Every Earthen day

Every Earthen day

Enlightenment is a product of hands-on, nitty-gritty intercourse with the very real world and seeing to the needs of the whole, not just our own

Enlightenment is a product of hands-on, nitty-gritty intercourse with the very real world and seeing to the needs of the whole, not just our own

by Jesse Wolf Hardin — 

Every April in this country, our society gives at least a token nod to the well-being of the planet we exist on and within. We call it “Earth Day” — as if we spent the remaining 364 days somewhere else. And, in too many ways, we do — inhabiting our minds and our fears more than the land or the vital present moment. We who are most conscious, empathic and caring are called to do the everyday work that makes us true heroes of Gaia, fulfilling an assignment and destiny through creative, risky, intentional reciprocity. Caring for the Earth is one essential way of embodying our intrinsic, evolutionary, spiritual, moral and magical responsibilities.

And there are so many ways to make our giftings more powerful and effective, and our beliefs and practices ever more real. We do this by refusing to ignore Earth’s pain and what can seem like a futile struggle on her behalf … and by putting every worthy vision into action. This involves the simple act of noticing the directions and weather, the new buds and blossoms, the differences between the tones and melodies of various neighborhood birds, planting a garden no matter how small and getting the sacred soil beneath our fingernails.

Enlightenment is a product of hands-on, nitty-gritty intercourse with the very real world and seeing to the needs of the whole, not just our own. By quieting our ceaseless thoughts long enough to hear directly from the living Earth through our empathic hearts, we discover what we need to be doing next.

“Next” may mean the struggle of joining with others in the community to purchase, restore, rewild and resacrament some rural or semi-rural land for its sake, as well as for the sake of the folks who will then gather, teach and share there. Or it may require taking time off from work or canceling something fun in order to drive to a mountainside that’s being clear-cut and protest its destruction. Or changing jobs in order to make even less money than we already did in order to do something that serves rather than dishonors the sacred Earth matrix of which we are each responsible, holy extensions.

It’s up to us to commit to the acts, as well as the rituals, that can help restore the world to a place of healing and wholeness, relationship and celebration. As seekers and healers, we are surely responsible not only for what we do in life, but for what we’ve as yet failed to do. It is thus that Spirit, through the land, calls to you and me.

With each of Earth’s gifts comes a clause spelling out our responsibilities to its spiritual and physical care and feeding. This goes for the soil itself, elemental to all life, and all that grows from its bosom or calls the soil’s rock and tree forms home.

We bear responsibilities to the plant and animal species we consume, to the water we drink and the air we breathe, to insure that which we take is neither diluted nor despoiled and to give back equally to that which we are given. And whether we choose to call it such or not, this includes a responsibility to engage in some form of prayerful communion. We have the ability and the responsibility to respond!

According to this contract, we are not proprietors but responsible servants and full partners with an equal investment and stake in its lasting integrity. Our duties are both custodial and priestly, tending to the energetic as well as elemental well-being of the land. It’s similar to the way a doctor might consider one’s emotional as well as physical condition. And while a physician aggressively seeks out and confronts what they consider to be maladies, we’re sometimes called upon to act assertively, but other times to step back and let something take its course.

The intuitive knowledge of when to interfere and when not to requires an intense period of familiarizing oneself with the ambient energies, needs and proclivities of each place. Rightful decisions, decisions that can positively affect future generations of humans and nonhumans alike, proceed from silence and arise from a great listening.

Only a small population lives out in the countryside, but the agreement remains the same. To be taken care of, one must take care. As individuals, families and neighborhoods, we take an active interest in the health of the area where we live, becoming partially culpable for its problems and taking credit for its improvement by virtue of an unblinking awareness.

We can take care of the land we live on whether we own it or not, whether it’s an acre of breathing soil or the patches of green surrounding our apartments. We may co-caretake any forested areas nearby, and the regional watercourse, no matter how far away. The neighborhood park is just that; its well-being is in the hands of a concerned public.

Any realistic hope for cultural, political and environmental relief lies in a radical shift — not in politics so much as in our elemental values and primary modes of perception. It lies in fully responding from this place of holistic and magical perceiving, walking our talk and fulfilling our most meaningful purpose. It will be voiced in restoration and ritual as well as through protest. In guarded groves and intentional community. In our intimate personal contract with the forces that made us and those places that allow us to really be. In our contract and in our promise.

Our future, as well as the planet’s, hinges on our keeping that promise, the carrying forth of that vision of love and care every single Earthen day.


Jesse Wolf Hardin, a teacher of Earth-centered spirituality, is the author of Gaia Eros: Reconnecting To The Magic & Spirit of Nature (New Page 2004), and performs on the GaiaTribe CD, The Enchantment. He and his partners share a riverside sanctuary where they host retreats and quests, intuitive counsel, resident internships.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 2, April/May 2005.

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