by Karin Noyes
for the Deacons – and the Green Team
I recently read a book that moved me deeply: Spiritual Ecology – The Cry of the Earth. It’s editor, Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, has collected essays from a vast array of spiritual leaders and thinkers. The writings speak about the need for each of us to consider our environment sacred in order to save it. The message was the same no matter the spiritual basis: We need to see the beauty and fall in love with nature in order to WANT to take care of God’s Creation.
In his book, Climate – A New Story, Charles Eisenstein, tells the story of the man in the maze. The man is frantically running to try to find the exit. In his exhaustion, he finally sits and calms his breath, and only then can he hear the voice that is telling him to stay calm, and that he will find his way out. He realizes he has literally been running in circles to solve his crisis, but in his newfound quiet he begins to see other options — dark allies and passageways that he has yet to explore. Some still bear no fruit but eventually, through calm exploration and listening, he finds the solution.
Eisenstein equates this story to what is happening with our climate crisis these days. In desperation, we take one of two sides: Humans did not cause this OR we must find every solution we have to save Earth NOW! Whichever side one takes, the action is similar — non-action. Either viewpoint is overwhelming – the Earth is heating up and we have no control OR we need to do so much to make even a small difference.
Its time to quiet down, slow down and listen and do what we are able to do right here, right now. We can’t force people to want to protect nature, but having experienced the beauty of the Earth and having seen what has been lost, one should be moved to protect it. Eisenstein speaks of a man going back to find those places he had loved in childhood — a fishing hole, a pond, a patch of woods — only to find them gone. This loss of what was loved becomes the motivation to DO something. That something is to take care of the environment where we each live.
Over the past three months I have spent a lot of time outside. In general, this is my favorite place to be. I can probably trace this love of nature to my childhood where the outdoors was my playground. Exploring the woods and gorges of backyards and parks, observing birds and wildlife with friends of my parents, hiking and camping — these ample opportunities to be in nature allowed me to see the beauty and fall in love with Creation and all the parts of the natural world.
Since March, I have made it a point, no matter what, to spend a couple of hours outside each day. We have some land, and there is always SOMETHING to do with or on it. This spring I began by snipping and collecting barbed wire along an old woods road. From there I took to tackling a bramble mess of barberry and bittersweet, clipping and pulling and piling up the bits and pieces. I diverted water from erosion paths and began thinking about what the gardens would yield this summer. I planted and weeded in places that had been neglected for years. I bought bare root sticks of trees and dug them new homes and vowed that each day for a year I would water them to give them a chance at life. I dragged branches into our newly formed frog pond to give the little tadpoles a chance to evade the random visits by the Great Blue Heron.
I covered my early garden crops as the cold forces of nature clamped down on us over Mother’s Day weekend. I watched helplessly as that same weather froze the peach blossoms, newly emerged and vulnerable, and they fell to the ground unable to fruit this year. I have seen bumper crops of raspberries; blueberries and blackberries swell in the hot, dry sun. Later, no doubt, there will be competition with birds and bears for these delightful treats. The deer and bunnies have already been nibbling at what is most delicious in my gardens. And now the extended dry spell has placed me at the end of a garden hose for hours – but at least I am outside.
My reward for all this toil is hearing more individual birds than I ever have. I always knew that the time between April and August was my favorite for being outside. These are the months when the birds just sing and sing. I have identified a few unusual ones — an Indigo Bunting, a Scarlet Tanager. And then there are those that remain a mystery. I call one the Vivaldi Bird, as he sings the first lines of the “Spring” movement of The Four Seasons over and over again. I have picked the song of another unknown bird on the piano, so I can remember it.
My new favorite bird is the Carolina Wren. I have found a few of their beautiful, mossy, BIG, nests sandwiched between anything that might provide adequate shelter. Our doors are often left open, and if ever a bird flies in, they tend to panic and it is generally a disaster, as birds tend to fly only up to find the way out. But several weeks ago one of these loud mouth wrens flew in, calmly checked things out, perched on a few window ledges, then saw the opening and flew back out. I can’t help but think of Eisenstein’s man in the maze and love this bird even more.
In all this, I have felt privileged and lucky to have had this opportunity to connect with the natural world on a daily basis. I’ve experienced quite an intimate connection to my natural surroundings, and when I noticed one day that the Carolina Wren was not singing – and didn’t for three weeks or more — I wondered what had become of it. I hear him occasionally now – but from a distance. Did it not like it here? Was it teaching babies to fly? I can only wonder.
I hope that my care of my little patch of earth can help our Earth heal in some small way. The calm and quiet helps me to be able to think of helping in bigger ways as well. I pray for the Earth, as it is God’s Creation and should be considered sacred, every last bit of it.