We are all connected. We—human, bird, tree, soil—are all connected.
I believe that caring for the land is spiritual work. I believe that you can’t effectively care for people without also caring for soil and water. Racism, consumerism, and climate change—those are all connected, too.
Deep, necessary changes require us to think ecologically. We have to think locally.
I’m a forest kindergarten teacher. We spend our whole day outdoors, and one of our primary emphases is place-based learning. It’s a philosophy that says children learn more deeply when their education is rooted in their local community. In the forest school setting, that means they get to know the particular trees they see every day. They know that sweet gum leaves have a spicy smell and are shaped like stars. They understand the way the creek flows—how it rises and floods after heavy rains, how the crawfish prefer clear water and hide away when it gets too muddy. They learn early on to see the connectedness in their own backyards, equipping them to better comprehend the complexities of global issues when they’re older. Nothing happens in isolation.
As much as I love to travel, the thing that has impacted me most is spending time in my own city—in my own yard. It’s being able to recognize a certain little nuthatch who is exceptionally curious (and a bit of a daredevil), or the one hyper-vigilant robin who yells daily alarm calls late in the afternoons. It’s getting to know the tiny frog who visits my front window every night and knowing that little green spiders really love hanging out in the cherry tree in my backyard.
It’s the kind of knowing that only comes with spending extended time in a place. It can’t be rushed and it definitely can’t be earned in a weeklong vacation. (As much as I love the Colorado Rockies, I don’t know them. They feel more like friendly acquaintances than close friends.) It’s also the kind of knowing that is never really finished.
You don’t reach the end of knowing anyone—not God, not the land, not your closest friend. You get to know and continue learning to know, and sometimes, you undo everything you thought you knew and start all over again.
This kind of intimate relationship with the world around us—people, places, plants—leads us deeper into love. We can no longer make decisions primarily based on a detached sense of “logic.” We choose based on care. It gives us the ability to see that when the whole thrives, the parts do, as well.