Thursday 30 May 2024 |
Environment and development AL-BIA WAL-TANMIA Leading Arabic Environment Magazine

Cheryl Leutjen LOVE EARTH NOW 
Lunches packed? Check. Back door locked? Check.
Everybody awake, dressed, fed? Check, check, check.
I still feel like I’ve forgotten something. I survey the kitchen while two arms-crossed teenagers stand at the front door, frowning at their glowing devices. I scan the array of blinking appliances and the dirty dishes in the sink…and then I remember.
I haven’t done a single thing to atone for my fossil-fuel powered, water-in-a-drought-consuming, plastic trash-generating existence. I grab the car keys before I can give it another soul-sapping thought. “But I recycle!” I shout with a fist pump on my way out the door, giving the kids but one more reason to roll their eyes.
I can’t quite figure out how I sunk to this level of eco-unconsciousness. I remember celebrating the very first Earth Day with crayon-colored posters. My middle school textbooks of the newly-minted environmental era documented birds killed by DDT, river ecologies destroyed by factory wastes, and forests felled by acid rain. My parents were not amused when I taped the light switches in our house to the “off” position to save energy. But even then, I sensed I had to do something. . .
* * *
Years later, on the first day of a year-long spiritual training, our teacher sent us outside, to sit with Nature. Observe, listen, feel, be. Cue the eye roll of irritation.
Only the crippling grief of my mother’s sudden passing drove me to embark upon this sort of program, a sharp departure from my decades of book-learning. Nothing in all my years of education prepared me to deal with the loss of my mother-friend. Just as the hand from one beloved receded, the hand from another beloved extended. Beloved Kate invited me to join her Modern Day Priestess program. My heart heeded the call, even as my mind dreaded this dive into the great unknown.
My conscious mind, so accustomed to being in charge, bucked at every exercise. Meditation, kundalini yoga, prayer, shamanic breathwork—none of the practices gave my frontal cortex the starring role it felt owed. But nothing tested it more than this absurd “sit with Nature” exercise. I walked for a long time, in silent protest of the command to sit. Finally, I landed in the lemon tree orchard, thinking to kill time by journaling about the frustration I felt.
The buzz of a single bee, dancing in some undiscernible pattern, suggesting a code I could not decipher, diverted my attention. Then it alit on the blossom of a lemon tree, a flower so tiny I would not have seen it, but for the bee pointing like a neon arrow, “look here.” Moments later, the bee whizzed away, and I jotted down:
Bee flying around in some kind of pattern. It rested on a tiny flower. Then it zipped away. Maybe it means to notice my own busyness and get some rest. Appreciate even the smallest expressions of beauty. Then I can get back to work.
After another bored eternity, the bell calling us back to the training room chimed. Other students gave detailed reports of moving experiences with birds, bugs, trees, and clouds, some moved to tears. I felt like a C-student among Mensans when I delivered my succinct findings in monotone.
Sometime after that training ended, I complained about the irritation of those “sit with Nature” practices, to a classmate-turned-friend. Dr. Ellie (she’s also a gifted acupuncturist) exclaimed, “Cheryl, you’re the one who would come in from those exercises and sum up the meaning of life in a couple of sentences!”
This landed with a thunk on my thick skull. She was exaggerating, to be sure, but I can’t pick a fight with someone sticking me with needles. Her observation validated my insights in a way that I never allowed before. Maybe, just maybe, a deeper wisdom exists beyond what all the science classes, the engineering lab, and the law practice taught me. Not that I mean to discard any wisdom, however gained; there are just too many mysteries to be that selective.
I whisper a plea to be guided, by any available messengers, to one simple act of honoring Earth a day, something that I have the time, money and, yes, willingness to accomplish. I vow to honor it, however it comes, be it via a honeybee or carrier pigeon. I’ll wrap it in the protective shell of my love for redwood forests, clear streams, and my own children. I close this impromptu prayer with words of gratitude for all who inspired this journey.
I pull out my planner and I write “Love Earth NOW” at the top of each of page for the next week. I snap the book shut before the inner cynic can sneer. Then I get in my car and drive one mile to pick the kids up from school with only a smidgen of guilt.
* * *
Each chapter in this book is a snapshot of my attempts to navigate the fine line between eco-mindfulness and eco-madness. I share these stories not to demonstrate what anyone else should do. I’m barely keeping my head above the rising-because-of-melting-ice waters. I share out of solidarity with anyone else who is struggling to know what to do.
Because trying to do everything that the go-green documentaries urge and the latest “Top Ten for the Planet” recommendations is my recipe for crazy-making. There’s only so much I can accomplish with the resources immediately at hand—and postponing action until some later “right time” means postponing peace.
Trying to shoehorn myself into somebody else’s eco- prescription also means ignoring the stirrings of my own heart and soul, which have their unique wisdom to impart. Heart and soul long for immediate attention.
How do your heart and soul call for you to contribute, to live, to be? Only you can know. Allow yourself the time and spaciousness to discover your calls to action.
Blessings of Compassion, Courage, and Grace, Earth family.
About the Author
Cheryl Leutjen's deep love of Earth and her hope for a bright future for her children fuel her passion for responding to the challenges of our time with heart, hope, humor and spiritual practice. Leutjen writes to share her experiences about teetering between Earth-mindfulness and eco-madness, not because she's got it all figured out, but in solidarity with anyone else who’s fumbling along the path of more conscientious living.
She draws from her experience as a geologist, attorney, small business owner, spiritual practitioner, wife and mother to claw her way out of the abyss of eco-despair. She seeks solace from the sages in nature who reveal the wisdom she needs to navigate a more Earth-loving path.
For more information, please visit
To buy the book
Love Earth Now
Publisher: Turner Publishing
ISBN-10: 1633536254
ISBN-13: ‎978-1633536258

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