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Dialogue - Issue #7

After the Winter

Illustration by Camila Fudissaku

Reconnecting with the Earth can help us recover from the pandemic and prepare for the future.

The early morning sun is caught in the waters of the bay outside my window, the trees bending in the spring winds. On the grass below, a speckled fawn with her mother eats the high grass that is still green. These are the recurring images of the year, like the buds breaking open on the fruit trees, apple blossom pink, pear blossom white, that told us that spring was here. Each year the seasons welcome us, reminding us where we belong, their cycle touching the deeper rhythms of our being, far from the clutter and noise of our surface lives.

What did we learn through the long winter of imposed isolation when we faced or avoided our fears? The pandemic forced us to recognise the radical insecurity of the present time, how fragile our present systems are, how fractured and easily broken, how quickly hospitals and doctors are overwhelmed, food lines lengthen, and global supply chains break. But maybe we were also fortunate and discovered, or rediscovered, the smell and then taste of home-baked bread? Realised that Zoom is not a real alternative to actual human contact, where we can see a face that is not a pixelated image? That we need the connection with friends and neighbours where all of our senses are engaged?

It made me consider what tools of resilience we need to travel together into an uncertain future: I do not think that technology will save us from the imbalance we have created. Maybe kindness and community will be more valuable than stockpiling provisions. The simple human quality of care for each other and the Earth can support and sustain us; and also the pressing need to return to a deep ecology of consciousness, an essential awareness that is woven into the living Earth. This is echoed in the need to rejoin the great conversation where the wind and the stars speak to us, where we once again listen to the living Earth. I experience this in my garden with all of the colours so alive, the hummingbirds drinking nectar from the newly flowering foxgloves. I know I am part of a living presence that speaks in all these voices, in sounds and smells, the wind in the trees.

In these transitional times we are beginning to experience how things fall apart, both in the looming climate catastrophe and also in the cracks in the present facade caused by social and racial injustice and inequality - the result of a civilisation founded upon colonisation and exploitation of human beings and nature. Those of us who are brave enough to accept this reality, and can look into a future seven generations or more, know that just as we need the resilience to support us as we walk into this uncertain landscape, we should also begin to plant seeds: seeds that may remain in the ground over the darkening years, but carry the possibility for recovery, for a future that is not self-destructive. These seeds can sustain us, can give us hope for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. They can nourish our collective soul with the knowing that our human journey is not over, but passing through a time of transition, what some call The Great Turning: the shift to a life-sustaining civilisation.

After each winter the world is born again. Winter in its barrenness returns us to what is essential, our connection with each other and the Earth, the primal knowing that we are part of one community. And as so many of our ancestors knew, this community is both spirit and matter, and alive in ways beyond our rational understanding. This is a fully animate world to which we belong. We do not know either how our present civilisation will finally fall apart, or how together with the Earth we will midwife the future. But we can plant the seeds of this reconnection in our daily life, in our interactions with each other and with the Earth.

And the Earth can help us. Part of the tragedy of centuries of separation is that we have become disconnected from the wisdom of the Earth. But we are all part of one single ecosystem, one living consciousness bonded together. When we touch the soil we are touching part of our own self, and it speaks to us in a myriad of ways. I can feel this in my own garden, tending the vegetables, with compost in my hands. Soon in the early summer there will be lettuces and spinach to harvest, tomato plants to tend. The many sights and sounds and smells like prayer beads slipping through my fingers.

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