Happy Earth Day 2016!

Bamboo forest aliveI love history. One of the best things about writing a novel is the historical research I get to do. You learn that human beings weren’t so different in the past – love, hate, passion, war, the search for meaning, worth, safety and peace. You also learn that, as a species, humanity is amazingly versatile and open in our thinking.

Today, in 2016, we Westerners can talk about this exquisite planet we live on in terms of biodiversity, economics, politics, climate patterns, technology. But I am reaching back to the precolonial Philippines, to my ancestors – to a time when each mountain, river, stream, and ancient tree was understood to be the dwelling place of a diwata, a nature spirit. A god or goddess. Nature was not only biomass, it was sacred.

Okay, take a breath, my darlings. Take my hand, for just this moment and don’t let go. I’ve gotcha. Put the hat of Western skepticism and rationalism on a safe shelf for now. Take this journey to long-ago Southeast Asia with me.

It was not a paradise. It was not a fantasy. It was simply a place where nature was alive.

The implications were this: A tree was not just a tree, it was the dwelling place of the gods. So you don’t just cut a tree down. You ask it for permission. You pray for its safety and blessing. It provides you, at the right time of year so that you don’t deplete its life, with timber for a house, a canoe, an outrigger. You transform the body of the tree. But the spirit of the tree continues…in the things you use everyday. Everything has a spirit. Everything, like you, has a spiritual consciousness and is alive.

Today, in places where people hold the understanding that land, water, air, and plant-life are sacred…the Earth is tended, protected, and loved. And the land loves back, providing nourishment and incredible beauty.

How would we live if we experienced the trees, lakes, rivers, mountains, cliffs, prairies, glaciers, and oceans as holy and alive? What would we do differently?

4 thoughts on “Happy Earth Day 2016!

  1. So lovely to see this today. As I was pruning this afternoon, May asked me if I was hurting the plants. I was able to answer that I was talking to the plants–asking them where to cut to make them healthy. As we worked in our human-contrived environment, bees descended and May noted that we were, in fact, taking care of the earth. Tiny steps. Tiny steps.

  2. Thanks and kudos MG for your 2016 Happy Earth Day beautiful literary awakening regarding nature. Your great question deserves an honest answer: we won’t be in such a dilemma trying to save our beautiful planet from pollution if we exercise cautiousness, respect God-given wonderful living nature the way our ancestors interacted with them. Modernization and technology have taken over. We are all guilty, but it’s not too late: we should stop being wasteful, selfish and taking things for granted!

  3. That is a very good point about the selfishness of our culture, MelMober. At some point in history, we began to look at nature as a thing to take from without giving back or tending to it. If this were a relationship, nature would have broken up with us a long time ago!

  4. What a lovely story, Afton! I could see it. I know a gardener who asks the voices of nature where to place his native prairie plantings. He learned long ago (he now has a lucrative gardening career, so who says that economics cannot benefit?) that when he listened, the plants thrived. When he didn’t, the plants did not. Another friend has a beautiful relationship with a robin. It knew that when she was out, she’d dig up the earthworms. Yum for the robin! Lol. The robin was not afraid of her and when she came outside, the robin would come close. Incredibly (to us now), Filipino ancestors knew how to live with the crocodiles in the rivers – which ones were friendly neighbors, and which ones were strangers out to hunt.

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