Allowing the Earth to love us

Listening to a radio programme as I was doing the washing-up late one evening recently I heard a quote from Robin Wall Kimmerer. It stopped me in my tracks and I had to look quickly for a towel to draw my hands so that I could write it down before I forgot it. It was this: “What would it be like to feel that the earth loved you back?”

We get so caught up with how we need to protect the Earth that we miss how the Earth has always wanted to protect us. Using the Earth we have denigrated her. We have humiliated and treated the Earth as merely a load of things. So we have become blind and deaf to her love. 

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a writer and a scientist relating closely to the indigenous people of North America. She now lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild. Hearing her words that night led me to discover how her voice has been very influential for many of us. So you may already know well her amazing book: ‘Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants’, published by Milkweed, 2013. I have discovered how she helped to develop what is called the approach of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. This is an empirical, scientific approach based on long-term observation. It also involves cultural and spiritual considerations, which may be neglected within the scientific community. Robin Wall Kimmerer has said about her book: “I wanted readers to understand that Indigenous knowledge and Western science are both powerful ways of knowing, and that by using them together we can imagine a more just and joyful relationship with the Earth.”

One positive consequence of having to endure lockdowns and periods of enforced self-isolation during the pandemic was that many of us began to rediscover and grow in our relationship with nature. I read in the newspaper today how a survey shows that the number of people regularly walking for enjoyment continues to rise. Love between human persons often develops simply through spending time together. Perhaps that can happen in our most fundamental relationship with the Earth? Paradoxically, from a human point of view, even viruses are a natural part of the Earth. But what if the next pandemic could be a contagion of gratitude for the Earth? 

Back in 2020 the possibility was suggested to Robin Wall Kimmerer. “A contagion of gratitude,” she replied, “I’m just trying to think about what that would be like. Acting out of gratitude, as a pandemic. I can see it.”. I think I can see it too!



Author: Andrew Norman | Date: 12 May, 2022 | Category: Chaplain's Blog | Comments: 0

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