If you’ve been around Micro of the Macro for a while, no doubt you’ve read a lot about the benefits of spending time with Nature. For example, being at the beach can reduce stress & cancer risk. Interacting with animals can result in improved heart & immune function. Visiting a waterfall can reduce chronic pain. I have written about how working with plants can reduce depression, trauma, and anxiety, and how wildflowers support all living systems. Nature, in Her infinite wisdom, contributes unceasingly to life, including ours. But let’s drill down further: does the Earth, our Primal Mother, love us?
In last week’s post, I mentioned briefly the book I am currently reading, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, member of the Potawatomi Nation and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology at The State University of New York. Early in the book, she writes of the differences in two foundations which have strongly influenced the ways we think of Nature: the Creation Story and the language we use.
In Kimmerer’s Native American culture, and many others, the Creation Story does not involve Adam & Eve’s unhappy expulsion from a perfect garden due to a deceitful serpent. Instead, it is a story of Skywoman, who falls from the Skyworld, grasping for the Tree of Life on her way down, bringing with her seeds, flowers, and branches, and leaving an opening for the sun to shine through. During and after her landing, animals lovingly assist her. We are inevitably shaped by (Creation stories) no matter how distant they may be from our consciousness, the author writes. One (of the stories mentioned) leads to the generous embrace of the living world, the other to banishment. One woman is our ancestral gardener, a cocreator of the good green world . . . The other, an exile, just passing through an alien world on a rough road to her real home in heaven. A huge difference between perspectives for the followers of each tradition, wouldn’t you agree?
Kimmerer’s native language, alive with the energies of the natural world, is almost completely gone. (Due in large part to forced government board schooling of Native American children centuries ago, where speaking their native tongue was forbidden.) The language of her ancestors addressed the Spirit in Nature; it was a mirror for seeing the animacy of the world, the life that pulses through all things, through pines and nuthatches and mushrooms, she writes. The language reminds us, in every sentence, of our kinship with all of the animate world. A far cry from English, which categorizes the living world as either people or things. And how easy is it to neglect or abuse when we objectify? (Think of the unfortunate slaves of ages past who were considered property.) How could we possibly come to believe that things love us?
The author, a scientist and teacher, is a mother of two, as well. She writes with the greatest affection of her daughters, and says she taught them to garden so they would always have a mother to love them, even after she’s gone. She composed a list of loving behaviors shared with her girls. Included in the list are: nurturing health and well-being, protection from harm, encouraging growth, interdependence, and creation of beauty. When we observe these behaviors between people, she says, we know they must love each other. We even make the statement, “She loves her garden” when the same behaviors are demonstrated by someone carefully tending a plot of land. Why then, the author asks, would you not make the leap to say that the garden loves her back? The thriving of one is in the best interest of the other. This, to me, sounds a bit like love, the author concludes. I couldn’t agree more.
Braiding Sweetgrass is packed with practical teachings of the old ways, offering a clear way forward out of the environmental disaster we are living presently. But there is so much more to this book. The beauty of Kimmerer’s prose could make a willing student out of anyone. I find myself rereading some of her lines 3 or 4 times to relish gentle teachings that feed my soul. Her descriptive, love-infused narrative brings the science of botany to life, revealing the exquisite luminosity of Mother Earth.
An endless supply of loving support is made available to us by Nature, being the good Mother that She is. In addition to making things beautiful, She also provides us with ways to help us feel better and improve our lives overall. Like Robin Wall Kimmerer, I strongly believe that the Earth cares for us beyond measure, and spending time in Nature is the easiest way to feel the embrace of that unconditional love.
Blessings for Motherly Love,