Earth Day lands in April, and in honor of the great big planet that hosts us, Off the Page is posting lots of Earth-oriented articles this month, including mine – “Picking Rocks and the Cosmic Christ.”
A few other earthy articles of mine have appeared various places the last few years. Here are excerpts from two of the more recent ruminations.
Here’s from “Sabbath Afternoon”:
…before it gets too dark too early for leisure and stillness, grab the hem of a handmade quilt and lift it up until the air carries it like a flying carpet down softly to the ground, under a tall oak tree where the grass is cool but not damp yet from falling dew, and kneel, then fold over in child’s pose if you do yoga or just bow for a minute prostrate and breathe in the scent of your laundry detergent or dryer sheet mingled with the earthy earthiness of the dirt,
then breathe out through your mouth and feel the carbon dioxide and oxygen press against your nose and cheeks and forehead which is also pressed against the cloth, which is pressed against the cool top shelf of the Earth, all top soil and mulch and decomposing plant matter that you will be one day, just plant matter some worm will worm its way through on its way to making a new body out of what is no longer filled with spirit, keep reading…
And this, from “Foxglove, Beebalm”:
…The bleeding heart’s scientific name is Lamprocapnos spectabilis. It is a spectacle here, and I save each offshoot I discover, worried to disturb its roots too much. Originally from Asia and introduced to European gardens in the 1800s, it is not native to this place either, but what is anymore?
We turn over old landscape beds grown over with thick groundcover and a mess of variegated hostas so that my dad can backfill the foundation, to keep the rainwater from running toward the basement. I keep the blue star juniper and move the lacy ferns, tell my dad just knock over the rotting dogwoods. The pruning we did each year to save the trees was in despair. It is so easy to clear away these decades of growth, and yet the bleeding hearts return, the bleeding hearts grow. keep reading…
I just finished reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a heart wrenching memoir of finding meaning in life, before and after you’ve been given a terminal cancer diagnosis. It’s a beautifully written book that will make you think so much about mortality and meaning. We do not like to think about our own mortality, but isn’t it a refining lens through which to see our lives? Our culture fears death and aging and decay, and yet that is what happens, to everything, everywhere on this earth.
In the midst of reading Kalanithi’s book, I read this brief devotional for the Lenten season:
“One way that many talk about what happened in the Garden of Eden – which is to say, one way to talk about the human condition, why it’s so fraught and difficult – is to say that when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their disobedience, their sin, made death enter the world.
“That’s never made sense to me. Death is actually absolutely necessary in our world. Without it, there is no way for nutrients, for minerals, for energy to cycle through the system. If people didn’t die, we’d just keep making more until we covered the whole planet and – what? Not starved to death. Likewise with bacteria or rabbits or trees. Without death, everything on the planet as we know it would eventually grind to a halt.
“And yet, sin is real, and death does seem terrifying to many of us. Maybe sin doesn’t create death. Maybe what sin does is make death terrible instead of peaceful, disordered instead of a part of the cycle. Maybe what sin does when it enters the picture is to make death violent. Or untimely. Or forced. Maybe what sin does is make us believe we own the components of our bodies instead of borrow them; maybe it makes us believe that eventually returning them to the system is unnatural when in fact keeping them is.” – Quinn Caldwell, “On Death,” Diving Lessons
These two voices are speaking calmly to me in this season leading up to Easter, a time of year in the Christian calendar that urges us to remember the brevity of life, the importance of living life abundantly, and the power and beauty and freedom of life everlasting that comes about because of Jesus Christ and what he revealed about himself here, prior to the cross, and here, after his resurrection.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10