If We Really Love Mother Earth, We Must Do This First

ancestors ecological self grief Nov 12, 2020

Dear fellow Earth lover,

You may or may not associate yourself with this label, but the truth is that we are all quietly biophilic at heart, we all have an innate draw to the living world. Nature is an adventure, a healer, a companion, a teacher, a soul-home, an inspiration toward living our most wild, awakened life.

I witness you, and thank you for all you do on a daily basis, big or small, to walk on this planet with a lighter footstep. Everything you do to live with intention matters.

It is my sincere hope that your love for the natural world, to which you belong, takes you beyond making smart consumer choices or growing a garden every summer. I hope it, also, informs your life on a daily basis, supports your process of spiritual adulting with a more grounded sense of place, and connects you to the land where you live, while letting its forces fundamentally shape who you are.

We cannot cultivate true depth in our relationship with the earth without acknowledging the many beings who have walked this land before us. These old ones are bright points along the tangled lines of human ancestry, twinkling stars of love who remind us of our full human potential and responsibility.

Our spirit elders live in the mythic, Earth-honoring storyline, and their wise essences swims through the primordial bedrock, fresh sap, and warm blood of all living things.

But, so many of us on this planet were never raised with the knowledge of traditional songs, stories, or rituals. We never received a framework to consciously dialogue with the natural world. We never learned how to safely engage with the decisively-well dead of those within our ancestral line.

It can be tempting to only seek out connection with our ancient Earth-honoring ancestors, trying to problematically bypass our more recent ancestry who may have been part of displacement efforts or even genocide upon the original inhabitants of these lands. But, actively engaging with and honoring these more-recently-deceased elders offers an opportunity for reconciliation and repair. Like us, they once struggled with having a respectful framework toward all living beings. Like us, they suffered from a cultural amnesia that kept them self-focused and destructive. We are not letting them off the hook, but instead we are trying to see them as mistake-making, imperfect beings that we can learn from.

Earth lovers, when we seek connection to the land without regard for human histories and ongoing legacies of oppression, we act to perpetuate colonialist, supremacist attitudes and deepen the fragmentation between humans and nature.

With as much integrity and responsibility as we can manage, now is our opportunity to create pathways of healing:

Let us begin by just sitting with the land, tapping into Earth’s memory of all that has transpired. Here we find the overwhelming grief of genocide and the loss of a way of life. We must recognize and fully feel this grief in order for any real healing to take place. Rituals of apology remind us that we are personally responsible for behaving with a wiser ethic than the society we have been born into.

By slowing down and listening, we can feel how the presence of the land’s ancestors are still here, their prayers woven into the seeds, the earth, the plants, the waterways, the rain, and the sky around us. Let us contemplate their lives from a place of appreciation and gratitude, learning their names and using them as the most basic form of greeting and respect. Let us honor their memory and way of life.

Let us continue to educate ourselves and those around us. If we have children, openly question what they are being taught, and have ongoing conversations that make them search for their own truths. A simple question might be, “What do you think of this idyllic image of a feast between the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims?” (a story of Thanksgiving that is still being taught in schools today). Lean into cultural healing as a family. Books like An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People or A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America (For Young People Series) are great resources.

Let us expand who we offer our time and attention to, giving BIPOC voices, space in our minds, hearts, and social media accounts. Let us learn from activist leaders like Lyla June and Leah Penniman and so many others.

Let us commit to the long game, allowing the truths of settler colonialism to make us deeply uncomfortable, like a burr under the skin of our hearts. This pain keeps back the urge to continue sleeping through the injustices, keeps us waking up to our vast cultural amnesia.

Let us consider funding organizations that return power to communities under BIPOC leadership. This power allows them to decide how grants will be made, according to their unique knowledge of and relationships with the communities they serve. Some examples of indigenous-led regranting funds are the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous PeoplesLiberated Capital, and Medicine Theory.

In these times of accelerated change, for the wellness and sanity of all humanity, we must seek out and listen to the voices of diverse ancestral lines. When we continue to dismantle white supremacy, treasure Black lives, uplift indigenous voices in sovereignty, act in solidarity with BIPOC-led movements, it is healing to the planet, our ancestors, and to the larger dream of the world.

This is where true Earth loving begins.


Posted on Elephant Journal, 11/12/20