Earth Day: All Creatures Great and Small

“Flowers have a soul in every leaf.” Thomas Moore

I’ve been reading a lot of poetry from the 1800’s lately, expanding my sphere around Emily Dickinson’s era, and what I’ve discovered is that the Victorians had an understanding and respect for the natural world that we just do not have today.

It left me wondering why. Is it because we don’t live and work on farms anymore so we’ve lost an understanding of the very real spirituality in a flower–a horse–a cat–a blade of grass?

I don’t know, but all this reading has left me wishing we were more like them. If we spent the rest of our lives trying to plumb the mysteries of the natural wonders that surround us, being good caretakers, respecting the spark of life in every thing, I think we’d be on the right track.

I would love to see our children taught to understand this, but I don’t think it can be done in the classroom or on television. Well meaning cartoons just don’t do it. It takes getting out and living in the natural world. It takes someone pointing out these little wonders and weaving stories and magic around them. And then, this would have to be done year after year after year so that when a young man or woman comes across a beautiful Grass Widow in a field they stop and admire it and understand what it means because of what it has always meant. Only then will anyone want to caretake the earth.

I don’t know how this respect and wonder can be transferred except through hands-on experience: a greenhouse in every school? That would be a start. More field trips to our national parks? Campouts? Maybe wildflower fieldtrips where every student makes their own flower press, collects the wild flowers, presses and identifies them and researches poetry, literature and history surrounding their specimen, then creates their own story or poem? I believe, if you can teach children to care about every living thing, you are going a long way in teaching them to respect themselves and each other.

Here is a little song you may know. Funny to think this was a common belief 150 years ago. So common, it was taught to the children–woven into everything they did.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Ce­cil F. Al­ex­an­der, Hymns for Lit­tle Child­ren, 1848

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

The purple headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

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