I have been waiting for the grief to come, and today, reading Bill McKibben’s eaarth, my grief was set loose when I read his summary of the de facto changes that have beset our lovely jewel planet. After chronicling the reasons our dear Gaia cannot recover in any recognizable way from the devastation that has already taken place, Bill wrote: The earth that we knew — the only earth that we ever knew — is gone. It drove down so deep, I started sobbing, the sobs I have waited for as I have prodded and explored my relationship with the land very intently over the past few years.
It was one of those phrases I will remember word for word because I know he is right. Our delicate, ancient wilderness home has been forever changed by our human presence, for good and for destruction. In the connection we feel to our mother earth, with her strong and wise ways and her seemingly boundless resilience and resourcefulness, we somehow also intuitively know that her delicacy, complexity, tenderness, and, yes, vulnerability are also just as present. We grew from her womb, and we understand by our own human natures that even mothers become battered, wilted, wounded, and hurt when they are assaulted so relentlessly.
The land has become so important to me as healer, guide, temple, and container. I have needed the attention, reflection, beauty, and presence the earth has offered me over and over as I have delved further and further into my unique self. No one can tell me who I am better and more completely than the earth.
It feels so selfish, right now, though, using her so naively without fully appreciating how truly she is a wounded healer. I will suckle at her breast, and she will heal to our very last breath. The earth that we knew — the only earth that we ever knew — is gone.
But what about the earth as she exists now? The truth is I do belong to her; and just as truly she belongs to me, to us. And coming to this realization is the basis for a change of mind. For if you truly belong to someone as a beloved — not as a possession — you are everything to her/him and they are to you. In the expansive network of love and care that extends infinitely between beings on this miracle planet, I know that she needs us because she belongs to us and we to her. She is the life and breath of every connection we ever have or will experience, changing as she is.
And so, the challenge begging our deep attention right now is how to be there for her, as friends, kin, healers, priests, and devotees, in ways deserving of the riches that been bestowed upon us for aeons as an evolving species among so many other beings. The earth really needs each of us right now as part of the sacred relationship of belonging to which we are all partakers. The earth that we knew — the only earth that we ever knew — is gone. So, how do we change our minds? How can we discover our place in the cosmos, a new rightful place on this lovely and unique planet? How can we heal and reconnect in a mutuality of trust and belonging?