Every day, when I walk to and from work, I am always greeted with a multitude of yellow lilies — and I always say hello back. Over the years, I’ve taught myself how to view my land and the beings within it as my equals and allies. I’ve taught myself to view my relationship with my environment and those in it as one wherein we depend on one another, not one where I take, take, take and never say thank you.
Though it wasn’t always like this for me, I used to take my land for granted. It wasn’t until I started to listen to the botanists around me, and began embracing my Indigenous Central American culture further, that I learned about the relationship we have with our Earth is the same as any relationship we have with others — it has the capability of being healthy or toxic.
I noticed how ungrateful I was to my land after becoming aware of just how much it’s provided for me. It’s given me food to flourish from, oxygen to survive off of and songs of birds and breezes to listen to — and I realized that I never once acknowledged it, or even said thank you.
There are so many ways to say thank you to our land, and it often comes in the simplest forms. Such as, when I say hello to the lilies on my way to work in the morning — acknowledging they are there and letting them know they are a highlight of my day. If something catches your eye, whether that be a specific insect, animal, plant, river, tree or any piece of land, say hello to it. It may seem strange at first, but what I noticed is that once I acknowledged the presence of what these lilies did for my days, it made me feel both less lonely and heavy. It gave me something to look forward to on my way to work.
Once you build that connection with one piece of your environment, it becomes easier to greet the rest of it. Then, it becomes easier to look at the food in front of you and express your astonishment at how this land was able to provide such a gift for you. Once we view our relationship with this land as something to be grateful for and return the favor to, we learn to respect it a lot more — we become more connected to it in a non-objectified way. We build a healthy relationship with it.
I’ve reached the point where I feel as if the lilies understand me. They sulk in gloomy weather and perk up when the sun hits their petals. In the same way we feel, touch and breathe, so do the beings around us. It may sound strange — I thought so too once — but since embracing this manner of thinking, I’ve felt my life become fulfilling and purposeful.
Just as the plants and animals around me provide for me, I do the same for them. I accept their gifts with love, feed them in return, say hello to them and respect them — these are all glorious ways to show our gratitude.