally behave like animals. But then ‘animal’ itself springs from the ancient Sanskrit root anila, meaning ‘wind’, via the Latin animalis, ‘anything alive’, splitting off animus on the way as, first, ‘mind’ and then ‘mental impulse, disposition, passion’ – a reminder of the time that mind and nature were not thought of as contrary entities. It is as if in using the facility of language, the thing we believe most separates us from nature, we are constantly pulled back to its, and our, origins. In that sense all natural metaphors are miniature creation myths, allusions to how things came to be, and a confirmation of the unity of life.
– Richard Mabey, Nature Cure