Dear Pope Francis,
I should probably disclose that the title of this post, Earth Wednesday, is not something I came up with. Alexandra Kovats, who is far wiser than I can probably ever hope to be, shared it with me during a recent conversation. She said that she refers to Ash Wednesday as Earth Wednesday, and I immediately latched onto the concept, for it is truly inspired.
I’ve been puzzling it over ever since we spoke. Ash Wednesday has such a ponderous and rather depressing reputation. The ashes on our foreheads, we’re told, serve to remind us that we come from ashes and dust, and to ashes and dust we shall, one day, return. Cheery, isn’t it? So motivating and inspiring. Let’s all think on our eventual incineration.
Earth Wednesday, though, now that is something that speaks to me in a powerful way. We all come from Earth, and to Earth we shall one day return. It’s the came concept as ashes, but there’s a reminder there of the bounty of Earth that we share in between our birth and death. Life is hard and painful, and suffering is something we all experience. We also experience sunshine, warm breezes, and waking up each day to the gift of life. This is what evoking Earth Wednesday brings up for me: the balance and hope present in life. Isn’t that what the Resurrection is all about?
There is more to Earth Wednesday, at least for me. It serves as a reminder that I am part of the greater Earth community, and that I live side by side with the other-than-human occupants of our planet. I exist in tandem with all of Earth’s inhabitants, as their equal in Creation. This is something that is so easy to forget, particularly when we spend our days in front of computer screens, driving cars, and going in and out of climate-controlled buildings. For the most part, except in extreme events, even bad weather is just something we endure when we have to go outside, not a true force in our lives. (Though this is shifting, I think, as climate change makes its reality felt more and more.) Trees and flowers are nice to look at, but we consider them ornamental and subject to our own whims. When we need their habitat for something, we just pull them out. The same goes for animals and insects: we eat some for food, swat away others, poison still more, and destroy where the rest live. We have become so settled in our way of thinking that the rest of the Earth community is just one large untapped resource.
I need the reminder of Earth Wednesday so I realize, once again, that I’m not only mortal, but also just a small part of creation. I’m given the gift of perspective and a chance to reconsider how I exist in the world.
When I receive my ashes today I will be thinking “I come from Earth. I am Earth. I will go back to the Earth.” For me, I think this is a good way to begin the Lenten season.
What about you? What do you think about when receiving your ashes, or on Earth Wednesday?