It’s funny when strangers strike you as family. That is what happens, for me at least, each time I attend another Earth Sabbath Celebration. After a few months of travelling what feels like “out of town” from Durham to the monthly Celebration in Raleigh, on April 2, I found myself with the newly formed Durham Earth Sabbath Celebration.
To start us off, a frame drum procession entered the space, first encircling us and then entering into the group’s center. At first I couldn’t close my eyes. I was enthralled with each drummer’s focus and evident dedication to what we had all come to celebrate, the Earth. But once the procession was at my back, I had no choice but to close my eyes and reflect on what the rhythms, what that strength in sound, made me feel. Grounded—by Her.
As part of the ritual, the drummers then led us in the Calling of the Five directions (East, South, West, North and CENTER).
Once We were all in attendance, Shirin Julie Purcell, service leader introduced a Community building exercise. I emphasize the “we” and “community” because it was about connecting with other human beings and the rest of life simultaneously — as if they were one in the same thing. I think we were on to something…
Anyways, as our community builder, we paired up and without any verbal communication, took turns “guiding” our partner around the courtyard outside. Oh, and I forgot to mention that whomever was being guided not only lacked verbal clues, but also sight—we had to keep our eyes closed. I remember when my partner gently led my face one inch from a rosemary bush. Wow! At one point, he gave me the “open your eyes” hint (two shoulder taps), and directed my vision to the rising moon. It was like seeing the moon for the first time ever.
When it was my turn to guide, my favorite part was at the beginning, when I had my partner remove his shoes. As we walked the grounds barefooted, him with closed eyes , I felt it. Community! Connection! My partner and I were connected. He was trusting me, and I was thrilled to show him what I thought were some of the most special parts of the courtyard. Together, we truly felt the rest of our community beneath the soles of our feet.
Once the exercise was over, the group formed a circle and we shared a Hawaiian song and dance, focused on nurturing “the good things.” It was as beautiful as the smiles that surrounded me. The last part of the song was a time for people to offer up specific things for nurturing. “Flowers! Elephants! Clean Water!…” Our hearts were bursting with compassion.
Of course most of us shared different things; different species, different places, different wishes. But learning everyone’s passions, and how they are all part of the same planet that we love so much was both unifying and empowering.
As the sun set, we found our way back inside to share readings from some different faith traditions. Reflections of my own and of the group alike brought tears to my eyes. Some say that this work of climate justice can be lonely. After the celebration, I’m not so sure anymore.
Read more about Earth Sabbath Celebrations and how you can get involved here.
–Allison Scherberger, NC IPL Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator