I am quite taken by the photo below. The combination of the sun rising or setting over a mountain, and the wonderment about what the people are doing at that time of day wading in the water.
Before you read the explanation at the bottom of this SEP*, take your guess what is happening. Is it a rescue? Or a ritual?
Well, it’s actually both. Native Hawaiians are arriving ashore to restore a sacred island they have successfully rescued following decades of struggle to halt its use for bombing practice by the U.S. Navy. Their liberation movement is called, aloha aina, the Love of the Land. Aloha aina evokes such simple, direct meaningful language for what our planetary movement must embrace: Love of the Land. To truly love the land. To love the place where we live, its beauty, its scents, its soil. To love the blue-marbled orb that holds is all.
I learned about a thought process recently that goes like this. We must first love our land, our place. When we truly love it, we will seek to understand it, to know its ways. And then when we truly know our land we will want to care for it, cherish it, protect it. The same could be said of everything we love, of course - our children, our partners, our deep friendships. If we love something we will not be as inclined to exploit it, harm it. What has happened to us personally and as a species that so many of us have lost that sense of protective, redemptive love for our land?
We can assume from the photo that the Hawaiians wading ashore never lost that love. I think that is what is so evocative of the event the photo has captured - a celebratory homecoming. I also assume that many other indigenous people have held that sacred trust as well. When I hear the prayers and praise to the Four Directions of our First Nation people I often sense such deep humility and gratitude and reverence for the life and land and all that has created it. In our Western so-called Enlightenment and industrialized cultures the sense of sacred has often been reduced to romanticized photos, paintings, and college mascots - or worse, gross exploitation. Thank goodness the poets and mystics and many of you have helped us remember the wonder of the song of the thrush, the scent of spring and fall, among the banquet of sensuality we have access to - and the miracles of interconnectedness and interdependence that surround us.
I am trying to foster practices that help me hold the sacred in my life. I have taken to stepping outside early in the morning and just breathing, “greeting the day” I call it. Here on Whidbey I try to savor the moments when the mountains emerge from the clouds, when the eagle flies by, when I notice a new flower or the sprig of new life emerging from the seed I planted a week ago. I need to practice loving the land. When I do - when WE do - we will want to know it and protect it. The process starts with us and gets modeled and shared with our children and our friends, our communities. We will want to celebrate successes in protecting it like the Hawaiians.
Peace, and Blessings of Aloha Aina,
PS This is written from Cambridge, MA, next to the Charles River, where we are visiting family and meeting a new granddaughter, Soraya.
Inspiration from Yes Magazine online.