Am I paying enough attention to the incredible things around me?

Illustration: Dustin Klare

12 of 20
On an April morning, my corner of the earth fairly thrums with music: Robins sing from treetops, peepers call from the pond and the maple sap plinks as it drops into buckets. I remember how when my daughters were small, they would wrap their little arms around the trees and catch the sap on their tongues. I believe that in the same way, we all must fully embrace the wonder of the earth, a planet that provides us with everything we need. Sometimes I'm nearly overwhelmed by the deluge of gifts earth bestows on us, entirely unearned: water, air, food, the ground beneath our feet. The very things that keep us alive. So what should be our response to the generosity of the world? Paying attention to it. Drinking it in. Letting its energy flow into us. Celebrating all the experiences we have here—the physical and spiritual things, the tranquil and exhilarating things, prayer and poetry and pancakes alike. And then repaying earth with our gratitude. That robin sings her thanks at sunrise every morning. Ask yourself, "What do I do to say thanks?" Ask yourself, "Am I living in a way that the earth can be grateful for me?" We can share our human gifts—of art, of science, of action, of fierce defense for the good green world. And most of all, we can share our awe.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, PhD, professor of environmental and forest biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed)