The Wise Earth Speaks to Your Spirit by Janell Moon - Read Online
The Wise Earth Speaks to Your Spirit
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A heartfelt combination of spiritual discovery, environmental observations, and journal writing, The Wise Earth Speaks to Your Spirit offers readers a 52-week cycle of themed essays and related questions about the natural world. Entries on night and sky and parakeets, wind and mud and rain, snakes and tea and thistle, among others. In addition to folklore, myths, stories, and symbols connected to each theme, Janell Moon includes inspirational quotes from well-known writers -- among them E. B. White, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gertrude Stein, and Mother Theresa -- and shares her original poetry and personal experiences with the natural world.

As she writes in the introduction, "It is my wish that through the telling of these stories, and the deepening of your own connections through your writing, that you will better enjoy a rainbow or a tree with angel's wings in a storm."

Published: Red Wheel on
ISBN: 9781609258504
List price: $19.95
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The Wise Earth Speaks to Your Spirit - Janell Moon

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writing about the earth

Our task is to enter into the dream of Nature and interpret the symbols.


MY LIFE'S JOURNEY has been to find connection through a spiritual home. As a child I found writing letters to pen pals and writing stories comforting because I felt connected to something larger than myself Even now, I remember what it felt like to sit down and write—the humid heat, the slight breeze through the window, the old wooden desk with glass protecting the top, and the feeling of holding time in my hands. I also found similar comfort in nature. Late afternoons in the woods across the street were times of haven. Hours of contentment were given to me in this way! Early on, I discovered that imagination, writing, and nature led me to a place where I belonged.

Later, I started keeping journals and reading voraciously. Through journal writing and reading, I found entries into worlds I hadn't realized were available to me: the heartbeat beneath my feet, the world of mud to reflect how my life might have been formed, the world of all living things that gave both meaning and beauty to my life. I would wake at night and gaze at the moon and its moonbeam. I would slip outside before breakfast to appreciate the ferns and get a peek of the bay. I began to realize that the pink of spring belongs not only to the plum tree but to me. I noticed that the wind that blows the feathers at the back of the mud dabbler egret's neck is the same wind that shifts my hair and cools me. Birds would come to my hanging geranium plants, and I would watch closely as they nested and hatched their babies, all the while thinking of ways I could nurture the child in me. I filled notebooks that explored how I was part of the whole of earth, nature, and all living things. I began to feel the healing powers of the earth come through my body.

I began to see that finding both personal and archetypal meanings is important for our sense of spiritual connectedness. For instance, I have always loved ducks because to me they seem friendly and yet care for themselves. My family says ducks are my favorite animal because they seem so happy on their own; they're so independent. It's true. I love their busy little ways that demand nothing from me. However, since they are seldom alone, they have another archetypal meaning—more of joining or marriage. I can appreciate that meaning too; maybe part of the reason they seem friendly to me is that they stay together in flocks.

My life was made immeasurably richer when I could look at a tree and call it by name: pepper, magnolia, eucalyptus. It was as if I had learned a new friend's name and by calling her by that name I was able to make her more mine. And to know that the tree is a symbol of the whole of life—the corning together of heaven, earth, and water—made me better notice each tree.

Watching the earth do her seasons then enabled me to step into the seasons of my own life. I could finally feel like the root and the seed and the flowering. By holding the death of the plant in my hands, I became less afraid. I wrote a poem about this process in my life:


The earth has a history for you; she can reveal

how to live with scars

holding stories, coastlines carved

through with water and wind

repeating themselves, repeating themselves.

Soon enough she will teach

you that death follows life. Oh I know

you thought you knew but not in your body.

Your body thought you'd always be kissed

by the juice of the berry staining your skin.

Now with further inspection, you see the pink

of the plum tree belongs

to the branch and the root, the flower reappearing

only until the root is done.

Through this process of accepting endings and a deeper spiritual connection with the natural world, something happened in my life that seemed miraculous; my life became one. Finally, everything I did became everything else, and everything I did became part of the whole of my spiritual life. My spiritual learning leaned into every work I touched. The loving of small living creatures, the birds and the squirrels, brought me to a connection with my earth body.

What I have come to understand is that we use the symbols that are meaningful to us to create a connection to the earth. There are times when I am a tree person and need the feel of the bark on my back. Other times I am the wild sea and welcome change in my life. I use the stars in the sky to hold my dreams and wishes.

I like to lie on the earth and feel the power of the living earth beneath me. The Gypsies say, The earth is our mother, the secret of life comes from the ground. The Apache Indians said all creatures were born from the earth in the beginning, just like a mother births her child. Tread softly, all the earth is holy ground, says English poet Christina Rossetti. We, too, can begin to feel this holy ground under our feet.

The earth in the psyche represents sensation and stability. It is all that is solid. At times, the earth is represented in our dreams as the elephant or the tortoise, the steady ones. However, I found it interesting to learn that in dream symbolism, earthquakes mean personal disintegration. Earthquakes were also once considered expressions of power either divine or hostile to humanity. They threatened order and therefore had to be appeased so that humanity could have rock and stone and stability.

It was writing in a journal that helped me integrate this new awareness and knowledge. I wrote and asked the earth to help me feel connected. I prayed by writing. I explored in writing the things I noticed on my daily walks. I asked questions of the earth and did research on how rocks have been used in spiritual ceremonies. I found new meaning sitting on large boulders surrounding part of the bay where I lived. I sat there feeling secure and wondering about the need for both stone and the fluid waters. I explored this in writing. Writing about my own connections with the earth helped me go deeper into my feelings and spiritual self, exploring how I had created both solid ground and chaos in my life. I then was able to write what helps me feel emotionally whole and what makes me feel fractured.

The very act of writing has its own connection to the natural world. European pagans used a tree alphabet to send secret messages. Barbara G. Walker, in The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, tells of an ancient history where messages were spelled out on a string of leaves. Leaves from different types of trees were each assigned a letter of the alphabet and strung in an order that spelled out a word. The leaf and letter assignment was secret to the group sending the message. Blank leaves not included in the alphabet were used between words. For instance, if you wanted to say, I come, on a cord, you would string Yew for I, Willow for a blank, Hazel for C, Furze for O, Vine for M, White Poplar for E. This way of communicating was used successfully for many years.

Writing things down slows us down just long enough to consider our emotions, body sensations, and thinking. Clarification helps us live a more spiritual life because we don't have to behave in a knee-jerk reaction. Just to write can give us the pause to take a deeper look into our lives. Journal writing helps us vent, explore, practice, clarify, and even heal feelings. It often helps us act in a way that reflects the spiritual path we have chosen.

What you will find in these pages is a fifty-two-week cycle of essays and related questions about various aspects of the natural world. I wrote the essays to help spark your process of understanding your own connection to the natural world, your own associations with the wild and untamed parts of yourself. You'll find entries on night and sky and parakeets, wind and mud and rain, snakes and tea and thistle. You'll read about the folklore, myth, stories, and symbols connected to each theme. You'll hear about my experiences with the natural world, as well as those of friends, clients, and others. At the end of each essay, you'll find questions. You may want to journal on just one or on all. You may find yourself journaling on what you found in the text or on any ideas that come. It's up to you.

I include a lot of history and myth and folklore because information about the earth from past cultures can help us look at the earth as living and to see it in more imaginative ways. It can help inform our writing. A physicist can tell you that the earth is a mass of atoms, but that doesn't mean it isn't also the ground that the Goddess Mother gave you. Buddhists believe that the rope is the way humans came to earth. Only souls could ascend it to heaven. The Mayan Indians believed there were four pillars of kapok trees at the four corners of the earth to hold it down, and these trees were protected by supernatural guardians. The bottom part of the globe was seen as feminine and the skies masculine. Together they made up the circle of the world.

Through myths we can establish and explore our identity. A myth may present a moral behavior, and we can identify whether we value this behavior or not. The phoenix was so gentle it alighted on nothing and fed on no living thing but dew. This is the same bird that rises to life again from its own ash three days after its death. The appearance of the phoenix signified peace and benevolent rule. We can write what this means to us about authority or what moral lesson is suggested here.

I have tried to call on myths that don't demean women. In this regard, I sometimes use myths as a jumping off place and continue with a story that would better satisfy our souls. Or I might suggest you make up your own story or myth.

We will look at nature in symbolic terms. A symbol can represent some deep, intuitive wisdom that eludes direct expression. We know that this is true when we stumble onto a symbol, perhaps from a dream, that grips us intensely. As we dream of the world burning, we might sense that we have lost our fire while we are living a busy life. We may discover the many meanings fire has for us.

I am reminded that early American peoples recognized dreams as special times of communication between humans and the supernatural world. In dreams, humans can contact companion spirits and enter dialogues with ancestors and gods. Because of this, we'll pay attention to our dream symbols in this book.

Archetypal symbols, or universal images, have always been with us. They can not be explained rationally or explained away by rational arguments. Take, for instance, the dragonfly with its existence documented in fossils back to ancient times, more than 180 million years ago, and its archetypal meaning of immortality and regeneration. With its amazing pigments that reflect light, just like a rainbow, we know it is one of our ancient ancestors, spreading beauty over our ponds and marshlands. We could believe that, just as dragons were strict guardians of the temples, the dragonfly, as it hovers, flies backwards, and speeds along at 30 mph, guards the temple of heaven and allows us passage with just our longing.

We will also look at the meanings ascribed to the elements: earth, fire, water, and air. As Barbara G. Walker writes in The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, The real origin of the elements lay somewhere in the Neolithic Age, when people discovered that there are only four possible ways to dispose of their dead (other than cannibalism): burial, cremation, sinking in waters, or exposure to carrion birds of the air. All four of these funerary practices were known to the ancients, who envisioned death as a reversal of birth, a return to the Mother who brought forth all life in the world. It is through Greek literature that this knowledge was passed into European tradition.

Nature has its clues and gives answers. The American folklore of the horse-shoe for luck shows us that we have symbols and ways to be helped by the animal world. We can see a raccoon in the park and begin to write how it feels to see such a pretty fellow. From this feeling we might write about the raccoon as the masked part of ourselves. We can explore how we want to be both revealed and concealed to ourselves and others. We can ask ourselves through journal writing what this is about for us.

We can use our journal writing to muse about what the animals know. For instance, birds know how high or low to build their nests in any given season. If we notice their building habits and the heights of the nests, we can tell when flooding will happen. We can call on this wisdom in our writing.

We can look beyond and beneath traditional rituals for their origins in the earth. Baptism rituals were originally centered on motherhood and the maternal prerogative of name-giving. Mothers pronounced their infants' names while squirting them with milk from their breasts, writes Barbara G. Walker. She goes on to say, The Egyptians did a great deal of baptismal dipping, sprinkling, anointing, and washing with holy water sacralized by protective or healing charms pronounced over it…. When the (Christian) church adopted infant baptism, the ritual was promptly taken out of the hands of mothers and placed in the hands of priests, who claimed that all children were demonic ‘children of darkness’ as a result of passing through the female body and inheriting original sin. Hey, we can use knowledge and writing to reclaim what is ours.

There are some cultures such as the Laguna Pueblo people who felt stories held the sacred spirit of the people. To honor their stories and to tell them at birth and death, in times of joy and sorrow, gave honor to their histories and all times. When the cycle of stories was broken, so was the entire heritage of the Laguna, and the spirit was broken. The ritual of storytelling at all important functions held the tribe together with the past, present, and future generations.

In the novel, Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fist Fight in Heaven, the author, Sherman Alexie, demonstrates his character's unity with the earth in his writing, Nobody dreams all the time because it would hurt too much but James keeps dreaming and sleeping through a summer rainstorm and heat lightning reaching down a hand and then a fist to tear a tree in half and then to tear my eyes in half with the light. We had venison for dinner. We ate deer and its wild taste shook me up and down my spine. James spit a mouthful out on the floor and the dogs ate and ate what they could find and the deer grew in my stomach. The deer grew horns and hooves and skin and eyes that pushed at my rib cage and I ate and ate until I could not feel anything but my stomach expanding and stretched full.

It is my wish that through the telling of these stories, and the deepening of your own connections through your writing, that you will better enjoy a rainbow or a tree with angel's wings in a storm. When you see two trees dose together I hope you think of the Hindu tradition whereby trees were tied together in the hope for marriage and better fruit. I want you to be able to take a walk, notice the weather, and think of stories told and stories you could make up and tell.


In this book you will find fifty-two essays on the natural world—everything from mud to winter to moon to hair to dawn. At the end of each essay you will find questions to jumpstart your writing process. I structured the book so that it could be used weekly over the course of a year. If that suits you, great. If not, do whatever is comfortable. If you want to read and write on a daily basis, do that. Or every few days. If you don't want to keep to a schedule, that's fine, too.

The questions are designed to help