In terms of my spirituality and reverence toward the earth: I’m not sure I view the earth as a goddess, per se. I think the larger a spiritual being is, the harder they are for us to understand. I certainly don’t think the earth has a particular care for humans. I really like the idea behind the Gaia Complex: the earth is one living being in the sense that all the ecosystems of the Earth can be seen as one ecosystem. The earth works towards a balance in the various biospheres around the globe. I do think a goddess like Nerthus is different from the earth. Nerthus was a fertility deity associated with the earth and with plants that come from the earth. The earth as a spiritual being is the entire globe.
My relationship to nature has changed quite a lot. As a child growing up in the suburbs of Denver, I thought I had to go to the mountains to go to nature. And I spent every summer at an outdoors camp. However, in the time I’ve been working on the DP, I lived in Brooklyn, where the only nature was the beach, and then North Jersey, which is still very crowded. However, these Jersey suburbs have given me a different perspective on nature. The neighborhood I live in is filled with oak trees. There are squirrels, rabbits, possums, and skunks (and even cats) that my dog wants to chase. There are all kinds of birds. I have even seen deer while driving through certain neighborhoods. Over the summer, my neighborhood was littered with mushrooms, which I’ve never experienced before. They pop up in little groups and go away after a few weeks. And so I’ve learned to see nature in the small things.
While working on the DP, I found several different ways and places to interact with nature. In Brooklyn, I would often go to the beach and rest there in silence or maybe meditate. I also adopted a dog while in Brooklyn, and her needs and how it affected my life certainly brought me closer to ‘nature’ through my growing relationship with an animal. Otherwise it was hard to find nature in the city. But I could feel nature in the weather: the storms, the wind, the snow, the heat, and humidity. The weather is a reminder that we can’t truly control nature; sometimes we can only protect ourselves from it or else endure it.
Once I moved to Jersey, there was an abundance of nature. Again, all the trees and critters gave me a whole new perspective on nature. I would visit a large oak tree in an empty lot in my neighborhood. Often my dog and I passed it on our walks. I have meditated there several times, given offerings of thanks there, and I did a ritual to repair my relationship to Odin there. When I have visited Colorado, I make a point to go hiking. I have meditated at the end of a trail and another time I gave a natural offering to some of the oldest trees in the state.
I know that my lifestyle produces a negative impact on the environment. I watch Zero Waste and Eco Minimalist YouTube channels, and I’m amazed by what people can do, but I am not there yet. I try to recycle when I am out and about. I carry canvas bags everywhere with me, so I (almost) never need plastic bags. I drive a Prius. I try not to buy clothes, or else buy them second hand. I refuse to use straws. I don’t use dryer sheets. I just switched to a menstrual cup instead of disposable pads. I generally cook for myself and don’t get takeout. I reuse plastic storage bags as long as I can. I also go to Whole Foods to buy their bulk items (and I recently learned you can use their paper bags instead of their plastic bags to hold the bulk items). I try to donate or repurpose things and don’t like throwing things away. I try not to buy a lot, especially of seasonal items. I recycle cardboard at home. I rarely do any of these things 100% of the time, but I do them as much as I can. Here’s what I don’t do that I would like to do: I would like to recycle plastic (Jersey has post-consumer recycling, so I don’t feel I need to do this immediately); I would like to compost; I would like to be generally plastic-free, and I would like to be more vegan and more second-hand (in terms of furniture, etc). I would also like to use solar energy and get off natural gas, however these are long-term projects.
I would also like to take certain actions to help the environment in my area. Mainly, when I am able to again, I would like to donate monthly to the NJ Sierra Club. I would also like to volunteer and give donations to state parks. I could also sign petitions and encourage others to pay attention to environmental issues. I am also a big believer in making green choices easy for newbies. For instance, I’ve talked to my mom about veganism and introduced her to so many vegan foods (thank you Asia), that she practically has a vegan diet. I also like to introduce people to stores like ThredUp and MightyNest to give them a feel for second-hand shopping and transitioning to a plastic-free home.