|7. Efforts to work with nature, honor the Earth, and understand the impacts and effects on a local level. (500 word min)|
NATURE AWARENESS ESSAY/PROJECT
I am not quite through one year of Dedicant practice and I have found the Nature Awareness aspect of the path deeply engaging. I have always had a connection to nature and the reverence for nature is part of what drew me back to a pagan path and, ultimately, Druidry. I would climb out of my bedroom window at night from the time I was a fairly small child and go out into the backyard where I would sit under my favorite tree with a small lantern, hidden by the privacy fence that surrounded our inner yard, and read or lay back in the dark and look up at the stars. I felt embraced by those gnarled roots and safe. I would frequently sit and talk with the moon and spin and dance with Her until I fell down in giggles. The swingset in our backyard was my second favorite place, where I would sit and swing gently, reading and looking and listening to the world around me for hours. Sleepy Southern summer evenings were spent chasing fireflies and weaving through the trees in the park, looking for animals and bugs and flowers. I distinctly remember getting in trouble in pre-K because I had been allowed to walk between buildings alone, being a generally very responsible little girl, and had been too tempted by the sun and grass; I stopped to kick off my shoes, spinning around laughing, and was rather rudely interrupted with a lecture about the devil and the evils of the fleshly world. I hid under the table until my babysitter came to pick me up, unable to understand what was so wrong with the world that I was not allowed to enjoy it.
I continue to feel that deep welling of peace and joy inside every time I go out into the world. Even in my urban home environments there is such beauty, and nature finds a way to thrive and engage us. I must drive between my two homes in San Antonio and Houston, Texas several times a month and have been blessed to see the similarities and differences, and the amazing beauty of so much of Texas. I truly love my state, with its rich biodiversity and the layers of climates and geological features that support it. I believe I could at this point tell you approximately what month it is and how much rain we have had in the last two weeks by the state and colors of the wildflowers growing along Interstate 10 and the height and movement of the rivers it crosses. The wildflowers reflect the sun’s changing cycle, starting paler and moving gradually to vibrant tones then primarily to reds and oranges and vibrant yellows. As autumn has moved in, the flowers have gradually changed to golds and rust and dusky tones of sage and beige. The trees have made their yearly progress from silver green and butter yellow through a thousand shades to the colors of fire and warmth, a last beautiful display before the world grows cold and drizzly. Of course, in these areas we rarely get a true autumn, so the colors change quickly, the leaves often turn brown and drop off after only days, and sometimes the deciduous trees keep their leaves all the way to February. I am anticipating the beginning of frequent cold fronts, with sharply chill damp winds, and a sky that turns a hard blue, distant and chill. When I see these changes, when I take a moment simply to stop and be present, it is as though my heart wells over with simple contentment and I feel momentarily at peace and healed and at one with it all.
I have in this process of deliberate awareness also become more deliberate and intentional in my relationship with nature. I routinely stop as I cross the bayou on campus to breathe deeply and simply be in the moment, opening myself to whatever wildlife, insects, sounds, scents, and sensations are there for me in that moment. I routinely go visit the bayou to meditate, something I have done about once a week except at the height of summer’s heat when it is best to engage with nature in the early morning or night away from the mosquito filled waterways. I have found that the fire of inspiration has returned to me as I have been out in nature more as well, and many of my recent poems have begun with a moment of stillness in the natural world. I will often do a Two Powers tree meditation or a simple mindful exercise of 3 things I see, hear, feel, small, and taste around me. I have noticed that the sunrise and sunset in Houston is more pastel than in San Antonio, where the sky is often richly saturated and dusk kisses everything with peachy rose light for a moment out of time. Dusk is my favorite time of day, and twilight, an in between time when everything becomes for a moment limned in realness and yet fading into shadow.
This project has also made much more intentional about my lifestyle. I have been vegan for over a decade, a choice that is very good for our environment given the impact of factory ranching on carbon and methane emissions and on water and soil quality. I have always tried to buy local, as this helps reduce food deserts and long supply chains as well as the carbon emissions involved in transport. I shop at the farmer’s market or my local HEB grocery, as they get most of their produce from local farmers in the state. I am trying to bake bread rather than buy it, and to make as much food at home as I can. Sometimes, being a full-time doctoral student, it is very difficult to do this, and I am certainly not perfect, but I try to avoid preprocessed or prepackaged goods most of the time. I have gotten more strict about my recycling and have significantly cut down my use of single-use plastics, straws, and other waste products. I have also deliberately cut down on my consumption of goods in general- new clothes I do not really NEED, new toys that might be fun but then rarely get enjoyed, that sort of thing. I have made steps to make my home more energy efficient and my Houston home uses 80% wind and 20% solar as well as having an extra carbon sequestration charge applied that helps offset my high emissions from driving so much. I particularly enjoyed the project in the Wheel of the Year text that had me learn more about my local area; I completed it for both of my home cities and that led me to get more involved in finding ways to contribute to the San Antonio Water Authority and the local bayou preserve.
I have begun researching sustainability skills such as knitting, urban gardening, canning and drying, making remedies and wellness products at home, distilling, brewing, and bee keeping. While some of these are not things I can implement immediately due to time or land constraints, I am already planning my spring container garden and starting to look at small steps in the direction of sustainable habits and survival skills. I am learning to knit and trying to relearn sewing. Our world is getting more fraught every day and I feel more and more the need to build these. The message thrumming through my awareness is of the need to build communities, small sustainable communities with many skills and a dedication to reaching out to each other and our neighbors. It is in this way that our Earth and our species will be able to find a new balance as things become more chaotic and life gets harder. I am not an alarmist, I do not think, nor do I think we will see one of the many routinely predicted apocalyptic scenarios. But I do hear my Lady Brighid calling me to connect with the Earth and all beings, human and otherwise, to build skills and sustainability, and to build communities to help in these often difficult times. My spirituality and my daily life, the choices I make, are becoming woven ever tighter into a whole pattern that supports and surrounds me the same way the Earth does. It is this wholeness, this tapestry being woven, that draws me ever deeper into my own magic and my Druidry.