Life, the Greatest Gift of All

There are a bunch of shadbush on the far side of Scattergood.  Every time I walk by and see their delicate flowers and red-brown leaves I grieve not being able to see the shad in flower along the Gale River.  I miss the wild landscapes of Franconia.  Though now that I’m reading Braiding Sweetgrass, I realize that the most beautiful landscapes, like the ones in England, are made by people & nature working together.  That most of what I’ve known, in Cincinnati and Franconia, has been second growth after clear cut.  Homesick for the home I never had.

The music in my head is “We are the world, we are the children …  there are people dying, and it’s time to lend a hand…”

“to life, the greatest gift of all” — I still have a hard time with that.  Can’t see life as a gift.  Certainly not my life.  My life has felt like a punishment, or a difficult chore that takes all my energy just to get through the day.  But then, what about the “life” described in Braiding Sweetgrass, in Spontaneous Evolution — the life of Nature, so beautiful and intelligent, creating conditions for more life.  Not human life — we’ve made such a mess of it — but the ongoing creative abundant forgiving life of the universe.  I say “forgiving” because I finished the chapter about “Sacred and Superfund” in Braiding Sweetgrass, where Robin Wall Kimmerer discovers how the plants are coming in to reclaim the poisoned dead land.  This is the land around Lake Onondaga, both land and lake poisoned by industry.

But if I think of “Life” not as something that came to me wrecked, but as some Great Power in the Universe, that (who?) starting from hydrogen, created the periodic table of the elements.  After I had my realization/vision of that incredibly complex, unbelievably beautiful, intricately interconnected Whole, the periodic table of the elements changed from something familiar to something totally amazing. It looked like something clearly created by an Intelligence. But an intelligence way beyond human brains. I have some sense of the complex process by which the elements up to Iron were created in the interiors of stars, producing energy which blazed out into the Universe as light. The elements heavier than iron have to be created by input of energy, so they are only created by a supergiant star which explodes, sending all the elements out into the universe, seeding the primal hydrogen with heavier elements, thus making the creation of planets possible. And the universe goes on creating, by what rules only he/she/it/they know. (What is the correct pronoun for the Universe?) On a planet the right distance from its star to have liquid water, elements combine into molecules, which then combine into living cells, which then combine into complex organisms, which then combine….   the result is incredible complexity and diversity and fertility of ecosystems…   with ever increasing awareness until we have beings capable of detecting quantum mechanics and enacting compassion.  The full story is well told in Spontaneous Evolution.

When I look at that, there’s clearly a wise, compassionate, Intelligence behind all Creation, or becoming all creation.  I do not understand why so many beings have to suffer, unless it’s that we don’t learn without suffering, but I do know, at some very deep level, that we are all held in Compassion. And I so much enjoyed all the birds singing as I walked Mocha this morning.

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