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Meadowbrook Country Club
2149 N. Green Bay Road
Racine, WI 53405

Sunday Service at 9:30 a.m. 
in-person at Meadowbrook,
or via Zoom!

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Feet Firmly Planted

May we have faith in the unfolding of our lives,
and radical trust in the universe!
Awaken us to the Oneness of all things,
to the beauty and truth of Unity.
May we become aware of the interdependence of all living things,
and come to know You in everything,
and all things in You.
For as we attune to your Presence within us,
we know not separation, and joy becomes our dwelling place.

Quiet us, O Silent Speaker, that out of still spaces
we may hear your Word;
and, as we ponder the immensity of your gift to us of life,
Awe and wonder fill our hearts;
for from galaxies and the furthest stars
to the smallest atom in our heart,
You are the Flame of Love.
Forgive us, O Holy One, for our wanton ways
that have laid waste to our planet!

May we embrace Creation as a whole,
and become attuned to all the world;
may we be blessing to the universe, and
see divinity in the within and the without of all things.
                                 ~ Nan Merrill, Psalm 106, "Psalms for Praying"

 

Nan Merrill's version of Psalm 106 is truly a beautiful poem calling us, once again, to awaken to the Oneness in the Universe, the interconnectedness of all things, the “beauty and truth in Unity.” It invites us to be grateful for the very gift of life and laments the “wanton ways” of humans that have laid waste to so much of our precious planet.

While I don’t find this a particularly accurate modern translation of Psalm 106, I do strongly believe it stands for a life-affirming spirituality that is in harmony with all Creation. There is simply not much material like this in our scriptures, so perhaps it reflects the evolution of our spiritual thinking. Had we had more of this type of guidance from scripture from the beginning, perhaps we would have treated the world, and all her inhabitants differently. 

Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her book "Braiding Sweetgrass," states, "After all these generations since Columbus, some of the wisest of Native elders still puzzle over the people who came to our shores. They look at the toll on the land and say, 'The problem with these new people is that they don’t have both feet on the shore. One is still on the boat. They don’t seem to know whether they’re staying or not.'” 

Though all of us at Sacred Journeys are probably from immigrant families somewhere down the line, I bet we all consider the US to be our home, our land. Still, Kimmerer calls us to look intently at whether our behavior aligns with this thinking. We can’t be indigenous people, but have we been naturalized so that we are, in her words, “indigenous to place.” What might it look like to remember that we’re not just passing through? Sadly, too many Christian denominations focus on the afterlife as the end goal and so don’t feel compelled to take care of what they have here on earth. And our materialistic market culture seems to be at odds with the values of one who is “indigenous to place.”  What does it look like to plant both feet firmly in the soil where we have our homes, raise our families, and bury our loved ones?

Kimmerer says to think of it this way, we can be an invasive species, or we can learn to live indigenously, in harmony with the land. When I think of invasive species, the one that comes immediately to mind is Kudzu (also known as “the vine that ate the south”). It is a very fast growing vine that simply envelops everything, eventually choking out the life of whatever it grows over.

Invasive species are called such because they take over areas of land so much so that what was native to that place can’t grow anymore. We don’t want to be Kudzu, taking over whatever we want and (believe we) need without regard for the native plants, animals, insects and basic ecosystems. Yet this is exactly what humans seem to be doing. If we don’t act more responsibly, we’ll have destroyed that which we need to survive.

Kimmerer relates the story of Nanabozho, who was the first person formed by the Creator. Nanabozho was part man and part spirit being. The Creator formed him of four sacred elements and then breathed life into him before setting him on Turtle Island. Nanbozho was the first person to arrive on Turtle Island, but the last being to arrive. And when he arrived the world was in perfect balance, the animals and plants living in harmony. The instruction given to Nanabozho was to walk through the land that Skywoman had created in such a way “that each step is a greeting to Mother Earth.” He wasn’t quite sure what this meant, but as he walked, the animals helped him to learn. And the first thing he learned was the names of all the beings around him. Afterall, if we are greeting the earth and her creatures with each step, we should be calling them by name. Besides, how do we develop relationships and learn from them if we don’t even know the other's name?

Living with our feet firmly planted means we care enough to know the names of the plant beings and animal beings and bird beings and insect beings that we share life with.

Once he knew their names, Nanabozho could begin to learn from them. Heron taught him how to gather wild rice. Raccoon taught him how to wash his food. Beaver showed him how to make an ax. Whale gave him the shape for a canoe. And, Grandmother Spider’s web became a fishing net.

Next, Nanabozho was taught at a council of animals to “never damage creation and never interfere with the sacred purpose of another being.”

Humans have largely ignored this wisdom. With our wanton ways we have damaged creation and we have interfered with the sacred purpose of another being. Oil spills, air pollution, dumping in rivers, lakes and oceans, mountaintop and strip mining, fracking, deforestation, urban sprawl,  overharvesting, seeing water, herbicides and pesticides, light pollution... the list is long.

To live with feet firmly planted, perhaps what is needed more than anything is reciprocity and restoration of the relationships between land and people.

RECIPROCITY – there are many instances in nature where humans and plants or animals need one another.  Sweetgrass is one example.

Sweetgrass was abundant in many places before White men came. It was used in basketmaking and for smudging in sacred ceremonies. When Natives were denied their traditional ways for so many years, many of the places that had great supplies of sweetgrass became overrun with other plants. Kimmerer discovered in her sweetgrass research that “the most vigorous stands are the ones tended by basket makers.” Reciprocity is a key to success.

Basketmakers are taught to always ask the grasses if they can be taken, to leave a gift and to only take what they need,and never take more than half. If the plants are ignored, they will go away. While this was the Native teaching passed down through grandmothers, the science behind it supported the wisdom. 

Kimmerer and her students have helped restore fields of sweetgrass, but it will only flourish where it is used, cared for and treated with respect. If the relationship fails, so does the plant. 

RESTORATION – gratefully there are many organizations seeking to restore the land and the waters. Sometimes it is an individual who feels calls to do the same thing.

Franz Dolp needed healing from a broken marriage and lost dream. He set his sights on a new dream – to live on an Oregon homestead, embedded in the forest, like the one he grew up on. The 40 acres of land he bought on Shotpouch Creek was in the heart of the mountains where his grandfather had had a homestead.

But Shotpouch was no pristine wilderness. It was the victim of a number of clear cuts. First the old growth cedar forest, then its children. And then when fir trees grew back it was clear cut again. Franz realized that making a new home required more than building a cabin and planting a tree. It required healing for him and the land.

You see, the first plants to grow back after a clear cut are the opportunists, mostly berries who grow fast and thorny, taking up all the open space and completely changing the eco-system. And they make it very hard for trees, especially cedar who grow slowly, to grow at all.

The only remnant Franz had of the cedar forest Shotpouch used to be, was a huge fallen log. He vowed to return the land to an old-growth forest. In working the land, he talked about his own personal restoration with the land and its living beings. He felt as if he were discovering a forgotten part of himself.

He refused to use herbicides to clear the land, it would simply poison the soil to be uninhabitable for anything, but fir trees and he wanted all the species represented. He knew next to nothing but set about educating himself and spent much time observing the patterns in old growth forests so he could try to duplicate them. He studied and planted and marked and mapped and named the groves he planted.

Then after years of working alone, Franz met Dawn, and together over the following eleven years, they planted more than 13,000 trees and created a network of trails.

It wasn’t always easy. His plan to grow cedars on the stream banks was a good one, but “who knew that beavers eat cedar for dessert?” And his nurseries were decimated. And so he replanted them and fenced them, but also planted a thicket of willow, beavers’ favorite meal to distract them.

In time, Franz was able to see the watershed start to heal from a long history of damage and he began to feel confident that 150 years in the future his venerable cedars would have once again captured the landscape.

Franz considered himself less of a forester and more of a writer. A writer who worked in the forest and created the right distribution of trees like revising a poem. His cabin is now a gathering spot for collaborations among artists, scientists, writers and philosophers who seek to find new ways to understand and reimagine our relation to the natural world. Finally, Franz wrote in his journal, “I had confidence now that when it came time for me to rest, I could step aside and let others pass upon a path to a very special place. To a forest of giant fir, cedar, and hemlock, to the ancient forest that was.”

Ironically, Franz Dolp passed away in 2004 in a collision with a paper mill truck on his way to Shotpouch Creek.

It’s time to make sure our feet are firmly planted here in this soil we stand on every day, to join in the dance of reciprocity and restoration, to “unlearn the model of kudzu” and learn to be indigenous to place. Let us pick up a shovel and plant a tree, or help to remove the invasive species. May we remember to care for this land for our children, and our children’s children, because their future well-being depends on it.

Love & Light!

Kaye