Hear from Common Root's Land Educator JoAnne Dennee on how our community members are honoring our Earth...and how you can too!
Earth Day celebrates 51 years on April 22nd!! The Paris Agreement was born out of this movement and was perhaps one of many powerful moments in my memory of Earth Days between 1970- 2020.
I am grateful for the awakenings around the world that Earth Days have inspired. I believe we are trustees of this sacred Earth and that we individually have the power to re-shape and caretake our communities, our soils, and our planet in endless ways. Annually around Earth Day I find myself wondering if and how this “once a year day” has substantially focused our collective awareness and actions. It has been my experience, when working with children, that when we rhythmically dip into the ordinary magnificence of the natural world there stirs an intimate relationship in our hearts and moves us into action that is protective and ecologically sound. And we are willing to sacrifice, “make sacred”, on behalf of it.
So how do we elevate our attention into an intimacy that ignites a passion to restore the Earth?
I asked that question to one of our community members. Here’s what he revealed about his experiences volunteering weekly in a fifth generation abandoned apple orchard.
In the first year he was engaged in the act of simply pruning branches of mis-shaped trees. He had a checklist of what needed to be done and he systematically, contentedly tended to the tasks. The next year he started to notice deep changes within himself. He began falling in love with the orchard and couldn’t wait to get there to help this tree and that tree in particular. He didn’t tend to his checklist - he started interpreting what the gesture of the tree was inviting him to adjust. He also started to feel that tree after tree was responding to his attentiveness and letting him know how he could be help it – not to produce apples for market, but to become a noble tree. He described the orchard to be akin to a church, and that Nature nurtured him and opened his heart, changing him more than he changed the orchard. He now has committed to tend this orchard for years to come by deepening its relationship to companion plants and entrusting its vitality and integrity to an integrative, symbiotic connection with the wild plants, honey bees, birds, and animals. He feels that in this way he is honoring not only the orchard ecosystem but also the five generations of family members who shepherded these 1600 trees over the years. The orchard is coming into harmony and balance guided with his loving care and his apple kin are his beloved priority.
We don’t need an expansive orchard or environment to engage in an intimate relationship with the natural world. Just one tree in our yard or along a city street can provide a first step into a long relationship that transforms us and our planet. Find that tree or shrub. Make a daily visitation or a weekly one. Just be quiet and observing. Name your nature friend and address it that way each time you meet. Tie a ribbon on one branch if you want to really focus your attention. Notice every subtle change. Use a journal or iPhone to record your inner sensations and outer observations. Discover how you can tend to it regularly and spread some love: exchange your breath with it, provide a blanket of leaf mulch around its base or feed it compost tea. Bring it water when it has been dry. Paint a heart on its bark or hang hearts from its branches. Offer an underplanting of clover to attract pollinators, add nutrients to the soil, and open up the root area. Rest in its shade to read or snack, give it a hug, climb into its canopy to escape the heat and busyness of the day. Soon you might find that you recognize your nature friend’s relatives in other environments, that you want to pause and share a moment of appreciation, that you want to learn more about your friend and understand its world. That your Nature friend has your heart - and that you have its heart at the front of your attention, even when you are not together. That’s what multiplies the impact of Earth Day every day – and generates a Circle of Recovery that has your heart.
Common Roots Land and Food Educator