“In the beginning was the dream. Through the dream all things were made, and without the dream nothing was made that has been made.” – Thomas Berry
“Working within the collective dream of our existence, we can touch the possibility of restoring our world. When we learn to truly communicate with each other, doors open–possibilities emerge, and solutions to problems become apparent.” – Felicia Norton & Charles Smith, An Emerald Earth
“Perhaps on occasion we participate in the original dream of the Earth.” – Thomas Berry
I woke at dawn to sunrise beneath the painted hills. Around me, the alfalfa was clustered with dew. My sleeping bag was wet with the sweat of the morning. I was in Klamath Falls, Oregon, renegade camping in an abandoned lot, alfalfa fields left to spread their seed.
The night before I had arrived by train. It was a long journey, made lively by mountain views and a chance encounter on the train. As I sat eating my dinner, I talked with a young man. We spoke of God.
He spoke from the Christian tradition; I spoke as a Sufi, from the lens of deep ecology. He spoke of a god that helps us to weather our storms, that helps us to reconcile our pains, our griefs, our longings. I spoke of a god that I see in the smallest things, and in the vast and incomprehensible interconnections of natural landscapes. He spoke of God as a practice, and we both spoke of God as an experience unique to each person.
A ladybug had landed on his shoulder. Unthinking, he flicked if off. And then it hit him. In his doubt, his grief, his despair, he had asked for a sign: a ladybug. For a moment he had forgotten, but in seeing this small creature, he heard God speak, and was greeted with all the trust and deep assurance that he had longed for.
As I walk through the woods, I experience a deep unity with all that surrounds me. The forest becomes my family, an extension of myself. To harm a squirrel would be to cut off my pinky finger. To tend to this wild landscape is to trim my fingernails, brush my hair. In this deep connection I experience the divine.
We talked into the night, as dusk fell and the train rolled on, rocking us back and forth as we moved into the darkness. He spoke of God as a ‘he,’ and I spoke of God as the living Earth. He found God outside of himself, and I found God within. For all our differences–different traditions, different pasts–we came together in the simple act of listening. We experienced a communion, a unity with something beyond ourselves.
I left the train with lightness in my step. I wandered the dark streets of Klamath Falls, sleeping bag in hand, and settled in a spot on the outskirts of town, where the hills lay visible, dark upon dark, and where I could hear a willow sighing in the wind. I stretched out, looking up at the stars, pinning myself as a small speck within this vast whole. My eyes grew heavy, and I fell into sleep, dreaming, that night, of God.