Returning the Gift


When I don’t have the words to express what’s in my heart, I turn to the poets and my favorite writers. Lately, I find myself returning to the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer and specifically to an essay she wrote titled, Returning the Gift. It is rich with invitations for rethinking the way we relate with the Earth and is a piece that I read often as a guide for how I want to engage in this life.

I share some of her eloquent and empowering thoughts here, with the hope that her wisdom will ignite a spark in your own life as it has in mine.

“We are showered every day with the gifts of the Earth, gifts we have neither earned nor paid for: air to breathe, nurturing rain, black soil, berries and honeybees, the tree that became this page, a bag of rice, and the exuberance of a field of goldenrod and asters at full bloom.

Though we live in a world made of gifts, we find ourselves harnessed to institutions and an economy that relentlessly asks, “What more can we take from the Earth?” This worldview of unbridled exploitation is to my mind the greatest threat to the life that surrounds us. Even our definitions of sustainability revolve around trying to find the formula to ensure that we can keep on taking, far into the future. Isn’t the question we need, “What does the Earth ask of us?”

The premise of Earth asking something of me makes my heart swell. I celebrate the implicit recognition of the animacy of the Earth: that the living planet has the capacity to ask something of us, and that we have the capacity to respond…Could it be that we are more than passive recipients of her gifts, but participants in her well-being? We are honored by the request. It lets us know that we belong.

How can we reciprocate the gifts of the Earth? In gratitude, in ceremony, through acts of practical reverence and land stewardship, in fierce defense of the beings and places we love, in art, in science, in song, in gardens, in children, in ballots, in stories of renewal, in creative resistance, in how we spend our money and our precious lives, by refusing to be complicit with the forces of ecological destruction. In healing.”

You can read the whole essay HERE. I hope you will.