Caring for and Healing the Earth

Caretaking Experiences

Listening to the Earth

by Kevin Tincher

I grew up in southeastern Kentucky and my land was strip-mined for coal along with many thousands of acres throughout the state. My family still lives on this land and for years the destruction was so widespread only certain types of plants grew where once forests grew. For the past ten years or so, black locust and pine have tried for a foothold along with some herbs and shrubs. But this land needed more trees to provide leaf litter for soil-building.

I had wanted to plant trees there, so after the Caretaking class I decided to ask the Earth what she wanted through the "Eagle flight" exercise from the class. This is the exercise where one flies in meditation over the area and asks the Earth what she wants there. I saw many small to medium sized maple trees spread across the valley, intermixed with other native shrubs and mosses. Since it was February, I decided to wait till spring and go out and dig some suitable holes into which to transplant some maple trees.

So, in May, I went walking across the land in question and I noticed a small maple tree poking up through the mixture of decayed herbs. As I looked around, I saw that there were hundreds of small maples coming up. Through this past summer, the weak ones died but the healthy ones thrived. Moss and shrubs are returning.

I learned a valuable lesson. Always ask and listen to the Earth before starting any caretaker project. She knows what the land needs and will use us to help if we can set aside our egos and our tendency to shape the Earth into what we want it to be, and just listen with our hearts.


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