6 Love Letters to Nature.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

The heady first moments of love are a vortex. They cause swirls of emotion, the forgetting of time…and the writing of gushy letters to the object of our love.

Once we step off the perches of this dizzying elixir, we see that our relationships with others and the love that emerges must be founded on our relationship with (and love for) ourselves, and who are we, if not creatures intimately bound up with the Earth, as a geographic, environmental and spiritual space?

Throughout our lives, we are moving with the tides of our primary relationships. We have these with our parents and siblings, certainly, as well as other key, early influences. We also have this, essentially and always, with nature.

It’s no wonder writers have long expressed, through their poetry, letters and other form of writing, their wonder—rapture, really—at the bounty of Earth’s offerings. Earth is where we can be nourished, sustained, reclaimed.

Sometimes, in my own writing, I struggle to find the words to express the magnitude of what bubbles up inside of me—the muse is a fickle, if brilliant and cathartic one!

I love turning to the inspired writings of others, who capture in so many different voices and so beautifully, what it means to live among the elements that shape and define us and accompany us on our life journey.

I hope you enjoy these stunning expressions of love for the nature that permeates our lives.

1. A Letter to Nature by Sue Monk Kidd

Dear God,

I love this tree.

I love the light filtering through the moss and the leaves.

I love all your earth songs — the breeze rustling through the grass, the rhythm of the crickets, the beating of the wings.

Here, surrounded and permeated by your creation, I feel you. I feel life. I know myself, connected.

O God, is there anything you’ve made that can’t pour life and healing into me?

When I think of the simplicity and extravagance of creation, I want to bend down and write the word “yes” across the earth so you can see it.

2. Excerpt from his book, Love Letter to the Earth, by Thich Nhat Hanh.

We can be like the Buddha, and in difficult moments touch the Earth as our witness. We can take refuge in the Earth as our original mother. We can say, “I touch the pure and refreshing Earth.” Whatever nationality or culture we belong to, whatever religion we follow, whether we’re Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, or atheists, we can all see that Mother Earth is a great bodhisattva. When we see her in this way, with all her many virtues, we will walk more gently on her and treat her and all her children more gently. We will want to protect her and not harm her or any of the myriad forms of life she has given birth to. We will stop wreaking destruction and violence on Mother Earth. We will resolve the question of what we mistakenly call “the environmental problem.” The Earth is not just the environment. The Earth is us. Everything depends on whether we have this insight or not.

When you’re able to see the Earth for the bodhisattva that she is, you will want to bow down and touch the Earth with reverence and respect. Then love and care will be born in your heart. This awakening is enlightenment. Don’t look for enlightenment elsewhere. This awakening, this enlightenment, will bring about a great transformation in you, and you’ll have more happiness, more love, and more understanding than from any other practice. Enlightenment, liberation, peace, and joy aren’t dreams for the future; they’re a reality available to us in the present moment.

3. Excerpt from her poem, God the Artist, by Angela Morgan.

God, when you chiseled a raindrop,
How did you think of a stem,
Bearing a lovely satin leaf
To hold the tiny gem?
How did you know a million drops
Would deck the morning’s hem?

Why did you mate the moonlit night
With the honeysuckle vines?
How did you know Madeira bloom
Distilled ecstatic wines?
How did you weave the velvet disk
Where tangled perfumes are?
God, when you thought of a pine tree,
How did you think of a star?

4. Morning Rain, by Tu Fu.

A slight rain comes, bathed in dawn light.
I hear it among treetop leaves before mist
Arrives. Soon it sprinkles the soil and,
Windblown, follows clouds away. Deepened

Colors grace thatch homes for a moment.
Flocks and herds of things wild glisten
Faintly. Then the scent of musk opens across
Half a mountain—and lingers on past noon.

5. “Nature” is what we see, by Emily Dickinson.

“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse—the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

6. The Endearing Sea, by Dobashi Jiju.

As I lived far away from the sea,
it gradually passed more out of my mind every day,
like its distance.
After days and days,
it became like a dot, no longer looking like a sea.
I felt compelled to go the movies
to see the sea
on the screen.
*
But when I slept at night,
the sea came to me, pushing down my chest
and raising clear blue waves.
I just slept, even in the daytime,
freely.
Then
the sea kept mounting big waves
on my chest,
covering me with spray from a storm.
And sometimes it washed up beautiful white bones,
which had sunk to its bottom,
up around my ribs.

Bonus: How can I resist including a Kerouac quote here?

Maybe that’s what life is … a wink of the eye and winking stars.”

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Inspiring Lessons from Thich Nnat Hanh (and one of his great poems).

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

“When you love someone, the best thing you can offer him or her is your presence…how can you love, if you are not there?” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is in the hospital after suffering a severe brain hemorrhage. He’s 88 years old.

According to a news release, he is surrounded by disciples and supporters, and is still responsive.

Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay (teacher in Vietnamese), as he is known, has spent his life in spiritual practice—he says knew he wanted to be a monk since he was seven-years-old in his native country of Vietnam—and in guiding others passionate about following a spiritual path. He has been living and acting as spiritual teacher at Plum Village, a monastery in France for monks and nuns and a practice center for lay people, since its establishment in 1982.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s name is practically synonymous with Zen, the Buddhist path and the road of compassion, so tireless have his efforts been, and so global his reach.

Buddhist monk, poet, author and peace activist (and Nobel Peace Prize nominee) are some of the hats he has worn, with over 100 books in publication, and innumerable talks, lectures and retreats given and held around the world.

Watching him give an interview, even through the filter of a TV or computer screen, gives one the feeling of being in the presence of all-encompassing peace, kindness and compassion.

I remember being on top of a mountain in Dharamsala, India, in the middle of a 10-day Buddhist retreat and course—I sat on a balcony after lunch on a clear, sunny day, reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Novice,” feeling so hopelessly like one myself, which is why I think that title caught my eye at that time.

It’s about a young woman who finds her spiritual calling and wants to be monk during an era in Vietnam when only men could ordain. Her devotion causes her to leave her marriage-bound life and disguise herself as a man so that she can practice and serve as a monk. She does this for years until she is accused of fathering a child, which puts her in a position of having to either pretend she has done this, or out herself as a woman.

The young woman-monk’s unwavering devotion to her path and the pure heart she developed as a result of her practice, which she draws upon during a most challenging time so that her kindness and compassion touches everyone around her, fill me with such inspiration to this day.

I am not in any position to speak of Thich Nhat Hanh’s life or teachings with any degree of authority, but by way of honouring this great man, I wanted to touch on a few impressions—things that have influenced me deeply.

He speaks of beginner’s mind, that beauty that comes from being fully awake to the present moment and all it can bring.

And what does it mean to be truly present?

As Thich Nhat Hanh explains it, to be present is to not be hindered by thoughts of the past or future. It is a reflection of the ability to be in the here and now. This is a fundamental part of the awakened mind, that it rests where it is, not where it has been or will be, which is, fundamentally, nowhere at all.

Why do we want to be present? For our personal development, of course, but also to be able to be fully present for others, and especially others in need. These are the seeds of compassion, and it is only in full presence that we can act as a loving and listening being for those around us.

In full presence, we are in a state of deep listening, and we can cultivate this ability to really listen, to ourselves, to others, to the stillness within, so that we can both become and generate a stillness and peace to serve others, and the world.

Thich Nhat Hanh evocatively spoke about death through the analogy of a cloud. According to my best memory, he said that before it rains, all we see is a cloud, but that once the rain comes, we feel the cloud has disappeared. But if we look closely—with deep listening, with presence—we can see that the cloud never disappeared at all, because it is in the rain, or the snow, or whatever has come after the cloudy period.

It’s a matter of perception, of being really tuned in to the present moment moment and all it offers.

It’s the same with death, he says. Nothing really dies, but continues to be present in other ways. With practice, we can come to see that we can’t go from something to nothing, from being to non-being. And this is what nirvana is about—not reaching somewhere, but removing wrong-perceptions about being, so that we come to a dissolution of these ideas.

And finally, a poem I love by Thich Nhat Hanh:

 

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

 

Please see the elephant journal published version here.