Among my earliest memories were times spent splashing around in creeks and sitting quietly in gardens.
In those days of benign neglect, as young as four, I was off in some nearby forested haunt scampering amidst the fecund soil, decaying leaves and verdant shoots of woodland wilds. I was too young then to imagine the boogeyman of Man or Nature, and so frolicked with true abandon, cosmically connected to the animate forces of Earth.
That’s stayed with me.
The need with no name
As much of a chatterbox as I can be, I have a side that’s bigger than most of my friends and even intimates realize. And that is a deep need and love for solitude, quiet oneness with what is, and a truly felt sense that I hear the “voices” of wind, and tree, and sky.
I recall even into my teens playing in sun dappled shadowy fortresses under hedge rows or weeping willow trees. Or warm breezes blowing the grasses of a schoolyard, abandoned in a heavily humid Virginia summer as I simply sat, perhaps twirling a clover or making a flower chain. The sky, rendered in palest of blues, constant above, endless myths writ in the clouds. My mind never more free from mundane details and petty concerns.
The spirit that never dies
In college in Richmond, Virginia, I routinely escaped the urban pace to stroll through the oaken canopied hills of historic Hollywood Cemetery, palpably in tune with life and death and life as one unbroken pulse coursing with the energetic streams of unknown depths implied in the yin of receptive earth.
Beneath grassy cliffs at the edge of the cemetery the mighty James River flowed, often the playground of my young adulthood. Fearful warnings against its polluted state seldom deterred me and my friends from perching on its rocks and wading in bare feet. The presence of beer our other flout toward safety.
Mother Nature holds us up
During that time I won a scholarship to the White Mountain Summer Dance Festival in New Hampshire. Harboring a secret of being afraid to swim in water I couldn’t see through, I went there determined to get past that irrational fear, vowing to swim at every opportunity without letting anyone know I was terrified inside.
Interestingly I earned the nickname “waterbaby.” .
The first night I joined a raft of others for skinny dipping in nearby Echo Lake. I proceeded to swim more than anyone else there that summer, even swimming to the center of the lake to lay on my back in the sun repeating the mantra to myself that “Mother Earth will hold me up, Mother Earth will hold me up, Mother Earth will hold me up.”
After the festival ended I spent the summer with my boyfriend at the time, hiking the trails of Mt. Desert Island and camping at its Blackwoods campground in Acadia National Park. Meandering through moss covered creviced hollows riven with the fresh pungence of pine left sense impressions that remain to this day, the fodder of dreams.
I even took my daughters back for a week’s vacation when they were four and six to share my love for stingy, generous salt-licked Maine. I’ll never forget what troopers they were, their little legs hiking to the top of several mountains that week. We still talk about a deer’s foot we saw on one bald rock, the fur intact.
As an adult the times with nature seem harder to reach, and the time for solitude, too. I’ve had few opportunities to vacation in the past few years and live in a small town that’s more characterized in my neighborhood by cement than by earth.
Going out for temporary excursions to hike the nearby trails, while delightful, also feels a bit artificial, like my world is carved up into two zones that don’t even speak the same language.
I know it’s better than nothing to get in the car and head to a park for a day in the woods or a dip in the river, but…well I just can’t help but be envious of those with yards or a bit of land, any small patch of real land to just sit, or a place to work the land with all you’ve got to yield it’s miraculous gifts of life and death and life.
Fortunately soon I’ll have a plot in a community garden and I can’t wait to dig into the soil, dirt under my fingernails, planting new life while my mind settles into a meditative ease. I’m grateful that I’ll now have someplace for my need for Earth to be satisfied, though it too feels a bit artificial to have to go somewhere in order to garden.
Nature Deficit Disorder
I know others feel a longing and a need for earth, too.
Some say we’re all suffering from such a deficit of relationship to Earth that we can no longer see or feel our connection to her, and that that is a huge source of modern discontent, disaffection, despair.
This Earth Day I hope you’ll reflect on your relationship to Mother Earth and all her natural forms. And that if, like me, your life is more urban than rural or even suburban, you’ll find a way to reconnect to the rhythms of the seasons, the hours of the day and night in light and dark, the miracles of what we depend on in the natural world for our very aliveness—fresh air, fresh water, fresh food.
I pray that such inspiration from and with nature will light in you a passion to live life above all with an aim to enjoy and appreciate Earth’s gifts, while also honoring Earth’s needs.
–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List