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Center for Action and Contemplation
Loving God Through Creation
Loving God Through Creation

Our Natural Ancestors

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

All Saints’ Day

We now turn our thoughts to the Creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator. Now our minds are one. —Thanksgiving Address, Haudenosaunee Confederacy

Potawatomi author Kaitlin Curtice invites us to consider how we pray in, for, and with nature:

The gifts of prayer—of sweetgrass, sage, tobacco, and cedar—are said to have been given to us to keep us connected to Segmekwe, Mother Earth, to share her good gifts and to ask Creator to hear us, to be present with us. As a Potawatomi person, I pray to remember, and I pray to keep the shkodé, the fire, lit inside of me….

Growing up in the Baptist tradition, I heard little mention of communicating with God through the earth. On Sundays, we would often hear sermons about how prayer is something we should just try harder at, instead of something we enter into. When I began to pray in Potawatomi, I understood something different about prayer—that it is a holistic act that involves all of me, and all of the creatures around me, communing with God.

If we truly believe that God surrounds us, we believe that prayer is an everyday experience of being alive…. When you step outside and engage with the world in quiet listening, prayer will happen, and it will take on its own way of being for you. Perhaps prayer is just poetry, and we are living the expressions of what it means to be human. This is why Creator gave us gifts to remember.… When I burn sage or lay tobacco down, I know that I am tethered to a love that has remained steady throughout the centuries and that always calls me back to its own sacredness. And that sacredness will always lead me back out to the world to do the work of love.

Curtice frequents a state park on land where the Muscogee Creek and Cherokee peoples lived:

I hear the trees speaking, and they remember everything. As the rocks invite me to sit, they’re asking me to take a moment to remember. And when the water stills to reflect the blue Georgia sky, I am being asked to remember, to reclaim something. So I lay my tobacco on the water’s surface and whisper, “You’re not forgotten.” I listen to the ancestors and to the created world that longs to tell its own stories. I whisper a prayer to Kche Mnedo, to Mamogosnan, Creator, who never forgets, who knows the language of every tribe…. If we listen, the land is speaking. If we listen, we are doing the active work of paying attention, not only to our own lives but also to history telling its own story again and again.

Reference:

Kaitlin B. Curtice, Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2020), 70, 71–72, 73.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Loïs Mailou Jones, Jeune Fille Français (detail), 1951, oil on canvas, Smithsonian; Textile Design for Cretonne (detail), 1928, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian; Eglise Saint Joseph (detail), 1954, oil on canvas, Smithsonian. Click here to enlarge image.

Creation teaches us to love God in all Her death, decay, fallow times, insemination, growth, blooming and life and death and life.

Story from Our Community:  

Every day I walk in the woods and meadows surrounding our home I discover mysteries in nature that fascinate and inspire me, whether it be a tiny flower, an old stump … or a beautiful bird in flight. While I ramble, I search for my favorite ephemerals just emerging after a long winter, for squirrel nests high in the branches … and for my favorite tree among the many I love. The beauty I see and the sounds of nature overwhelm my senses. Even on my most stressful times, I feel a calmness and overwhelming sense of well-being. When I look up at the brilliance of sky and clouds framed by towering trees, I am humbled, prayerful and grateful for these moments of being one with nature. —Alice H.

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