Prayers for the Earth

EarthDay.2Since 1970, and the first celebration of our planet, Earth Day has been an important day for me. I set aside time that day to meditate on my relationship with the Earth. And I inevitably feel enormous gratitude for being sustained by this planet in body, mind and soul. Not just sustained, however, but inspired to create, to respect and protect the environment and all life.

It’s easy to tap into vivid recollections of experiences I’ve had in nature that continue to inspire awe and reverence. From appreciating the tenacity of trees pushing up out of sheer rock faces; to witnessing salmon fight their predestined journey upstream, dying as they battle ferocious currents, fisher persons, and animal predators to lay their eggs before they perish, ragged and red on the rocks; to seeing and feeling bison moving in great herds through the Lamar Valley, I am amazed at what life forms do to survive.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be in natural environments where I do not feel as though I am a superior species, but rather, where I am tolerated in the presence of animals very wary of humans.

One time, I was fishing in the Yellowstone River, up to my waist in the current, mostly overwhelmed by the beauty of the mountains and the river, and the pressure of the chilly water against the waders. I must have been out in the water for over an hour, not casting out, reeling in, and moving around like a skilled fisher person might. When I turned to face upriver and saw a Trumpeter Swan floating towards me. It glided past me slowly, turning its black eyes sideways towards me, more curious-looking than afraid. The origami folds of its feathers were so beautiful, water droplets glistening like little diamonds.

After it passed along, I realized it must not have been sure I was a human since only a small part of me was visible above the surface of the water; I blended in. As it sailed away, I thought–perhaps I whispered–“Thank you. Thank you for this experience. For letting me be part of your watery world for that brief time.”

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together… all things connect.” –Chief Seattle

Forty-eight years after I skipped out of school early to walk through Bethesda, Maryland wearing a gas mask (to protest air pollution) and carrying signs to PROTECT MOTHER EARTH while picking up trash, we have come to a point where the Earth is under direct, daily assault by an ignorant, entitled, boy-bully president and his minions.

They are dismantling the environmental and species protection laws that have taken decades to write and get enacted. The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Protection Act–eroding. Oil drilling will be permitted in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, and off our coasts. Coal-burning factories will be resurrected to spew out toxic fumes. It is now legal to hunt and kill hibernating bears in National Parks. The import of elephant ivory and big game “trophies” has been made legal again–who cares if those animals are endangered? Lead pollution of our water? Sure, why not legalize that, too. The acidification, and warming of the oceans goes on and on without any care from the humans causing it. And the plastic flooding of the oceans increases each year with 75,000 tons of plastic dumped into the oceans from the U.S. alone.

Every day, I am sickened by this willful destruction of our world. Sick, knowing that the destruction is a one-way road to utter ruination of the planet. There wasn’t much time to try to slow down climate change BEFORE the bully came to the White House. Now, I fear there is no more time. We are witness to the beginning of the end of life on the planet. It shocks me how easily the destruction is being carried out, how silent those in power are as our future disappears along with the oceans, the soil, the animals, the birds, the bees… How powerless we are, the ordinary people, how defeated we are.

This Earth Day, I have lost hope. I’m thankful I have no children to anguish about. I’m so sorry for the children born now who will inherit a planet unable to sustain life… I  apologize to all non-human species: I’m abjectly sorry I couldn’t do anything to save you.

The primary thing I wanted to do with my life was to “make the world a better place.” I haven’t done that. I had a voice, and I used it. But it was small, and it was drowned out by much louder ($$$ rich) voices. I worked to promote renewable energy. I voted for environmentally-savvy candidates. I donated to environmental causes. I volunteered for conservation efforts. It was not enough.

All I offer are photographs of the wonder of Nature, the beauty of the world–images with which to remember what once was. Those, and I share prayers for the Earth:

“We have forgotten who we are.
We have forgotten who we are
We have alienated ourselves from the unfolding of the cosmos
We have become estranged from the movements of the earth
We have turned our backs on the cycles of life.
We have forgotten who we are.
We have sought only our own security
We have exploited simply for our own ends
We have distorted our knowledge
We have abused our power.
We have forgotten who we are.
Now the land is barren
And the waters are poisoned
And the air is polluted.
We have forgotten who we are.
Now the forests are dying
And the creatures are disappearing
And humans are despairing.
We have forgotten who we are.
We ask forgiveness
We ask for the gift of remembering
We ask for the strength to change.
We have forgotten who we are.”

–U.N. Environmental Sabbath Program

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed… so that never again can we have the chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, brother to the other animals, part of the natural world and competent to belong in it.” –William Stegner


“We forget that nature itself is one vast miracle transcending the reality of night and nothingness. We forget that each one of us in his personal life repeats that miracle.”–Loren Eiseley

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