the earth heals us

Earth Day 2020

A native bee visits a stem of prairie blazing star
in the native plant garden my husband and I created
as an oasis for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.

~Robin Wall Kimmerer

mended with gold

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Gold sifts through my days.

Filaments of morning light splay through oak leaves to gild the pages I read. In the garden, goldfinches flit among black-eyed susans, and goldenrod shimmers in aureate splendor.

Late summer spills into early autumn: shadows stretch, light shifts. At close of day, sunlight slants in from the west, edging silhouettes of trees and shrubs, porches and rooftops, roadside fences and grassy fields in fine gold leaf. Stars wake and glisten – gold sequins in an azure sky.

Everywhere and all around me, the hours of day and night are flecked with gold; I see it now with renewed clarity. I gather this gold – nature’s gold – because it is more than merely beautiful. It is also medicinal.

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Although I make a point of choosing peace each day, from time to time I’m apt to brood over things I can’t change. My head accepts the fact that illness, loss, and sorrow are unavoidable parts of life, but my unruly heart throbs resistant: it runs away down time’s endless corridor; tries to invent fairer circumstances, better yesterdays for those I love; searches and weeps for those I mourn. My thoughts and emotions battle the unchangeable past; sometimes, they wage war on me. I recognize them for what they are: bullies and thieves who divest me of peace, of delight – even in the simple gifts of nature’s gold. Recognizing them for what they are doesn’t always mean I’m able to deflect them – they’ll pop up unannounced and darken my doorstep.

It has long been my habit to go to my garden when my heart is heavy. I go about my quiet tasks: I fill bird baths, water plants, tend flowers. The active process of nurturing my garden when I feel impoverished has a dependable outcome: I’ll step outdoors with empty pockets, then realize nature has filled them with gold.

Several weeks ago, I had a remarkable experience I can’t stop thinking about. During a spell of hot, dry weather, I was standing in the garden, watering my tall phlox. I was present, but my heart was elsewhere, pacing the weary perimeters of the past. I felt a familiar twinge of sorrow and heaved a sigh.

Just then, something caught my peripheral vision. I glanced up. To my astonishment, a male giant swallowtail butterfly wafted down from the sky, hovered directly in front of me, then flew over to sample my phlox blossoms. He was the first of this year’s large butterflies to visit my garden, and he took my breath away. Giant swallowtails are skittish creatures, and previous to this surprising, close-up encounter, I had only caught distant glimpses of them in the fields during family excursions to our Iowa farm.

The giant swallowtail’s tremulous, five-inch wings were jet black with distinct, gold markings that instantly reminded me of the Japanese art of kintsugi, in which shards of broken pottery are repaired with gold. This meaning-filled metaphor was not lost on me. As he floated among the flowers, I studied the butterfly’s markings and realized it is possible to be both fragmented and whole. In my heart, words formed and were underscored: GOLD. Gold mends what is broken. I observed how lightly a giant swallowtail carries his darkness.

Sudden gratitude for nature’s gold and its radiant, healing presence in my life prompted a stream of silver tears. The giant swallowtail, my ephemeral messenger, remained in my presence – close enough to touch – for several minutes. Then, he fluttered up and away. I watched until he vanished among the treetops.

I’m still thinking about how profoundly this brief encounter stirred my understanding. It was a rare moment of wonder, wisdom, grace, delivered as if right on cue, just when my porous heart could best absorb it. I’ve sensed the presence of synchronicities like this for years and grow ever more certain that nature, who instructs and consoles, is infused with the divine.

Nature is a quiet companion who offers us her gifts each day, free of charge. Her ample storehouse is open to all of her children – and there is enough gold here for all of us.

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If your heart is hurting, go outside and open your eyes. Look for the sun, for the moon, for the gold that rinses through each day. Look for it, trust you will find it. And let your own broken places be mended – mended with gold.



this other silence

this other silence

Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us,
not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal.
The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are.
We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find.
In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment,
a strength on which to build . . .
Silence is a place of great power and healing.

~Rachel Naomi Remen, MD