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Healing and Hope on the Water

Earth Day rolls around each year to remind us, that we humans belong to the natural world. While true, humanity too often functions as if we were separate from or better than. In practice we interact with the earth as if it were an infinite commodity, to be used and often plundered for our own purpose and pleasure.

The foolishness of this mindset has become painfully clear. The earth and all that lives, including we humans, are at risk. The effects of human caused climate change are increasingly being felt. New England was recently listed as heating up more rapidly than any other part of the United States. For example, the impact is being felt locally as the iconic lobster industry fades due to warming water. World wide, as of today, 1 million species of animals and plants are at risk of going extinct within a year, directly as a result of a warming planet.

In the midst of such stark data, where can hope be found?

Hope is found in returning to nature, so as to learn and heal. Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her wise book, Braiding Sweetgrass, writes from the perspective of a PHD biologist and as an elder of the Potawatomi Nation. She reminds us that hope is found, as we remember that we are part of a profoundly interconnected and interdependent ecological web.

Hope is found as we enter into the natural world, not as consumers but as respectful participants. In Braiding Sweetgrass, the author suggests, that before we enter the woods, or push out from the shore in a kayak or canoe, that we first ask permission. Just as we wouldn't walk into someone's home without first knocking, Robin Wall Kimmerer suggests that we ask permission of our neighbors of the forest and water, to enter their home.

I've begun doing so and have found the process transformational. Now, as I enter a forest or slide my kayak into the water, I ask permission of the white pine, the water, the small mouth bass, the dragon fly, the snapping turtle, the algae for permission to enter their home. In doing so, I remember that I'm a guest in the home of my non human neighbors. In doing so I feel welcomed, connected, respectful and grateful to simply be.

Earth Day reminds us that we belong and have a responsibility to learn from and advocate for the well being of all beings, non-human and human, that call this beautiful and fragile planet home.

With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop

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