Is Mother Nature a lovely goddess draped in green? Or an old hag that stirs up violent tornadoes? If you dare, I’m going to share one of life’s special mysteries. And why it’s important for you, me, everyone to care.
Let’s begin with a story. Once upon a time, in my garden…
Bees, poppies, and worm poop
On a sunny morning, 16 third-graders arrived at our house. Their class project: Discover what makes good garden soil.
First, we toured the garden. It was lush with blue poppies, crinkly kale, and garlic plants that towered over them like bamboo. We sniffed handfuls of dirt and balanced earthworms on our fingers. (When I mentioned worm poop, I heard a resounding “Yuck!”)
I pointed to the cherry tree. “See? It’s full of white blossoms and honeybees.”
“Does that tree make real cherries?” someone asked.
“It sure does,” I said. “But if the tree isn’t planted in good soil, it might get sick. That means no flowers for the bees and no cherries for a pie. See how it’s all connected?”
They nodded their heads. I ushered them across the lawn to the compost bins. The kids jostled into a semi-circle. They cradled notebooks in their arms, pencils poised.
“You know what? We don’t buy soil from the store,” I said. “Instead, we like to make compost from seaweed, grass clippings, and leaves. Even egg shells and burnt toast. And then, after about six weeks, we stir it into the garden.
“When we compost, we copy what mother nature makes under the spruce trees and alders.”
A small hand shot up. “S’cuse me. Who is mother nature?”
Most of the students stared at their feet.
“Does anyone know who mother nature is?” I asked.
One girl looked up and whispered. “Is it the small plants in the woods?”
“Is it the wind?” asked another.
A boy in the center, who hadn’t said a word all morning, raised his hand.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Is it… is it God?”
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Wow, from the mouth of babes.
Which reminds me. Here is one of my favorite definitions of Mother Nature (from the Merriam-Webster dictionary):
A goddess known by many names
When you say the word lemon, most people visualize a round, yellow fruit. Mention Mother Nature and you’ll lose a few folks.
Yet legends about Mother Nature have captured imaginations for centuries.
Even in advertising.
In the 1970s, a TV ad featured a Mother Nature character. Upset that she has mistaken Chiffon margarine for butter, she responds with the trademarked slogan: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” (Underscored by thunder and flashes of lightning).
It’s no wonder she has so many names. For example:
- Papahānaumoku or Papa (Hawaiian)
- Mother Earth
- The Earth Mother
- Jord (Norse mythology)
- Pachamama (Inca legend)
- Mother Gaia
- Divine Mother
- Venus (Roman mythology)
- Dewi Sri, The Rice-mother (East Indies)
Who is Mother Nature in Greek mythology?
In Greek and Roman mythology, Mother Nature is nurturing and life-giving. Qualities that only a mother could know, right?
By the way, in case you’ve wondered why we have winter, spring, summer, and fall, the following tale explains how they came to be. (Plus it’s a great bedtime story)…
Once upon a time, Persephone, daughter of Demeter (goddess of the harvest), was kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld as his queen. Demeter was so upset that no crops would grow. People were going to starve. Zeus, the sky and thunder god, stepped in and forced Hades to return Persephone to her mother.
Oh, no! Horrors!
Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds. This meant she must spend part of each year with Hades in the underworld. Demeter’s grief for her daughter suffering in the underworld is manifested in the dark months of winter. And her joy when Persephone returns to earth is reflected in the beautiful summer months.
Speaking of seasons, I took this photo in early November, just down the street from where I live on Kodiak Island. It goes to show that Mother Nature is alive and well at low tide!
Remember at the beginning of this article, where I suggested that Mother Nature could be a beautiful goddess or an old hag? Yes, Mother Nature has quite a reputation.
So to get to know this gal, we need to know…
What are the qualities of Mother Nature?
I dove into Deepak Chopra’s Chopra Center website where we find an excellent description of the many facets of Mother Nature.
Shakti is a popular and powerful symbol that embraces the feminine aspect of creation. In Hinduism, Shakti is the Divine Mother who gives birth to and nurtures new life, whether a newborn baby, a new relationship or a fresh idea.
Shakti is neither male or female. She is called the Divine Mother because she’s considered the source of all creation. You, me, mountains, trees, giraffes, spiders, stars.
Wealth, music, generosity…
Her qualities embrace love, devotion, and protection. Wisdom, learning, and musical expression. As well as wealth, purity, and generosity.
“Without this divine energy and nurturing love, well, there would be no existence,” says Chopra, “There would be no tenderness and joy.”
Thank you, Julia Roberts: Mother Nature examples…
As a photographer, I love being outside, taking pictures (or should I say portraits) of Mom Nature. And that’s why I love this video, Nature is Speaking (length 1:58 minutes). It’s narrated by Julia Roberts and contains stunning images and a compelling message.
And then, what is a discussion about nature without a poem?
My favorite Mother Nature poem was written by Emily Dickinson, published in 1896.
Nature, the gentlest mother,
Impatient of no child,
The feeblest or the waywardest, —
Her admonition mild
In forest and the hill
By traveller is heard,
Restraining rampant squirrel
Or too impetuous bird.
How fair her conversation,
A summer afternoon, —
Her household, her assembly;
And when the sun goes down
Her voice among the aisles
Incites the timid prayer
Of the minutest cricket,
The most unworthy flower.
When all the children sleep
She turns as long away
As will suffice to light her lamps;
Then, bending from the sky
With infinite affection
And infiniter care,
Her golden finger on her lip,
Wills silence everywhere.
We love snippets. Here are some favorite Mother Nature quotes
Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. ~ Dr. Seuss
If you can’t be in awe of Mother Nature, there’s something wrong with you. ~ Alex Trebek
I got a rock. ~ Charlie Brown
Mother Nature is the great equalizer. You can’t get away from it. ~ Christopher Heyerdahl
Mother Nature is always speaking. She speaks in a language understood within the peaceful mind of the sincere observer. ~ Radhanath Swami
The Earth is our mother just turning around, with her trees in the forest and roots underground. Our father above us whose sigh is the wind, paint us a rainbow without any end. ~ John Denver
I love a tree more than a man. ~ Ludwig van Beethoven
One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again? ~ Rachel Carson
“Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).” ~ Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
These are challenging times. Plastic pollution (here’s what a 10-year old is doing about it), global warming, and the increasing severity of weather around the planet. We can’t blame Mother Nature. Nor can we bury our heads in the sand.
Information spawns understanding. Understanding dispels fear.
I hope this article has provided insights as to who, or what, Mother Nature means to you. Whether it’s Gaia or God, we need Mother Nature. As John Muir said so eloquently
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
Dear reader, be kind to yourself. Make time to experience nature. And if you enjoyed reading this article, please share it with friends and family.
Cheers and blessings to you,
More links and resources for you:
1. For unique visual perspectives of our planet, check out my Tiny Planet photographs.
2. A good read: Costa Rica has doubled its forest cover in the last 30 years.
3. Did you know that a plant-based diet can save you AND the planet?
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Marion Owen is a “Jill of all trades,” with 30 years of experience as a teacher and columnist. She’s on a mission to help busy people by condensing topics such as photography, cooking, and organic gardening into bite-size pieces. Get Marion’s free 4-page “In Good Light: Photo Tips for Busy People” and feel newly recharged when taking pictures.