When the Natives say, “The Earth is my mother,” they actually mean this on all levels. We come from the stars and take on earthly form. Thereafter, we depend upon Earth for our sustenance. Long ago, we depended upon Gaia and all of her creatures for our life’s lessons, as well.

Whether we think of her as “Gaia,” “Mother Earth” or “Mother Nature,” it’s obvious we are part of her, as she is part of us. Why else would we feel such a deep emotion looking down over a fertile valley transected by a tumbling, deep blue, sparkling river, burrowing through its bed? Why would an eagle’s familiar prolonged cry tug at our hearts? The simple answer is that Nature, for us, is a deeply felt, personal connection, essential to our soul.

Often when Cedric Red Feather and I drive over a bridge here in the Cities, I immediately picture the Mandans as they were long ago, so happy in their earthlodges along the unfettered banks of the clear river that flowed so freely. There were no unnatural sounds, no burgeoning steel and concrete edifices, no air and water pollution. Only the clean, green, high vibration of the loving and caring Mother flourished, robing her humans in natural protection. What a life, the time spent living in harmony with the Natural realm. Now we are too busy playing with our phones and electronic devices to care.

Despite how “advanced” we have become, Gaia, in her patience and persistence, awaits the return of her prodigal children. We need her colors, her oxygen, the kind of serenity only she can offer. There are no strings attached. Once her plants and creatures become aware of our presence, they are ready and willing to accept and communicate with us. We find renewal in the song of the wren, the sound of rustling leaves, or the voice of a burbling creek dodging boulders in its wake. Our hearts soar with the eagle and crow, find delight in the gossip of finches.

Even now, in the midst of a prolonged wintry blast, there is love emanating everywhere within the frozen landscape. I take the river route to school so I am enriched on all sides by a variegated landscape of bare branches, brush and wetland plants. Black crows glide in complementary arcs above the still frozen river’s surface. Large, gnarled nests, layered with twists of bark, string, and plants wear fluffy white snow caps. A lone eagle soars high, looking for prey. Everywhere, under the chill blanket of polar effects, evidence of life peeks through and persists. Through rain, ice, wind, sleet and snow, Gaia sends signs of love and life.

Winter is a time of reverie, and I find myself dreaming of the ancient stone farmhouses of the beautiful Lakes District in England. I feel a pull toward the English countryside. There’s something about the bright green hills, pristine blue lakes, and asterisk-lit ocean waves below sparkling promontories that surround the United Kingdom — all of these create a fantasy fairyland.

I imagine summertime, viewed from the window of a quaint stone cottage on some remote, vernal expanse in the Cotswolds. Add: tons of lovely, old shade trees for protection; a beautiful omni-colored garden of day lilies, phlox, hyacinth and other fragrant flowers teeming with butterflies; a cushioned chair, notebook and pen; and the dream is complete.

Indeed, it is healing just imagining a life within the natural realm, a place free of worry and time constraints. Something interrupts my mental wanderings and prompts me to draw aside the vertical blinds to the sliding glass doors of our fourth floor apartment. Tall drifts of snow blanket the balcony. From the eaves, very long, rugged white-blue fingers of icicles point downward. Beyond the railing, cold branches are now frosted over in lacy white sleeves. A crow descends in slow motion atop an evergreen, its branches bowed down by weighty masses of snow. Everywhere, the landscape looks like a cozy Thomas Kincaid winter village. There is nothing to long for; everything to nourish the soul is already here.

Janet Michele Red Feather
Janet Michele Red Feather, J.D., M.A., is a ceremonial singer who has learned over 60 traditional songs in Mandan and Lakota and sings in nine different languages. Janet was a full-time defense litigator in California for nearly eight years. Her life changed significantly after she traveled to North Dakota in 1993 to fast and pray for a way of life. A regular columnist for The Edge, she has also appeared in Psychic Guidepost, FATE Magazine and Species Link. Her book, Song of the Wind (2014, Galde Press), dealt with her experiences as an empath, and her journey through Mandan spiritual culture. She is currently a full-time, tenured English faculty member at Normandale Community College, having taught Composition and Literature for a span of 20 years.

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