So much loss is present here, in this earthly realm. We witness daily the loss of species, destruction of habitat, astounding lethargy in the face of great crisis. It feels like it is all tearing apart, that we are living in the greatest time of destruction and dissolution in present memory. It is overwhelming.
Having only lived in this time, I see that I can only see through my own eyes, the eyes of a woman of European descent living in the west. In saying this I know and own that my own individual life is a comparatively kind one. Many have lived through times that are fraught with greater struggles than I have ever known, and live so now. Scale out and take in even a wee portion of our history and the trouble grows deeper. In many ways this time may be one of the most peaceful and comfortable times in post agricultural revolution history.
Yet another truth lives now and here, we are in the only time when humans have witnessed the large scale destruction of environmental ecosystems and species, in a large part at our own hands. There is a deep sorrow and heaviness in these words. My generation may be the first to not know if the Earth will sustain us, if she can sustain us, and if we will survive as a species. Pair this knowledge and fear with the ready images of aforementioned destruction through the ample media sources, the lack of elders to help us navigate, and the general malaise many people feel, and you have a ripe recipe for despair.
Despair, as honorable and worthy as it may be in the face of all we have on our minds and hearts in these times, is not necessarily the path that will lead us to make the changes we must make to come back into right relationship with the living Earth on which we are so blessed to live. Despair, in my experience, can easily lead to apathy and a lack of personal power and determination to see change.
This is not to say that despair does not have a place, it surely does. Those of us who have not felt the grey blanket of despair on our shoulders at times, are somehow not allowing the fullness of desperate times in which we live to lodge in their hearts and bodies. In fact we would probably be better off if we all fell down on the floor in a heap from time to time, truly feeling the sorrow of it all. But after the fall, we must rise again. To face what we cannot face and begin to gather in the broken pieces of what remains.
My mind turns to the question, What do we DO now? What can we do as we stand to see the fractured, sorrowful state of life as we now know it?
The answer that whispers back to me, the only answer I know today, is to love and care for the beauty and bounty of the earth that lives right here under my feet. Yes, I live in the suburbs of Portland Oregon, and true it may seem that there are places more requiring of my love and care then this place. What about the Tundra? The Amazon? Bears Ears? What of the wild places wracked in misery and wrecked by greed and ignorance? Yes, they too need our care and concern, our voices and dollars raised in objection to the powers of industry and economic growth. Yet the voice that calls to me, the voice that answers speaks clearly- stay home.
This land under my feet needs tending too, the quarter acre I call mine, the trails leading down to the river I so often walk, the verge of the roads where numerous wild beauty’s thrive. This is my place to love and give to, as it so often gives to me, as she so often gives. there is much that can be done here. Perhaps the first act of honor is to stop it-ing, to give personhood to this land I love. If corporations are given legal personhood, most surely our sweet earth should have the same respect.
So what can we do? What can I do? I have a few answers to this question, small as they may be, they are a start, and we must start somewhere. For me, it is right here. I start here, where I am .
Honor the earth- Notice her each day. The way the wind blows fiercely through the trees, the dance of crows as they great the dawn, the soft muddy soil under my feet. How often is she even seen, appreciated and loved. This simple act of seeing brings us right back into the heart of life. Breaches the rift of separation between us and brings us back into the start of a real relationship. We must slow down to do this, walking seems the perfect pace for noticing the life around you. Make time to see and praise this life. She hears you.
Eat with intention- All life is built on life. Be you a vegan or an omnivore, something died so you might live. Feel this and know it to be true. If you doubt my words here I would invite you to do some deep looking and even research into modern agricultural practices. No foods are guilt free, death begets life, your life and mine. This could be paralyzing, but no! This is a great honor and provides a sense of weight to our actions and choices. Knowing that sacrifice happened so that I may eat and live guides me to choose well and relish that which I choose with great reverence and consideration. Growing food with our own hands deepens this even further. Gardening can be a form of worship, working with, not against the earths desires, to lovingly bring forth life to sustain us. It is Magical. If you do not know the pleasure, please learn. She will thank you in a thousand ways.
Make Ceremony– For all the years that we humans have lived on this earth, until very recent times we have honored her with ceremony. It seems we have forgotten this, especially here in the “modern” western world. Our ancestors praised the sustenance provided and marked the turning of the year through ceremony and thanksgiving. There are so many small ways that we can do this. A small altar in the corner of the garden, gathering friends in prayer under the full moon, silent sitting in gratitude as you watch the birds wheel by, so free and high in the sky. These simple acts bring us home to her, let her know that we are still here, in gratitude, that we have not forgotten our sacred contract.
Speak Truth- We are caught in a fog of amnesia, we do not remember that we come from the earth. We have forgotten the scared contract- take only what you needs. As we reawaken to this truth in ourselves, as we begin to hear the rustlings of her voice in our ears, we must not be afraid to share. Rather, we can be afraid, but we must share anyway. It is hard to see things in life that many do not see, harder still to open your mouth and speak them aloud. Still, be brave enough to do so, you may not know the path your words can lead another on. Your willingness to share your views, truths and experiences may free up others to contemplate and share their own.
I have experienced this myself, feeling foolish that I felt plants speaking to me. I shushed myself, told myself it was all imagination. When another human told me of their experience in learning to listen to the plant beings, it freed me from the confines of my own analytical mind and open the doors to a new reality for me. I am eternally grateful.
This is a wondrous world we inhabit, we are so provided for. Feel the truth of that, let it permeate your bones.
The tools I have shared here may seem small in the face of the darkness that gathers so deeply around us. The despair that cloaks our days and nights. I see these as swords held high against the demons of apathy that crowd my doorstep. The power of presence, of praise and remembrance, is not quantifiable. I am ok with that. I don’t need to measure my progress, I don’t need to make a chart or a graph. The real measurement is in the feeling in my heart. I know beyond any trace of doubt, that when I show up and love, really love this earth. this mother, my home. That she feels me, she sings to me in flowers, calls to me in the breeze that touches my cheek. I am learning to listen, I am starting to hear her. Will you listen a while with me?
If this touches something in you, please reach out to me. Together we can learn and grow, together we can make ceremony and restore our connection with our land and our people. The sacred is touching our fingertips right now, if we put our hands together, perhaps there will be space for it to land solidly and grow.
In greatest love,