“It’s not really a cheerful topic,” my friend ventured as she zeroed in on my book title.
“No,” I thought to myself. “It’s not intended to be.”
In fact, I wrote Earth and Soul: Reconnecting amid Climate Chaos because I am deeply concerned about devastating losses that we seem intent on ignoring. I liken it to walking along the edge of a steep cliff. Waves are crashing on the rocks below and part of the cliffside has been eaten away and crumbled into the sea. Choosing to ignore our precarious position, we sing loudly and turn our eyes from the dark storm clouds moving our way.
We are living on the edge. We have lost nearly half of North American songbirds since 1970, and that is only one example of many that illustrate extensive biodiversity loss. Our planet is warming; 2023 was hotter that it has been on Earth for 125,000 years. I am tired of explaining climate change and trying in vain to get people to change their actions. I am looking for another way to connect on these issues. I chose to write a book as if it might matter.
Arriving at the decision to write a book was many years in the making. Perhaps it began with training on climate change I received from former Vice President Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project over a decade ago. For several years I faithfully presented that slide show with its shocking photos of floods, heat, fires, drought, disease, and famine caused by our burning of fossil fuel. Audiences were attentive and concerned but seemed ill-equipped to take the next steps. I began to wonder how we could summon the will to live differently if we didn’t deeply love Earth.
As a pilgrimage and spiritual retreat leader, I began to focus my work on reweaving our connections to Earth, inviting participants to engage in awe and wonder, gratitude and reciprocity. I led book groups and taught classes that supported this calling. I started Church of the Wild Two Rivers that meets monthly to deepen our spirituality in nature and features as our “sermon” a 40-minute silent wander in the woods to remember our kinship with all. On behalf of the Center for Spirituality in Nature, I co-developed and led with Beth Norcross The Spiritual Wisdom of Trees, a six-module video series that will soon become a book as well. Each of these experiences offered opportunities to hone my understanding of what it means to live fully alive to these times on the edge. It seemed that they were life-giving to many who participated, and they found kindred souls on this most-difficult journey.
And yet, there is always more than can be said in a weekend retreat or a week-long pilgrimage, additional experiences that are invited, deeper connections that land, sea, and sky want from us. The pace needs to vary for each; we cannot simply “move on” from a conversation about grief because it’s time to leave the retreat center. I longed to offer the wonderful, trusting participants something to take with them into the chaos of these days. I wanted to encourage each to go deeper, linger longer, engage in soul work, stay with the natural world until we hear her, and find the holy within and around it all. I wanted to provoke conversations about what it means to live as fully as possible in these times of loss, joy, heartbreak, wonder, chaos, and possibility and to lay steppingstones to a future of mutual thriving beyond our lifetimes.
To write as if it mattered, I could not pull my punches. I would have to begin with what I understand to be true: We cannot undo all that we have done. We face increasing loss and devastation in our lifetime. Chaos will be our companion. We must hold deep sorrow even as we draw on the beauty and joy that still thrive on this precarious cliff-edge. To do so calls for deep engagement with and trust in the living world around us, remembering that the beings with whom we share this world have wisdom, agency, and experience far vaster than ours.
The process of writing this book contained some delightful surprises. Actually, most of the surprises were not delightful in real time although in looking back, they became so. My first discovery was that I didn’t know things I thought I knew. When it came to conveying what I meant by “soul,” for example, it took extensive reflection, reading, writing, and rewriting – and then I’m still not sure that I was able to fully convey what I had hoped. My understanding of some concepts evolved over the writing of the book; in other instances, I tried to describe what is beyond words.
Without the give and take of questions, conversations, and nonverbal exchanges, I needed to remember to let stories carry the conversation. Indeed, writing this book became my own journey of discovery.
I am putting this book into the world because I want to have conversations about how we may live in edge times. Whether this takes the form of leading retreats, offering keynote addresses, Zooming with book groups, or meeting in small circles in a living room, this is the conversation I feel called to have for as long as I am able. No, my friend, it’s not a cheerful topic. But to me, this is the conversation that matters.
Earth and Soul: Reconnecting Amid Climate Chaos
Facing directly into the devastation of climate chaos and biodiversity loss, Rampy leads her readers on a soul journey through grief and loss to also claim the beauty, joy and possibilities available when we reconnect with Earth. As we follow the author’s compelling personal experiences and engagingly lyrical stories of whales, cedars, sparrows, and more, we see the necessity and urgency of learning from the wisdom of our kin in the natural world. Writing at the intersection of spirituality, ecology, and story, Rampy charts a course for living deeply connected to Earth in ways that are both vitally important for and uniquely suited to these times. Even now when the world as we once knew it is ending and a new story lies beyond what we can envision, we hold the potential to lay stepping stones toward a diverse and vibrant world of oneness and mutual flourishing.
This post was originally written by Leah Rampy for Women Writers, Women's Books.