As a child, I used to sit inside the untamed fields of Spain, surrounded by wildflowers and the deep, dry scent of piñon trees. There, I’d create a pretend church, a place of worship, in nature. I was merely eight years old, so I had no concept of churches, nor did I of ceremony. But I was calling out—like Rumi in “the moan of the dog for its master”—for a place inside nature’s intricate web.
Today, the wisdom that lies inside these concentric circles of my older self can see things more clearly: how my indigenous soul longed to come home to herself inside nature, to know she belonged and was part of a holy beauty and perfection. That field continues to be my mother, for she awakened my indigenous soul, even after homes and walls cover her skin, hiding her wildness below.
In my late thirties, after losing touch with this part of myself, I was drawn to the word duende. So much so that I wrote a novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, inspired by this word that the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca described as the “Spirit of the Earth that one must awaken in the remotest mansions of the blood”.
Isn’t that what our nature truly is…nature herself…this essence of duende that moves through us? Isn’t it nature who offers her mirror for us to see who we truly are, especially when we feel disconnected?
As a teacher in the schools, I’ve seen children mirroring that same longing that I once had—to belong, to feel a sense of place and home on our earth. But far too often we seem to look for that inside structures and systems that are separate from nature.
When we stand in the forest, though, and hear the birds, the scuffling sounds, and branches breaking inside the wind, we begin to find our place. We learn from the tree that does not judge itself for being crooked or from the bird who doesn’t care if it sings off key or from the ant who doesn’t hide in its smallness. Nature just is. Every being is necessary for the larger symphony called life.
What if we stop seeing life through our eyes, and instead through the ever-changing eyes of water, or the humble reed grass as one of my students has done? What if we learned to see our nature through the eyes of nature? Would we find home for our indigenous souls again?
I’d like to invite you to take a moment to look at nature, not as a visitor, but as a part of her. What does she see, feel, touch, sense, hear? What is her story and where do you live inside her story?
We explore these questions and more in my workshop Stories from the Earth. Here is a sample of student work from last summer’s workshop. May these nature-connected moments inspire your heart on this day:
A cedar leaf fell from way up in the sky, and it landed right next to reed grass. He (reed grass) thought of how high cedar leaf fell from. ‘I grow and I grow, and I grow, but I only get to be this teeny, tiny, plant. Why can’t I be like the cedars and grow so tall that my branches touch the sky, and the birds want to land on the branches, and the wind blows mightily through my pine needles? –Jill Farrant
(see the storytelling video creation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMD9jBNBMrk)
In the heart of Mexico City, a little girl named Callita watched the full moon. ‘Why does the moon follow me wherever I go?’ she wondered. ‘It looks at me with its big eyes and I just rush under the canopy of houses and shelters to get rid of her’…. ‘Why are you afraid of me?’ the moon asked from the immense sky. —Claudia Zamudio
Hi! Hello! Look at me! Did you see that? I wish people would look at me. I have so many things to show them. I’m not just a ball of light, you know. I hate when people stay in their little boxes when my light shines brightest. It really makes me sad… The moon always runs away from me. I just want to play with her. —Miguel Zamudio, 9 years old.
From my heart to yours. For the Earth
Michelle Adam, OMEC Contributor