Fall in Love with the Earth Again
April 22 is Earth Day, people all over the world honoring the beautiful, unique-in-the-universe planet we call home; people all over the world working very hard to repair the damage we have done, especially in the 50 years since people starting celebrating Earth Day.
I think falling in love with the earth again is falling in awe with the earth again. and that can mean focusing on the micro-moments of awe and wonder that open our awareness again to the vastness and miraculousness of the “blue marble” we call home.
Marveling at the miracle of water – that falls from the sky into our rivers, lakes, reservoirs, that we drink daily, almost taking it for granted. (60% of the adult human body is water.)
Marveling at breathing clean air that we too often pollute with exhaust from cars and factories, but knowing, deeply knowing, that we are alive moment to moment to moment only because we are sustained by the breath of life in our bodies.
Marveling that nutrients from good soil pass through all the plants and animals we eat to nourish our bodies and souls, day by day by day.
My friend Mark, a beloved high school biology teacher revered by his students for making the miracles of life on earth come alive for them, is falling in awe with the planet on Earth Day by growing basil plants from seed in his little home-grown, side-of-the-house greenhouse. A basil seed is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Mark will plant the seeds and water the growing seedlings and lovingly transfer the growing plants to larger pots and generously share the 12” tall basil plants with students, neighbors, and friends.
The exercise below for falling in love with the earth again I originally learned from a ranger in Yosemite National Park. But “belly botany” works in your back yard, in a local park, on the edge of a creek, in one potted petunia. It takes only five minutes, and it can open your heart and mind to love and care for the earth again that sustains the miracles of our own lives.
EXERCISE: BELLY BOTANY
Years ago I was hiking in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park when I came upon a park ranger with a small group of hikers sprawled on the ground, face down, each of them completely absorbed in observing one square foot of ground from a height of six inches. The ranger called this a five-minute exercise in “belly botany.” You can practice belly botany almost anywhere to create a shift in perspective between the small and the vast, and to sense your place in the overall scheme of things.
1. Find a one-foot-square patch on a favorite beach, in a meadow, in a forest, in your own backyard, or in a city park (just be very careful where you decide to lie down). Lie comfortably on your stomach so that your eyes can focus on your patch from a height of six inches.
2. Come into a sense of presence. Defocus your attention from any concerns for self; concentrate on what’s happening in your patch. Notice the dirt or sand, the plants and bugs. Notice any activity, any stillness, any change of the light and shadows. Notice the relationship of things one to another; notice harmonies of colors and shapes; notice any oddities. Notice signs of life and death, aggression and beauty, all on a tiny scale. Observe your patch for two minutes or more.
3. After two minutes, stand up and refocus your attention on the horizon of the larger landscape all around you. Trace the shapes of the trees, hills, and buildings that you see. Observe this larger horizon for two minutes or more. Notice activity and stillness, changes in light and shadow. Notice the relationships of things one to another. Notice the harmonies of colors and shapes; notice any oddities. Notice signs of life and death, aggression and beauty, all on a vast scale.
4. You can toggle back and forth between these micro and macro landscapes as much as you wish. Let your mind play on its own for two minutes or more with the contrast of the small and the vast scale.
5. Return your awareness to the state of your own nervous system, noticing any felt sense of awe, any shifts in your perspective of your place in the world, and any changes in your sense of well-being. Notice yourself falling in awe with the earth again.