Friday, May 20, 2022

Friday Ramble - Earth

Earth is a good word for pondering in this all-too-brief and shaggy season as we till our garden plots and and tend the sweet beginnings of the harvest to come. All things, or at least most things, arise from the earth and return to it in time, us included.

Our word dates from before 950 CE, coming to us through the Middle English erthe, Old English eorthe; German erde, Old Norse jǫrth, Danosh jord and Gothic airtha, all springing from the Ancient Saxon eard meaning soil, home, or dwelling. All forms are likely related to the Latin aro, meaning to plough or turn over. Way back there somewhere is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) form *h₁er- meaning ground, soil, land or place.

When we say "earth", we think of the ground under our feet, of gardens, orchards, wooded hills, farm fields and shadowed arroyos. We think of saplings and seeds and roots doing their appointed work in the good dark stuff below. We think of the granite bones of our planet and the fiery heart beating way down deep in its molten core.

In my own case, I am also thinking of the nine bags (150 liters in total) of premium garden soil still to be dug into the veggie patch. Three have already been put down, and the deck is covered with flats of veggies (tomatoes, kale, carrots, leeks, sweet onions and radishes) and herbs waiting to be planted when I get my act together and finish the job. Then there are several floral planters to contend with...

We almost never consider ourselves as elements in the same story, but blood and bones, roots and branches, rivers and rocks, we too are part of the Great Round—we are part of a vast elemental process, one far beyond the scope of our feeble human imaginations. Endlessly befuddled strands in the cosmic web that we are, we forget most of the time that we are part of anything at all. What a benighted lot we are.

Once in a while, the simple truth that we are NOT separate shows up and insists we pay attention. It can happen while dangling half way down a rock face with a camera or seated in a pool of sunlight under a tree in the woods, on a hill somewhere under the summer stars, or the shore of a favorite lake at sunset. A good sunset or a starry, starry night does it for me every time, and occasionally it even happens while I am parked in the waiting room of my local cancer clinic. Moments of kensho (見性) can't be predicted, and nor should they, but I have noticed that they often show up right when they are needed most.

There we are with our feet in the dirt and our heads in the clouds, and a scrap of elemental knowing pops out of the blue. For a moment we understand that we are part of everything around us, and that we belong here, roots, branches, star stuff and every dancing particle. We belong here as much as rivers, mountains, acorns, wild salmon and sandpipers do. Dirt, clouds, moonlight and stardust, it's all good. On mornings when I awaken feeling lonely and fragile and in rough shape physically, that keeps me going. That and Beau and my garden. Oh, and a good cup of tea.

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