Honor the Earth
Pick a country road, just about any one of them will do. The one we live on serves the purpose. I’ve written about it before, a nice little road, perhaps a little plain, certainly less dramatic than many, and yet real treasures line its sides, both in the ditches and the woods through which it passes. The jewels that sparkle along the way are many. Marsh marigolds in spring, emerald green and radiant yellow; summer’s marsh milkweed, richly magenta, and bottle gentian dappling our fall colors with brush strokes of indigo. These are just some of the gems in our roadside garden.
Amid this profusion butterflies dance like lithe ballerinas. Monarchs, painted ladies and fritillaries with silver under-wings hold center stage among a cast of countless other amazingly costumed insects. Over the years I’ve walked this stretch of road I’ve had some interesting company. There’ve been eagles, fishers, mink, beaver, otters, coyote, bears and deer, and I’ve been stopped dead in my tracks by the haunting flute the wood thrush plays at dusk. I could go on about the turtles and snakes but I’m guessing you get the picture. Sadly, most of these plants and critters are in rapid decline here and around the world thanks, in one way or another, to us.
What I want you to notice now, though, is the trash I pick up on my walks and carry home with me. From cigarette butts, to beer and soda cans, the plastic bags and fast food cups and wrappers; and more – much more. Walk any country road and you’ll see what I’m talking about. While there are much larger and toothier environmental fish to fry, what we do to our roadsides is as good a place to start from as any.
The link between throwing our empty bag of cups and wrappers from the fast food stop in town out our car windows, and poisoning our water with PFAS, or pouring more and more climate warping greenhouse gases into our atmosphere has to be our lack of a strong, or more to the point, any spiritual connection to nature.
In order to trash a roadway we have to see those glorious ditches as pretty meaningless places, to the point of insignificance. To risk the quality of our precious waters, like our own Eau Claire River, for gold here in Marathon County highlights that same careless disregard. To choose oil, gas and coal over sunshine and wind, when the evidence of our increasingly and dangerously chaotic climate slaps us in the face every day in the news, makes it crystal clear we are blind to the spirit of God nested within the miracle that is planet Earth.
If we had the same amount of reverence for our amazing rivers, lakes, rich forests, life fostering climate and, yes, humble roadsides too, as we have for the altars in our churches, our remarkable little planet would have remained a Garden of Eden.
To look for models of reverence towards nature we need look no further than our Indigenous sisters and brothers, and Jesus. Traditional Native people know that the spirit of the creator breaths in all of nature. Nothing is taken for granted. Instead, all of creation is holy and approached with reverence. Gratitude is offered for all that sustains us, from the water we drink to the the fruits, vegetables and animals we eat. Surrounded by sisters and brothers everywhere, nature is used with care and treated with great respect.
Jesus, from my reading anyway, always turned to the mountains, the wild places, the desert and lakes when he sought the Father. The forty days and nights of fasting in the desert sounds a lot like an extended vision quest to me. As for the synagogue, that’s where he went to teach. Even on the night before being arrested and crucified he went to a garden, not a church, for spiritual solace. If we truly wanted to emulate the life of Jesus we might well forsake our church pews, head out into the woods, or along a stream, find a log or a rock and just sit quietly with the spirits of that place. Eventually, we might find that what we’ve been looking for, real spiritual connection, is actually all around us in nature.
Before we create hell on earth, before we condemn our descendants to a polluted, dying planet let us one and all go out to the woods, the deserts, the rivers and the mountains with our quiet prayers and meditations. Let us learn from the trees, the wild things around us the reasons to revere and care for this glorious, living planet. This unique gift, this earth, this small, green rock hurtling through the lifeless depths of space is infinitely more valuable than all the money our banks can hold and all the toys in our garages.
If we are to give our children an inheritance from our hearts, let it be clean water that need not be filtered and treated to be drunk, clean air to breath, healthy soil with nary a dose of dangerous pesticides or nano particles of plastic to enter and poison their beloved bodies. Let us bequeath our future ones a richly diverse bounty of life to share this land with, and the climate, the glaciers, the frozen Arctic and Antarctic we older folks grew up with. All this depends on the choices, the conscious choices, we make now for the well-being of planet earth. Let’s nurture and tend this Garden of Eden with the deep love and reverence our creator intended. Put the impact of our choices on the Earth, and therefore on ourselves, first. Make wise, environmental voting choices.
Where else will our children and grandchildren, and their’s, go tomorrow if we fail to honor and care for the earth with reverence today?