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The Joy of Earth

Spring! The air, sweet with the smells of growing things, makes me feel like I’ve gotten out of prison. Like the alveolae in my lungs can expand more now, take in more oxygen: I feel more energy zinging from them into my whole body.

I want to go wandering: in my garden, in the woods, down the street ... looking and looking at all the life coming up, blossoming, burgeoning. My shoulders itch to use my weed-pulling muscles. On impulse I lean down and grab the crown of an offender, tugging gently. It resists, and I grab it lower, plunging fingers into the cool, moist soil: the sensation galvanizes me.

Or I want to put a blanket on the newly green lawn and take a nap in the midst of birdsong, breeze, natural light ... even the natural magnetism of the earth, so different from the magnetic fields created by household electricity. Or picnic sitting on that blanket.

Makes me wonder, when I read about NASA’s plans to create living environments in space: can human beings really get along without direct contact with the living earth?

In the 1972 movie “Silent Running,” the hero almost kills the plants on his greenhouse space station when he moves it into shadow. Actually scientists are familiar with providing artificial light to plants in artificial conditions. It’s other variables they’re just starting to explore: differences in gravity, cosmic radiation.... The first soybeans harvested from plants grown in space contained more sugar than their earthbound parents, less oil and protein — probably a response to higher carbon dioxide levels in the space station atmosphere.

Ancient Greeks expressed the interconnection between all life on Earth in the myth of Demeter, goddess of growing plants, and her daughter Persephone, goddess of the joy of life. When the god of the underworld stole Persephone away to his dark kingdom, Demeter grieved and raged, destroying the world’s vegetation and threatening human life.

Eventually a compromise returned Persephone to the surface for part of the year. Thus fields are fertile in the warm seasons, and dormant in the cold. The purpose of myth is not to explain facts the way science does, rather by embodying them in story, to reach our deep mind, and express the truth of feelings.

I have a feeling people who live in space will risk sea-changes we can hardly imagine, and feel primal hunger for the Earth.

© Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 13 May 2005

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