The Gifts of the Earth

Last week, I was walking our dog early in the morning and I heard a strange sound. At first, I thought it was the low and haunting cry of a loon - a family of loons has been living on the pond all summer, their ancient wails welcoming the morning and eulogizing the sunset. Yet the distinct noise couldn’t have been a loon, as it was a more high pitched noise, - maybe it wasa dog, I thought, a small dog, yipping. No not one dog, I decided as the sound carried on, coyotes, yes, that was it, a pack of coyotes joining voices and howling into the morning. I thought they only howled at night, but my husband assured me that they howl whenever they get together. A celebration!  Nature has so much to teach us—that is one of the reasons I started Weaving Home: to look at this vast world around us and notice how it can point us toward love and community. 

“The beauty and grandeur of nature touches each one of us. From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuous revelation of the divine.” - Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

    Don’t you feel part of this great creation?  The glow of the rising sun fills the dawn sky, bringing color and light, calling the birds to sing in joy, glinting off of their wings. Warming, rising fingers of light stretching over the land, catching a branch and turning it red for just one incomparable moment. It has been captured in song, in poetry, in paintings and in photographs - all reflections of the gift of the sun. We accept the gift of the sun with gratitude because from it, we receive gifts from the Earth. The earth absorbs the energy and creates life. 

    The warm, moist earth nurtures the seeds that grow into grasses, flowers, trees, vegetables; feeding us, giving us oxygen, providing shelter.  One of my earliest memories is sitting on the edge of the garden, my father toiling away, my bare legs on the warm clay soil, my fingers breaking up clumps, watching it turn to grains of dirt -  the stuff of the earth.  Gardening is still a revitalizing activity. Every year I can’t wait until I can get in and dig in the dirt - mostly with a shovel, but sometimes with my hands. 

    When I am in the forest or by a stream or on a hill overlooking a meadow, I feel like I am part of the vastness of the earth. It is home, it is belonging. A gust of wind will take my attention and I can feel the earth breathing with me. I am in awe and at the same time a part of the awe. A drop of dew on a flower petal holds my reflection and the mystery of all reflections. 

Sometimes when we get older we decide to stay clean and don’t take our shoes off anymore to walk on the earth. I can’t remember the last time I walked barefoot over the earth until I started yoga. I love outdoor yoga when we take our shoes off and ground our toes, heel, whole foot intothe earth. And that reminds me of what it was like to be a child running barefoot on the earth, sending my energy down into the ground, as it feeds its life force back up to me.

    In Christine Valter Paintner’s book, Water, Wind, Earth and Fire, she talks about the element of the earth. In ancient traditions the earth element was associated with the direction of north and the season of winter. And she offers this quote:

    “If we think of ourselves as coming out of the earth, rather than having been thrown in here from somewhere else, we see that we are the earth, we are the consciousness of the earth. These are the eyes of the earth. And this is the voice of the earth.” Joseph Campbell

    Often we fail to live in this kind of connective relationship, but if we take the time to think that what I do to the earth, or to the creatures, I’m doing to myself. 

    Last year, I decided to move my rose bush from the back of my garden to the front. I dug so much it felt as if I had bored all the way to the center of the earth, and while I got most of it, and the rose bushes did leaf out this year, there were no roses. I guess there was too much trauma in moving them, because my husband reminded me that the soil around the roots of the rose bush contains things like microbes, bugs, and nutrients that are unique to the rose bush and that dirt, so when I move them I disturb the balance.  The connections are so strong. It is amazing how we are dependent on each other, and on the earth, how where we live and what we see everyday gets imprinted on us, so that while we like to see different things, there is one place we know as home. It might be a place, it could be a person, so when you’re not in the place or with the person, we are lost and out of touch, or we grieve and search so that we can find home again. 

    We seek connection among all that goes on that distracts us—that lures us away from where we need to be. I find connection with the Source of all by being in nature, by walking, by listening, and when I’m with people by trying to spread light and love instead of darkness and fear.  Where do you find connection? How do you celebrate the gifts of the earth? 

(Thanks to BJ Kelly for his photo and editing.)