Sunday, April 6, 2008

Earth Hour every day

Earth Hour, the hour-long, worldwide symbolic gesture of turning off non-essential lights and appliances to draw attention to the need to slow global climate change, found Richard and I, along with my parents, in the red-rock canyon country of far western Colorado. We were about 60 miles from Arches National Park as the crow flies, but several hours by road in that remote and rugged landscape. We celebrated our own Earth Hour in a small casita with red rock mesas rising all around.

As the light fell, a flock of mountain bluebirds flew into the cottonwoods on the slope above us, their twittering seeming to usher in the dusk. We stood on the doorstep of our cabin, listening to the evening.

"There goes a bat!" exclaimed my 78-year-old mother.

I looked up, and a tiny Myotis (mouse-like) bat fluttered through the air above the gravel road , its translucent wings cupping the air in its own rhythm as tiny flying mammal chased mosquitoes and other spring insects. Another bat fluttered into view, and then another.

Three distant ravens began a croaking call-and-response conversation that echoed off the soaring cliff walls, and a screech owl called once from down by the Dolores River.

Whenever we stop like this to listen to the pulse of nature and the sounds of other species, we witness a kind of magic, a glimpse of the force that impels life. If we had been inside our casita with the blinds drawn, we would have missed it.

But because we were observing Earth Hour we were outside on the door stoop. We were present to see and hear the community of the land change shifts to its night time rounds. We set aside our lives and remembered that humans are only one among many species, and not the most important either.

That kind of reverent participation in the business of "life living itself" in Kathleen Dean Moore's words (from her powerful essay, "The Marsh" in Holdfast) is something we can do every day. We could call it "Earth Moment." It doesn't take an hour, just a few minutes of awareness. It doesn't require special training or knowledge or equipment, just going outside and opening ourselves up to the sounds and sights and smells of other lives. It's about being aware, and giving our attention to our neighbors, the millions of other species that green and animate this planet. The plants whose breath gives us oxygen, whose food-making gives us the sugars that nurture all living cells. The animals whose flesh nurtures our own, the bats and butterflies and flowers and rocks who touch our hearts with the beauty of their presence in the landscapes we share.

Such "Earth Moments" can nurture our heads and hearts, and fill our souls with peace. With grace, with joy. To observe an Earth Moment is to engage in living prayer, as the poet Mary Oliver writes in Thirst,
. . . the doorway
into thanks, and a silence
into which another voice may speak.
It's like falling in love with life all over again.

For more ideas on returning reverence and creativity to your daily life, read Janet Riehl's "village wisdom for the 21st century." In honor of National Poetry Month, she's running a poem a day.


About Bobbi C. said...

Thanks, Susan, that was gorgeous. We also celebrated Earth Hour, but unfortunately, none of our neighbors did. I feel for them.

happy trails,

bobbi c.

Janet Grace Riehl said...

I recall long stretches of time in Africa with no lights but stars, piercing into our souls from the darkest of night skies...and once, around a campfire with a truck broken down in the desert, but we were singing!

Yes! Read a poem and step outside to breathe in our connection with all beings.

Janet Riehl