Earth, Our Beloved
“What we need is a great, powerful, tremulous falling back in love
with our old, ancient, primordial Beloved,
which is the Earth herself.”
We are, after all, creatures of Earth—relating from first breath to last with an incomprehensibly diverse and interdependent community of other earthborn beings. It’s one thing to live in intellectual agreement with this truth, and a whole other matter to live each day with it as an immediate, felt experience. That life regularly summons my return to the enlivening ground of this fundamental truth is a telling commentary on the persistence of my loyalty to living within the tight bounds of the human-centered story of our culture—no matter how I profess to have outgrown it. Like many of my overly civilized kin, I long for something to lift me out-of-bounds, returned to a world where words turn back, left with an utterly untranslatable experience of intimate felt contact with a more-than-human world.
We may struggle to find words faithful to this radically transformed sense of belonging and homecoming, yet it is a task that the heart is surely here to take up. Our return to a lived experience of Earth as Beloved is central to all that is struggling to be born at this moment in our world’s unfolding. I’m taken by the Chilean poet Pablo Naruda’s view that the longing for mutuality in all our relationships, from people to planet, impels us to make art. It is art that provides the language that “widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.”
So, I return again and again to the artists, poets, and other cultural outliers that turn my confined world inside out. Among the many outlandish men and women who are able to trouble me so stands D.H. Lawrence. I hold in my hand now a scribbled quote that I’ve kept close since my teens—since my troubled awakening to the heartbreak, the systemic infection, of our cultural disconnect. It is now yellowed, wrinkled, and finely aged, though its message continuously sings to all that is ageless in me:
“Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and the setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and equinox! This is what is the matter with us: we are bleeding at the roots because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the Tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table.”
I suspect a semblance of this diagnosis lives in many of us, close to the surface in some, buried beyond recognition in others, but there. The human-centered story that has led to uprooted ideals of personal or tribal greatness, personal wealth and well being, and technological governance of the planet is being revealed for its inability to deliver sustainable goods—no matter how civil its claims. Our dispirited and disheartened worldview is unraveling quickly, as well it must.
Yet let us also recognize the rewilding and reworlding that is well on its way, woven thread by thread, encounter by felt encounter, by those drawn by love’s primordial urging—drawn into intimate kinship with all members of the living landscape. By reclaiming what mystical ecologists of all time have known, that the occasions when we allow ourselves to be fully taken by the sudden and startling intensity of joy and appreciation for our beloved Earth—that this is a form of activism, perhaps the bedrock of all truly transformative activism. Allowing ourselves to be enchanted once again by the rising and setting sun, tutored by both the light and the darkness of nature, the sumptuous fluctuations of seasons, wildly in love with the tremulous beauty of our biosphere and its alluring invitation to rise again—from roots sunk deep into its sensuous and sustainable body.
Caressing the ground with tenderness, Carlos Castaneda’s mentor, Don Juan, reportedly spoke it this way:
“Only if one loves this earth with unbending passion can one relieve one’s sadness. Warriors are always joyful because their love is unalterable and their beloved, the earth, embraces them and bestows upon them inconceivable gifts…This lovely being, which is alive to its last recesses and understands every feeling, soothed me, it cured me of my pains, and finally when I had fully understood my love for it, it taught me freedom.”
May we be inspired to renew our vows to “this lovely being”… until death do us part… and perhaps beyond.
The essays that follow lead us on a variety of engagements with the more-than-human world—from long-term relationships with wild landscapes that reveal how a deepening intimacy with place deepens all intimacies—with self, friends, youth, aging, and death… to close encounters and conversations with hawks, snails, whales—allowing us to reclaim our humanity in the fullest sense possible… to those meetings we have with neighborhood birds, groundhogs, and others who have chosen a co-housing relationship with us, challenging our capacity to practice “right relationship.”
Please consider a visit with each of these humble and illuminating stories, before your next journey beyond your front door.
We are most grateful to Kate McGloughlin for her donation of the transcendent paintings that headline both this editorial and Gail Straub’s essay that follows. More on her work as a landscape artist and regional storyteller can be found at katemcgloughlin.com
One final note: We received some excellent poetry submitted for this issue, which will be published in a separate “Poetry Supplement” in the near future.
May we act in beauty, act from inspiration, act together . . .
Editor in chief
Thank you, John.