By Zoë Schmitt, Earth Charter Young Leader (USA)
Something I’ve learned from being one fourth of a family unit, as well as from being the product of a wonderfully inclusive, real, applied and philosophical home education experience, is the ability to automatically integrate all that I observe and learn into that which I do. Learning together with my family as I grew up and experienced life in a hands-on way became the way in which I live and experience life. In my educational experience, learning is life, and life is learning. This was naturally extended into how my family farm came into my life, when we purchased the farm in 2016 and began to learn from the land in the form of a farm. Once we became farmers, farming became life, just as life had become education from my early days.
When I go out and walk on the land, I am in awe of all that simply exists here on sixty sparkling acres of land and living. I lace up my red hiking boots and zip up the warmest goose-down jacket ever known (it was my mom’s back in the early 1990s when she worked in the bitter cold American West), and I step over the threshold of our farmhouse. I stuff my hands into the pockets of my jacket ,as I trod down the misplaced driveway (farmers in the 1800s did not have aesthetics in mind when they designed farmhouses). Clump Clump Clump, my feet walk nimbly over the sharp stones, effortless and carefree due to thick, reused rubber and the softened shell of winter breaking up the strongly-held beliefs of winter mud.
I put on some quiet music on my phone and stop to take a look around. After a long day, I need to clear my head and get out and into my farm. I walk the trails winding mysteriously through the land, and begin to melt into the depths of our collective mind that makes the land and me merely one sentient self.
This is where the Earth Charter exits… hear that Coyote howling an eerie tune down by the creek’s midnight rush? That’s the Earth Charter. We are one… me, the Coyote and the Earth Charter. The Coyotes talking to each other all the time – family groups – caring, listening, learning, living and working together. Family is as family does. An Earth family.
Listen to the Spring Peepers (frogs) calling into the late evening dusk. Can you hear the males calling?… meeee? meee? meee? They have recently emerged from their muddy home on the banks of the big pond, eager to release a wintertime’s length of songs for the ladies that have been germinating in their stretchy throats. They sing the song of the Earth Charter.
See the boughs of the tall, majestic Norway Spruces who have been silently growing from the deep, harsh, clay soil for many decades. These tree branches swoop and sway in a final festive dance as the winds pick up with the rapidly descending sun. Their Earth Charter dance praises their right to be… their right to pay homage to the Great Source, that which rises in the morning and leaves momentarily at dusk, always to return again come dawn.
The subtle squish of mud beneath my stiff rubber soles, the billions of microorganisms doing the dirty work underneath the ground that we never see, but that we know, intuitively somehow, are always working in our best interest — as the bacteria and fungi chomp and chew their way to bigger connections and better soil. The Earth Charter exists for me as the mud of life between my toes – that slurp of life with each and every step.
The little, elegant daffodils, crispy and April misty, soft yellow like an Easter chick, clinging to the sloping hillside and blossoming into the most vibrant poem of joy — ready to smile at you when you walk by, greeting you with a simple “hello!” regardless of whether it was needed or not. Hello, Earth Charter!
The warm and pungent smell of the forest, the Black Forest as it’s always been called around here, spreading its gigantic arms towards the sky within the season of warmth and love and new beginnings. It comes to tap our shoulder once again. The smell, the sound, the touch. The compass. The embrace of the way forward.
As my walk comes to an end, I stop as I look up towards my big, old farmhouse — always silent but never listless — plopped high atop a hill by some enigmatic people long ago. The Starling couple flaps their wings as they flutter back and forth from their nest-building in the vent above the second story windows. The final gasps of sun shine on the wavy windows, unclear and a bit obscured like bright eyes through a thick mane of hair. Always watching, but never seen. The heavy stones of the foundation hold steady, but exactly how I’m not too sure… there is no longer any mortar between the foundation stones, and yet, somehow 170 years have created a pattern of thinking that solidified the concept that the foundation will stay a foundation, and the house will remain a house. Nothing more and nothing less. Always ensuring that we are, indeed, regenerating the time-tested practices of the past while bringing something new. The spots of peeling paint free themselves from their uniform smoothness, angry at the freeze-thaw tug- o- war that separates March from April and cold from warm.
I see a light turn on in an upstairs window — the hallway window — and I see the shiny, candle-replica lightbulbs gleaming self-importantly from the modest and small farmhouse-chic chandelier. This light shining from the Source, from the House, from the Family… this. This is the Earth Charter in action. This is where it all begins, where some things end, but nothing ever ceases. This is where I find myself, where I see myself, and where I continue to discover my own personal experience and purpose on this radiant green and blue globe. This is where I see the Earth Charter and see where it blooms within me. We are all little pieces of the Earth Charter, set forth to take our wonderful selves into action and show the world just how incredible we are. If we are a bird, we sing. If we are a flower, we bloom. And if we are a house, we chill and let families live in us – cuddled up in the blankets of spring chill, telling stories, howling our location, peeping our deepest desires, extending a heartfelt hello!
Above all, whether we are a person or any other form of life, we know that we are being — and we embrace that with all the love and blessing that comes with knowing that we know, but also knowing that we can love. This is my Earth Charter.