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The Commons
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Voices / Viewpoint

How does Earth gift us? Let us count the ways.

Let us appreciate Earth, our magical garden isle

Peter Adair writes to commemorate Earth Day on Sunday, April 22. He produces annual calendars that celebrate the cosmos and our planet. Information:

Originally published in The Commons issue #404 (Wednesday, April 19, 2017).

Just 22 miles straight up — the distance from Brattleboro, Vt. to Greenfield, Mass. — we see our sun not in a beautiful blue sky but as a churning star in the vast black of space.

Earth, our cozy home, is insulated from the harshness of space by a thin blanket of atmosphere — the equivalent thickness of an apple skin around a large apple. Plants, and microorganisms in the oceans, daily replenish the oxygen supply of our nourishing and protective air. We humans receive these gifts as a recent species on the planet, new minds and hearts to appreciate Earth, our magical garden isle.

How are we gifted? Let us count some of the ways.

* * *

We reside in the Milky Way galaxy, one of hundreds of billions of graceful spiral galaxies. Each bejeweled arm of a spiral galaxy is a region of flourishing star birth. The nurturing arms of the galaxy are paired strands of a cosmic DNA, ensuring the propagation of stars and their offspring: planets such as Earth.

Our Sun, a million times larger than Earth, is the star of the show, generously bathing our planet with radiant energy. Early Earth’s sensitive microbial life responds to our star’s outpouring. Earth falls in love with the Sun, and photosynthesis is born. It is photosynthesis that allows plant and animal life to exist on Earth. Our Sun is the harbinger of marvels.

Earth’s luminous daughter, the Moon, brightens the evening sky. She is the mistress of Earth’s vital rhythms. Our planet’s pulsing tides, turning seasons, 24-hour rotation, and most mysteriously, the cycle of human ovulation are all under her sway. Earth’s Moon is a companionable and comforting presence.

With 70 percent of its surface covered by water, Earth is a glowing oasis in the heavens. Through the qualities of absorption, exchange, and movement, water shapes the primary capacities of life. In fact, 99 percent of all the molecules comprising our bodies are water molecules. More than we ever dreamed, the living Earth is a water planet.

From a single-celled origin — much as we grow from a single fertilized egg into a vibrant human — Earth’s life metamorphoses into the multicellular world of plants, animals, and fungi. This is the sensuous life world, a world of sensation and feeling, the world of smells, tastes, sounds, sights, and touches. Earth revels in the experience of itself.

* * *

Humans blossom into a planetary species and a new power of the planet. We are a deepening of Earth’s capacity for comprehension and feeling. The maturing of humanity into a global species occurs amidst a corresponding global crisis: in effect, a planetary initiation.

We are challenged to become the budding shoots of an Earth awakening to its caring heart, exquisite beauty, and creative power.

This is a gift we can celebrate!

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