“I lay out big like New Mexico tonight, the stars speckling the skies in every direction,” I wrote after relaxing outside my parents’ home under New Jersey skies. “It makes me aware of how amazing it is to be walking on this earth. What a gift it is to be inside this wonder—to know that every day we have this, yet we crowd our thoughts and lives with so much that clutters our view.”
Then, it seemed, life felt more alive, more resilient, inside the warmth of summer. I was reminded of what I had once had. I had danced in New York City before becoming injured, and I had lived in New Mexico where the earth and her big skies had invited me to slow down, even though I wasn’t ready.
“When I think of dancing now, I think of an inspiration that followed me, almost stalking me. I still feel how beautiful it was to dance, to take that deep breath that is dance,” I wrote. “I want to start again, slower this time, with care and love, listening and understanding that this body is my love, my gift. When I do, I will know how a body is, what a body means, how it is mine in more than dance to take care of.”
That day in New Jersey was like today in New Mexico. Storm clouds cleared to reveal snow-covered mountain peaks as the sun melted the cool breeze dancing inside springtime. I stretched, walked with a friend, and enjoyed being in this body that has been through so much—so much of my neglect and taking for granted the gift of what I had been given. I remember how, when I had lived in California (after leaving New Mexico, and before that, New York City), I had felt such immense despair at not being able to get out onto the land…with the idea of not having open skies, trees, fresh air, and water to bathe in when my soul felt weary.
Back then, I had taken for granted my body’s gift—the gift of housing my soul, my life’s force—and, in the pursuit of becoming someone, forgot the importance of my connection to the earth. Now I know how precious both are, and that, in our neglect, it can take a long time to repair the damage we’ve done.
Today, I think about how we, as Americans, have been blessed with living on this breath-taking land once called Turtle Island by Indigenous Americans. Yet, recently, our leader has threatened to roll back protections for land and air. It’s in the name of progress and jobs, President Donald Trump says. Yet there’s no progress when we can’t drink the water, breath the air, and celebrate this body of life we’ve been given.
There’s no progress when we no longer wake to visible sunrises or share in the diversity of people, plants, and animals that makes this earth so precious.
I reflect on my journey of unraveling the layers of my mind’s clutter so that I can care for my body, my home, and live from a place of greater gratitude for this earth life we have been given. For me, pain cleansed and cleared away layers that maybe, without it, would still be blinding me from the gift of my body and this earth.
Maybe, just maybe, we don’t need so much pain to learn the gift of what we have right here, in front of us, though. Maybe, as we journey together through the troubled maze of our time, we can all let go of the clutter we’ve carried and make room for a more sustainable and healthy earth walk.
Michelle Adam is an experienced writer, teacher, and healer. She recently published her novel, Child of Duende, after twenty-plus years as a magazine and newspaper writer. Her articles have appeared in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine; Hibernia Magazine, an Irish magazine; Vista Magazine, a Hispanic insert of major national newspapers; and multiple other publications.
Michelle has also been a photographer and artist; has taught middle school students Spanish for the past dozen years; and has worked as a healer and shaman. Michelle has created healing and teaching circles of song and sound, assisting others in awakening the spirit of the earth, “duende,” within them, and creating a space for the celebration of life.