Just a few years ago I was balking at people trying to save the planet.
Tossing my plastic containers and paper boxes into the recycling bin was the only way I cared for the earth. I gave myself a big pat on the back and never considered I might be contributing to the problem.
But as we began accumulating little chicks into our brood, I witnessed my children’s instinctive appreciation for the tiny beetles and big blue whales. I wondered at their innate fascination with nature and desire to collect her many treasures.
It’s like they came with an inherent tree-hugging gene. Sure, children might not understand the depths of the planetary crisis like a scientist- climate change, pollution, or the loss of biodiversity- but they are enraptured with their natural environment.
Enthusiastic explorers, full of questions and curious about the residents with whom they share this blue-green swirl of a home. Perhaps this was enough?
Author, spiritual director, and one of my guides from the Seminary of the Wild, Victoria Loorz, makes a case for this pure, often overlooked passion for the Earth and all its habitants. In her book, Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us Into The Sacred, she writes, “The only way to grasp the conversation of sacred connection is to move beyond caring and risk falling in love.”
As responsible, recycling citizens we need to take our cues from children who are energetic, love-struck listeners ready to dance to Earth’s symphony playing all around them.
I’ve seen all four of my children instinctively step into a conversation with Mother Earth without a single nudge from me. Unlike adults, children are allured by her simple beauty. They lounge in her dandelion patches, pluck blackberries from backyard vines, build castles on her sandy shorelines, and turn over rocks in search of interesting trinkets.
Children do not need to be convinced of this great web of being and interrelatedness and their connection to the polar bears as well as the plastic garbage patch spinning around in the Pacific. Their heart breaks with an unabashed tenderness toward Mother Earth and all who dwell here.
Slowly and steadily, I’m realizing (once again) Mother Earth doesn’t need us to save her, she needs us to savor her.
In addition to learning from my children, here are 5 ways I’ve awakened my inner tree-hugging gene and taken the risk of falling in love:
1. Instead of stressing about becoming a “no waste” family, we are becoming “less waste”.
Those two words keep us motivated to do the best we can to fill up our jars in the bulk section of our local refill shops and be more creative when it comes to eliminating plastic from our everyday lifestyle.
2. “Talk to the trees.”
I heard this phrase from Victoria Loorz when I was having trouble making a decision. But since then it’s become a mantra for me, reminding me to always give nature space to speak and to listen intently for her response. She’s been around much longer than us and has more wisdom to pass on than we’ll ever realize.
3. Get a free education through books.
Here’s a list of high-impact books that heightened my sense of connection with the Earth and gave me a valuable, free education. Best of all, they are all very digestible and straightforward. (Check them out at your local library or buy them used!)
Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth Essays by Joanna Macy, Thich Nhat Hanh, Richard Rohr, Wendell Berry, Bill Plotkin, and others
Love Letter to the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh
Devotions by Mary Oliver
Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us Into The Sacred by Victoria Loorz
101 Ways to Go Zero-Waste by Kathryn Kellogg
4. Plant gardens.
I am absolutely convinced gardening doesn’t require a certain size of yard or any skill! (See number 5 below.) I repeat: You do not need a green thumb or flower farmer status. Grab a few old pots, some dirt, and a package of seeds or some starts at your local nursery. Flowers, vegetables, and berries, just make it as easy as possible. Then, go from there.
Digging our hands in the soil, being outside in the fresh air, watching life come from seemingly nothing, it’s healing on every level. Did you know Horticulture Therapy is an actual thing?!
5. Don’t live in nature. (Yes, you heard me right!)
Residing in Europe for over 6 years ruined me. We didn’t own a car for a year! I transported groceries and children and traveled everywhere by bike, bus, or train. Even when we bought a car and were able to drive further distances our bikes still got more mileage. The cities are designed for it and sadly, America has so far to go. (I love this guy’s videos. Here’s one on “Dutch Cities are Better For the Environment (and my sanity!)
When we moved to the States, my husband and I fell hard for the homesteading dream and bought acreage and chickens and planted extensive planter box gardens. But I’ve never driven so much in my life or generated so much waste and used up so much energy. In fact, as I write this, we are currently looking for homes in Bellingham, 20 miles south of us. We are done and exhausted and completely sold on these words from Walkable Cities, “if you love nature, stay away from it. The best means of protecting the environment is to live in the heart of a city.”