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Embracing Nature's Benevolence: A Journey of Gratitude

By Jamie Rye


It was the fall of 2021—and for more reasons than I have space to share here—our family found ourselves packed into our truck, RV in tow, heading to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. We were in search of warmer weather and the opportunity to reconnect with dear friends. Texas would have been our next stop, but we never made it.


We sold the truck.

We sold our RV.

We’re never leaving.


If you have ever been to the Blue Ridge Mountains you have encountered the Divine. Spending time with these sacred mountains in all their majestic, worn, rounded-over glory—will change you. At one time these ancient elders are believed to have been the same height as the Alps and yet in their refined form are as grand as ever.


Our particular region of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a microclimate, with temperatures rarely reaching 80 degrees in the summer and enough rainfall to classify it as a temperate rainforest. It is magically green and filled with incredible biodiversity, including the rare giant Hellbender Salamander.


For the original inhabitants of the place I call home, the Cherokee, the mountains were a gracious home and literal pharmacy. From American Ginseng to Goldenseal, from Black Cohosh to multiple varieties of Echinacea, the land provided abundantly. They thrived in communion with the natural world, recognizing its sacredness and having gratitude for its generosity—a much different perspective than that of the Europeans who sought to “subdue” and “conquer” it. Those of us from that lineage and culture still have much to atone for and learn from the original caretakers of these lands.


This place has a way of drawing you outside. In the last year, I have spent countless hours sitting on the porch of our 1930s cabin, in my Amish-made hickory rocking chair, reading and learning from indigenous elders, only pausing to watch Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds dart back and forth between the rhododendron and the feeder. It is in these moments I slow down enough to recognize the benevolence of the natural world around me.


In the profound book “Restoring the Kinship Worldview” by Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows) and Darcia Narvaez there is a quote from Wasauksing (Basil Johnston) that captures the essence of comprehending nature's benevolence. Wasauksing says,


We owe the earth our all, more than we can take in, more than we can say. We can never return anything but our respect and thanksgiving…


When we hunger, Mother Earth nourishes us. Whatever we need is there in abundance, more than enough to fill the wants and needs of every insect, bird, animal, fish, man and woman with fruit, vegetables, seeds and nectar.


When we need to clothe our bodies from the sun, wind, rain, snow and insects, Mother Earth provides the means to cover our bodies…


When we need shelter from the winds, snows, storms, rains, cold and heat, there are woods, forests, valleys, mountains, bays, and inlets…


When we are sick and need care to nurse us back to health, Mother Earth’s meadows, forests, and shorelines are lush with berries, plants, roots, seeds and resins that bear the elixir of health and life…


When our spirits flag and are burdened with cares, worries, losses and sorrows, Mother Earth comforts us. She whispers and chants to the downhearted and dispirited through the tree tops, over the meadows, in the cascades and rapids. It is a mother’s soothing voice offering solace to the low in spirit. She whispers, ‘I love you. I care.’


Even as I retype Wasauksing’s words I am reminded of all of the times I have forgotten nature's benevolence to me. Then I feel gratitude as the cool midafternoon breeze wafts through my window—me sitting here munching on freshly picked sun-warmed wild raspberries—attempting to keep their bright red juice from staining my keyboard.


Today I invite you to consider the wisdom of those who have come before you—those who recognize the benevolence of nature and truly know the place that they are a part of. I welcome you to ask yourself these questions:


  • Do you truly KNOW the place you are a part of?

  • Have you walked the land and floated its waters?

  • If you have, what’s sacred about it?

  • Have you seen or tasted its benevolence?

  • Have you taken the time to properly thank it?


Friends, there is potency in having a deep knowledge of place. From the history of the peoples to the flora and fauna that make it what it is. But knowing a place is not an end in itself.


Gratitude on the other hand.


Having gratitude is the difference maker, it changes our mindset, it changes our hearts, it changes us.


Consider this simple exercise. Pause daily. Use your senses to take in your place. Recognize the many ways it is benevolent. Express your gratitude. Repeat.


 

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Main photo by Bradley Allweil on Unsplash

Echinacea photo by Stephan H. on Unsplash



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