A prayer by Walter Brueggemann hangs above my desk. I pray it nearly every day but the petition seems most poignant on Earth Day.

Today I started two wee plantings from my dear friend; brushed from my fingers little bits of good earth; felt the joyful anticipation of sprouting life. 

 Radish and parsley pots.

Radish and parsley pots.

Plants have always been comforting to me. My earliest botanical memories are of the potted Christmas cactus and aloe vera that my mom lovingly moved from house to house… it was a season when we were frequently in transition. Those potted plants were a constant.

Only now do I know how hard it is to keep potted plants alive. I’ve resorted to cactuses, mostly, and a few herbs for cooking. I wonder how my mom did it.

My parents tried to cultivate children with green thumbs: we were responsible for yard work and gardening from an early age. During various seasons throughout the transition years, we planted vegetable gardens, none of which were terribly successful. We would set up trellises and attempt to grow green beans but the green beans never reached our kitchen. I ate every single one.

Every year on Mother’s Day, my sister and I bought my mom a hanging fuchsia. I don’t know if my mother ever expressed an interest in fuchsia, but it was our liturgy.

After the transition years, when we were no longer on the move and had built my parents’ house, I took up gardening as an adolescent. My dad cleared a patch for an herb garden, as herbs were a newly discovered passion, and set up a stone bench in it, made from a massive piece of shale we had wrenched from the ground. We broke the stubborn red clay and added fertile soil and laid mulch. Neighbors divided their African irises and chocolate peppermint to donate toward my efforts. I bought a miserable bleeding heart on clearance from the supermarket which leafed out into the most stunning bush imaginable.

 Mini radish pot.

Mini radish pot.

I’m not sure what these memories from my early agrarian enterprises represent on Earth Day. I was not an environmentalist then. I only knew how much I felt at home in that little herb garden, and how easily I could talk to God there. I didn’t know about soil erosion, but I remember how my heart would ache when a heavy rain would wash away seeds that I had lovingly tucked into the earth, full of hope. I knew the earth was sacred. Those vivid impressions formed me into the advocate that I am today.

Today, at my spiritual director’s prompting, I’m trying to spend more time outdoors, where I can perceive God with greater ease. I take turns around the city park and I can pray there, and on the days when I cannot pray, I can hear the earth pray.

So on this Earth Day, I’m return to that Brueggemann prayer pasted over my desk. If Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann isn’t sitting on your bookshelf, may I suggest it? Until your copy arrives, let us pray on Earth Day:

Speaking, acting, life-giving God, the one with the only verbs that can heal and rescue,

We come petitioning one more time,

seeking your majestic address to us,

asking your powerful action among us,

waiting for your new life toward us.


Your creation teems with bondaged folk

who don’t have enough for life,

not enough bread, not enough clothes,

not enough houses, not enough freedom,

not enough dignity, not enough hope.


Your creation teems with bondaged creatures,

great valleys become trash dumps,

great oceans become dumped pollutions,

fish wrapped in dumped oil,

fields at a loss for dumped chemicals.


So we pray for creation, that has become a dump,

and for all your people,

who have been dumped,

and dumped upon.


Renew your passion for life,

work your wonders for newness,

speak your word and let us begin again.


In your powerful presence, we resolve to do our proper work,

but we are not self-starters.


We wait on you to act, in order that we may act.

Show yourself in ways that give us courage and energy and freedom,

that we may love our neighbors as ourselves,

care for your creation as a holy sanctuary,

and praise the glory of your name, which fills the whole earth.


We pray in the savaged power of Jesus, who loved and cared and praised.