Everything Is Connected

By Anne C. Curtis, RSM Director of Mercy Ecology

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I have been doing a lot of gardening at Mercy by the Sea through these weeks.  The courtyard garden is a large area that has not had attention for a while and invasives had pretty much taken over. All kinds of vines and growth created massive intertwined and enmeshed webs in and through and around just about every tree and bush.

At first, the gardening was about a way to be outside and do something. It felt constructive and the physical work helped focus and use my energy. It was concrete. I could see progress. I often referred to it as my therapy! As the weeks have continued, my sense about the experience has been expanding and deepening.

I share a few glimmers into what is being revealed in this garden space.

I thought the effort was about what I was doing for the land, for the garden, but in fact, the land is nurturing and healing me. It feeds my soul to feel the sun and air, hear the bird song, experience the smells and get my hands in the soil. There is something sacred about the physical contact with earth, especially in this time of virtual work and social distancing. Gardening cannot be done through a computer! The gardening fills my desire and need to engage in work that is real. Feeling, touching, connecting in such a sensory way is soothing and I’m sure it has reduced some stress. The land is a way to be grounded, literally.  I see, hear and feel things I had not have noticed before because the pace is slower.  I am alive in the garden, as are the things I tend. I feel connected.

The space and meditation while gardening is comfortable.  It’s easy to empty my mind in the exertion of the garden. In the quiet, surrounded by the wind, birds and crawly things, being alone is good. Truly, the Divine is present, real, and active in the life of all there in that garden. I know that presence more intimately in that space. However, I also enjoy the companionship of my socially distant colleague who comes to share in the effort. There is a lovely rhythm of being alone together.  And it feels like a gift to be able to prepare a place of beauty for others to enjoy as well.

My need for beauty has been heightened. I can’t help but wonder about the paradox of Spring bursting forth at this particular time. As Earth greens up here in the North, I am fed by the colors and artistry of it all. It is miraculous and beautiful to see nature thriving and exuberant everywhere right now. Each encounter is a feast. In the midst of so much suffering right now, it’s as if a mantra is perpetually ringing with the invitation to be awed and all shall be well.

Opening up the space and clearing away the choking growth has been an on-going reflection and metaphor for this pandemic reality we are living. As a tree or bush is liberated, I imagine hearing it exhale and stretch. Perhaps this awful pause we are forced to live is showing us how life has been enmeshed in and strangled by invasives. People are daring to think about bigger questions in the face of our collective fragility.

We cannot be healthy unless the planet and its ecosystems are healthy. There is a clarion call to realize we humans cannot exist and flourish, if we don’t tend the ecosystems that sustain us and the rest of the fabric of life. There is a clear link between our wellbeing, other living beings, and the ecosystem. It is a fundamental truth that we are all interrelated and interdependent. We flourish or we perish together. Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ reminds us that “everything is connected,” and points to an integral ecology that sees the interconnectedness of social, environmental/natural, and spiritual concerns.

Wangari Maathai, in her Nobel Lecture on December 10, 2004 put word to what I find myself pondering in all this.  “We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and, in the process, heal our own - indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.

In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now."

Anne C. Curtis, RSM is the Executive Director of Mercy Ecology Inc..