Earth Day: The need for faith, hope and action

Just a few weeks ago we cleaned out the blue bird houses we’d built the year before down in the pasture, high on singular poles with their backs to the northwest. Last week, during some unusually warm weather, we were delighted to see some flitting to and fro from the boxes and realized we either had some new families or returning ones. Such is the delight of spring, the return of old friends.

As we make our way towards Earth Day (just one of 364 other earth days) there are so many wonderful and yet conflicting sentiments that vie for our attention. The first is a sense of immense gratitude for the abundance and generosity many of us can still experience in so many places on this planet: Our ability to grow food, to experience nature and a diversity of wildlife, with access to clean water.

There are many religious and spiritual customs which give prominence to this sentiment and none more so than the words in the Thanksgiving Address from the Onondaga people of upstate New York, which offer greetings and thanks to the natural world.

In the John Stokes and Kanawahientun 1993 version it begins with this:

“Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.

We are thankful to our Mother the Earth, for she gives us everything that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she still continues to care for us, just as she has from the beginning of time. To our Mother we send thanksgiving, love and respect. Now our minds are one.”

And yet, we know that more and more places are experiencing the devastating effects of climate change, including the migration of people and wildlife, which we as a species have wrought to this bountiful place we call home. It is hard not to be paralyzed, or overcome with sadness and fear.

For my part, I try to resist getting trapped in these emotions, but rather pass through them on the road to action. We all have different resources and capabilities and when acted upon they can add up to something substantial and profound – in ways we may never fully realize. But it is true, this does demand a certain measure of faith and hope.

One of my wishes for this Earth Day is that many of those who can, will act in some small or great way to help heal and mend this bountiful earth, not only today but also for all the rest of the days of the year. T’is then our minds will become one.