by Sandy Swegel
Growing up in the South, we always had a wrapped gift under the tree just in case we needed an extra gift. This was in part a combination of Southern graciousness and straight-out guilt. What if someone brought us a gift and we didn’t get one for them? Or what if someone brought a guest to Christmas and we felt sad that everyone was opening presents except that person. The extra gift was just perfect to make the holidays smooth and happy for everyone.
This year I’m thinking I need gifts under the tree for the one who gives me so many gifts but I don’t have anything for them. The Earth. The Garden. Gaia. Mother Nature. Whatever name you use.
I was reflecting on the many lists of “Gifts from the Garden” like jellies and preserves, or flower arrangements, or just the pine cones I use instead of bows in gift wrapping. And I thought of all the food the earth gave me. And the daily gift of earthly beauty.
Nature provides naturally for herself so I’m not sure what to give her. Other cultures have traditional gifts in their spiritual rituals. Native Americans offer tobacco or burnt sage, cedar or sweetgrass. Some Hindu traditions offer rice and ghee in fire rituals.
What can we modern Americans offer? A shamanic friend tells me the gift itself isn’t as important as the intention behind the gift. My intention is gratitude and acknowledging that my relationship with Nature is two-way…not just us receiving but also us giving. I haven’t decided yet what to give, but here are some of the gifts I’m considering:
Gifts For the Garden
A Gift for the birds. A feeder for the tiny birds that live in the tree across the street. Or a birdbath heater to provide water when the temperatures are far below freezing in January. The nearest lake or creek or ditch is over a mile away.
A Little Bag of Leaves. This is a symbolic gift to represent all the leaves I left unraked this year in out-of-the-way places….behind the shed, under the deck, in the garden beds…to provide winter homes for the crickets and ladybugs and all the beneficial insects…and even the aphids.
A Bigger Compost Bucket. I love to compost but sometimes in winter, it’s easier just to let things go down the disposal or put it in the City Yard Waste container. It’s still getting recycled, but the garden that gives me so much would probably appreciate extra food for its microbes and earthworms.
A Heart-shaped Stone. A friend collects these while hiking. She has at least twenty rocks in natural heart shapes that she’s run across over the years. She puts them under a tree to remind the earth how much she loves it and appreciates it.
A Little Pair of Shoes. Something for dolls or some discarded kids’ shoes. This would be a reminder to me to walk more often and leave the car at home.
You get the idea. What gift would you like to give Nature in Appreciation this year?