“My heart is moved by all that I cannot save.”
Fifty-three enthralled participants at the Earth Sabbath Celebration at Asheville’s St. Mary’s Church sang those words in February. Our hearts were opened, and many were moved to tears. Sandra Smith, founder of Holy Ground, led a remarkable celebration of interfaith spirituality that included silence, music, reflection, sharing and dance.
The historic Chapel at St. Mary’s Church framed the evening. The candlelight, voices of the three-woman choir singing the Native American prayer, Let Us Know Peace, the altar of flowers, blooming shrubs and root vegetables, and the timber framed and old red brick walls of the sanctuary created an atmosphere in which all were invited to let go of the mind chatter and tensions of the day, and come into communion with people who share the values of earth and social justice.
Sandra asked us to relate a personal remembrance with someone sitting close by of an experience of nature as a child. Jean Larson, NCIPL’s volunteer co-coordinator for the Earth Sabbath Celebrations in Asheville, recalls “My partner told me that as a child 60 years ago she was in a cabin in the northern Wisconsin woods and heard wolves calling in the night. They no longer call there, they are gone, she said sadly.” A few minutes later, I thought of Laura and her wolves, when we sang Adrienne Rich’s words set to music by Carolyn McDade: “My heart is moved by all I cannot save: so much has been destroyed I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” Then our hearts opened even wider, and we all mourned the loss of beloved flora, fauna, and entire habitats that are disappearing because of our ordinary way of living.
There was no need to speak about connection. We already were connected through our grief. When I spoke to the celebrants, my eyes teared. I was moved beyond words. I briefly spoke about NCIPL’s programs and invited those present to return again on the 4th Monday in March, when Rabbi Rob Cabelli will lead the Celebration. We closed with a Sufi dance to physically connect in a song and dance about peace. This movement and singing was a wonderful way to direct our sorrow with purpose and focus into love and peace. Moving together in strength and support.
Days later, my heart is still wide open. As Jean said, “I am in the moment in gratitude for the grace and wisdom embodied in the Celebration” and I am thankful for the work of Jean, Sandra, the musicians, singers, and dance leaders.
–Richard Fireman, NCIPL Public Policy Advisor