Nature is alive in us. Last week I looked out the window toward the sky in the northeast. Through the tall pines, clouds rolled by steadily. There were two small clouds in the middle of a patch of blue, being guided along to the east by the large mass of clouds circling them. It gave me a moment of uplift.
Leslie Marmon Silko in her memoir The Turquoise Ledge looks at clouds a lot. I have not paid them enough attention. She says that in Laguna Pueblo stories, small rain clouds are the spirits of children who have died, come back to bless us. “Beloved family members and the ancestors show their love for us when they return, as clouds that bring precious precipitation.”
Two young boys, in separate incidents of tragedy, died recently in our community in the Santa Fe area. They’ve been much on my mind and prayers. Seeing the large circle of clouds surround the two small white puffs and accompany them patiently eastward touched me. We had rare rain this weekend, such a blessing.
The Hopi Prophecies Today
I met the Hopi Prophecies nearly half a lifetime ago. I’ve written about Prophecy Rock and the Hopi people’s warnings of the dangers of indiscriminate applications of technology. Yet I’ve focused mainly on outer manifestations of the prophecies and haven’t understood enough its inner message. The Hopi petroglyph on Prophecy Rock shows a splitting path: the lower trail follows close to the ground with a single elder tending a corn plant. The second way branches upward with three figures perched along an ungrounded path in the sky, ending in a jagged and erratic line, zigzagging up into nothingness.
The warnings in part have been that when humans become enamored of technology and embrace it with little regard for the ways of nature, we put the whole planet and all of its species at risk. The truth of this prophecy has become abundantly clear in the past three decades. Another message of the prophecies has been that we have a choice. There is an alternative path we can take, open to us for a time. Nature is alive in us. We can work with her, or against her.
I’ve struggled to apply the prophecies in my life as best I can. One key question for me has been, without using technology can one make a living and meet obligations to the larger community as a whole?
An Attitude of Gladness & Wisdom
This alternative path is not just about technology, I’m starting to realize; it is about attitude. If we have an attitude of gratitude, our actions can consciously orient toward giving back to nature that sustains us. It is also an attitude of inclusion, including those who will come after us in our planning. If we embrace an attitude of greed, we take whatever we can. I live in a capitalist nation; we tend to choose comfort over long-term wisdom, consideration, or survival. Potawatomi botanist and teacher Robin Wall Kimmerer makes our faulty attitudes real in Braiding Sweetgrass. If we go to visit our grandma and she offers us a plate of homemade cinnamon sugar cookies, we take what is offered with gladness. We don’t grab all the cookies and steal the plate, too. We are asked to accept only what we need, and give back in reciprocity. Nature is alive in us. What does Grandmother Nature need from us? Respect, awareness, and a radically different pattern of consumption.
Make the Offering
In The Turquoise Ledge, Silko writes about a group of Hopi traditional runners who made a pilgrimage to the Rain God in Mexico City the summer of 2006, in the midst of a severe 11-year drought here in the Southwest. Running many arduous miles along an ancient path, offering prayers and cornmeal at sacred waters as they went, they made it to their destination with ceremony. In the months that followed their offering, abundant rain clouds and snow came for the first time in years, bringing nourishment to their homes and the surrounding people, plants, and animals. Nature is alive in us. And we are alive in Her.
All Hands on Deck
This attitude of offering, gratitude, appreciation is well-coupled with an awareness of what is going on. Mary Christina Wood is the now famous environmental lawyer who inspired one of the successful legal actions in which kids are holding their governments “legally accountable for violating their right to a livable planet”, with the lawsuit Juliana v. United States. In a great interview recently with The Sun magazine, Wood points out that the head of the UN stated a few months ago that the world must lower carbon emissions substantially starting by 2020if we hope to stay alive without irreversible catastrophe. “This will take an effort that surpasses even the U.S. war effort in the 1940s, and it must be every bit as urgent. We need to accomplish this global rescue with all deliberate speed,” Wood said. Read the full article here.
This is not news. Forty-four years ago anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote, “Unless the peoples of the world can begin to understand the immense and long-term consequences of what appear to be small immediate choices, the whole planet may become endangered.”
We’re here now. Indigenous people have understood these choices all along. Now the rest of us have to get it together, too. Nature is alive in us. And we are alive in Her.
With What State of Mind
In order to heal, we need to participate effectively. We are all part of the solutions; we have to be. Fear and anger are easy to access now. We can participate with fury, or we can participate with kindness and appreciation, something some would call a fool’s errand. Yet which attitude would you like to be around, as you set out to do your part in these changes? To move from a disturbed state of mind to a simple attitude of gratitude for something that is happening in the present moment? It’s a major bridge. To be glad that you are alive in this moment, that you too make a difference is a radical beginning. Notice how it feels. Can you manage to hold with it as you seek out what you will do in this new path? OK. I’m not always so clear and centered either. What about moving toward awareness and determination with powerful neutrality?
Clearly vitality is evident around us as climate change, and also as children. How will we protect them? What can we do? We watch over them as best we can. What will that look like in the coming years?
Today in this rare rain in March, I stood at the automotive counter, paying for my synthetic oil change. Tacho, the long time manager behind the counter and lifelong resident of our area, remarked on how fortunate the weather had been this year, how rare. “We had a real winter. And now, rain in spring.” Unlike many places on the planet, we’ve enjoyed remarkable good fortune relative to our usual harsh droughts and fire-prone climate. With a tacit nod to our complete impermanence, Tacho said, “May it last 1,000 years.”
It matters, however many of us connect and act with awareness. It is what grounds us in the path of the old ones, and nudges us onto a new path of healing. May we discover Nature alive in us, and act with skill.
Postscript, April 2, 2019: It’s been so hectic, I haven’t had a chance to let anyone know this has been posted. In the mean while, I came across an old article in the New York Times (Aug. 5, 2018). While Canada and Australia have been honoring indigenous land for decades, we here in the US have been slow to do so. Thanking the land and all the elders before an event is a way to reconnect with respect. Choreographer Emily Johnson, a native Alaskan of Yupik descent, has inspired a movement among art centers in Manhattan to do so, acknowledging the Lenape (len-AH-pay) and their ancestral homeland. You can do this at home, before your first shovel of dirt or harvest of spring greens. May we discover Nature alive in us, and act with thanks.
Amadea Morningstar, MA, RPE, RYT is expert in Ayurvedic health care. She meets you where you are, and is available with respect, bringing over 40 professional years of experience, academic training and hands-on knowledge to her sessions, teaching, and books. Sessions with Amadea include Western nutrition, Ayurvedic nutrition and herbalism, Polarity Therapy, Marma therapy, Integral yoga, and nature-based approaches.
Amadea is in Baltimore, MD this March 17 (scroll down a bit), working with Anjali Sunita, Gina Sager and Susan Weis-Bohlen with gladness. Please join us.
She and Renee Lynn are co-creators together of the Easy Healing Drinks series.