I recently began taking classes through the Academy of Awareness offered through miguelruiz.com. One of the homework assignments asked us to reflect on our connection with the earth, what it gives to us, the beauty and wonder of it, and what we can do in our daily lives to give back to the earth. As I was reflecting on what they had written about “mother earth,” I found myself remembering a children’s book I still read to my son, who is now 30, and have read to several of my adult friends. The name of the book is On the Day You Were Born. For me, it captures the essence of the interconnectedness of life and how the entire universe works together.
It is the most healing and non-traditional creation stories I have heard. It begins like this “On the eve of your birth word of your coming passed from animal to animal. The reindeer told the Arctic terns, who told the humpback whales, who told the Pacific salmon, who told the monarch butterflies, who told the green turtles, who told the European eel, who told the busy garden warblers, and the marvelous news migrated worldwide.” It continues to talk about what happened with the earth, the moon, the sun, the stars, and every aspect of creation, all in preparation for our arrival to this planet.
On the one hand, it reminds me of how the planet welcomes us with loving arms and celebrates our arrival. At the same time, it saddens me how all too many have not embraced the planet and all its inhabitants (human, animal, and plant) with the same love and respect. So often, we seem to think of the planet as a thing and not a living being. What would happen if we did? If the planet is the least of thee, which I do agree with, what we as its inhabitants are doing to it, lacks compassion and disrespect.
So what am I doing in my household to treat the planet in a more respectful manner? One thing my family has been doing is recycling. Our home motto has been reduce, reuse, and recycle. We made a commitment last night to remember that our lawn is part of creation and to treat it with dignity and respect, by making sure it is fed (fertilizer and water) on a regular basis, weeded, and properly mowed. We also committed to continuing to provide food for the birds and butterflies, which come and entertain our cats outside our office window. Our intent is to be more mindful of how we treat that which has been entrusted to us and to continue to do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint.
While I realize that the purpose of the assignment we were given was to get us to reflect on our relationship with the planet, I found myself reacting to the phrase “mother earth.” As I have sat with my feelings about this phrase, I have become aware that I do not see earth as a parent, but as an older and eternal sibling. I realize it was here before me and will be here after me. At times, I have treated it with dignity and respect and at times, I have not. However, to call it mother, for me, puts a gendered character on earth and makes it female. Why do we call earth mother? Is it because from it plant life is birthed? Is it because “man” because of its mistreatment of it has made parts of the land “barren” because of our mistreatment of it? What if we thought of the planet as a creation of the Infinite who is love? Does love have a sex? Is love male or female? Why can’t love be male AND female? Why can’t our experience of earth and that it inhabits it be both male AND female?
Ultimately, what I have come to is that it does not matter whether earth is male or female, what is important is the nature of my relationship with it. Is my relationship about love, dignity, and respect or is it about abuse and neglect? Love is greater then any single factor; love is just love.