FMBR Editorial: August, 2022
But Does the Earth Love You Back?
I love to be in the Pacific Northwest. There’s so much water, and greenery, and life there. It feels--lush, and so alive. The Puget Sound is the Pacific Ocean in its quiescent state, gently filling in the spaces between the numerous green islands. No crashing waves here, just quiet water, almost lake-like, and utterly enchanting.
Visiting family, we stayed near Point Ruston and went for walks along the water’s edge, admiring the Salish Sea, as it is called, in honor of the Coast Salish peoples who have lived there for thousands of years. Now, when I go for walks out in nature, I always greet the nature spirits, the Spirits of the water, earth, air and fire, the trees, animals, fish, insects and plants--“all my relations”--and I give thanks and honor to the spirits of those who lived on the land before I arrived, thanking them for their lives, wisdom and connection to the land. My gratitude and praise usually take the form of wonder and joy at witnessing the expression of the Divine in its myriad forms: God disguised as the Puget Sound, God disguised as a building, or a redwood, or a seagull. As my teachers say, either it’s all divine or nothing is. Everything that is manifest in form (and all that is formless) emanates from the Source and is therefore Source, as a drop of the ocean emanates from the ocean. That’s what I think about when I am out in nature.
So, I was standing at the water’s edge, admiring a little seabird--I think it was a loon--that was going about its business, all alone, swimming and looking for food. I sent it love and thanks for its perfect expression as the Divine in form. And a thought suddenly entered my mind, “I wonder if that bird sees me with the same wonder with which I am viewing her.” It seemed an odd thought, because my assumption always is that the inhabitants of the natural world view us humans with wariness at best, but mostly with disgust at our thoughtlessness, heartlessness, and our capacity for wanton destruction. I mean, that’s a given, right? But the little bird offered me another possibility--just a sort of “what if?’ moment. Could it even be possible that that bird could return the wonder, joy and admiration of me as an emanation of Source, with a recognition that we are each uniquely expressing in physicality while embodying the Source of All That Is? Does this make sense? Just contemplating the possibility felt like it opened a door.
I thought back to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass, a book I loved for its indigenous wisdom and absolutely lyrical writing. In it, she tells a story of teaching an environmentalism class to college students who all clearly loved the Earth and wanted to help restore and protect it. She asked them if they thought the Earth loved them back and, to a person, they all said no, because of how destructive humanity has been on the planet. Her lesson around this is that we have to believe that the Earth loves us as her children. “Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate,” she says. “But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”
What a shift that would be, if we could believe that, live that, as individuals and as a species! Of course, the indigenous peoples have always known this and lived this. What would the world be like if we “modern humans” believed that we were loved and cared for by the Earth and its denizens, instead of that we had “dominion” over the Earth and that everything around us is just there for the taking?
What new possibilities would arise if we approached our life as incarnate beings in relationship with the land and all other incarnate beings, plus the disincarnate beings, plus our ancestors, plus the natural intelligences of the stars and the elements? That’s a big web of beingness to draw support and life from, and to which we have a responsibility to be in right relationship. Really, it all comes down to that, doesn’t it: how do we live in right relationship with each other, with the planet, with nature and with the Divine? I believe that’s where we’re headed. We have to be. We are walking the path to finding out how 8 billion people can move from being a destructive force on the planet to creating harmony, balance and synergistic expression on the Earth.
Maybe a start might be to consider the possibility that we can be in love with the planet and that the planet can be in love with us back.