Veganism as an Expression of Honouring
by Mary Oliver
I too have known loneliness.
I too have known what it is to feel
rejected, and suddenly
not at all beautiful.
Oh, mother earth,
your comfort is great, your arms never withhold.
It has saved my life to know this.
Your rivers flowing, your roses opening in the morning.
Oh, motions of tenderness!
I read this poem for the first time this morning and was deeply moved. I then wrote the following to a dear friend who shares an affinity for the poetry of Mary Oliver:
“I recognized through this poem that my entire young life was a life of loneliness, and Gaia was the universal mother that held me. She had the tenderness I required to feel more whole. I sought the quiet spaces in her forests and near her waterways, relishing in her always present tenderness. I know I would not be who I am today if I had not found mothering in those sacred spaces. What a beautiful gift to be on this planet, to be surrounded by her love and guidance. When humans fail us, we always have her.”
After I sent this message, I went for a walk in the woods. On that walk this poem continued to move through me, and sparked me as it prompted more discovery.
While walking through a particularly stunning section of forest, I realized that when I stand still and breathe in her forests, Gaia holds me in such safety. No questions asked and no demands. She freely offers her expansive presence, a space that allows me to fully explore the richness of my own internal landscape. Her presence is my permission to fully express and be whole in her wholeness. She is the true mother.
In knowing Gaia as the true mother, I know that she does not just hold me, she holds my mother and my mother’s mother. She holds every mother that has ever been.
This discovery took my breath away, and in the moment a powerful insight landed. My internal response was one of wanting to reciprocate this holding, this honouring. And then in a single breath I realized that in many ways I already do.
My daily choice to be vegan for the last 20 years is how I continually reciprocate. It is how I show my appreciation for the tenderness that Gaia has always shown me. I see how eating in a way that does the least harm to her and the beings she holds tightly, is an honouring of life, and an honouring of her.
As I hold this idea, I also know that ecosystems on this planet are in a state of massive crisis, and that we are standing at the edge of our time as a species on this planet. I know that wildlife, sea ice, food crops, and habitable spaces are rapidly disappearing. With wet brushes in hand, we find that we have painted ourselves into a corner.
To my great surprise, mainstream media has been floating the idea that veganism could be a solution to our collective predicament; a way forward so the earth can heal. As much as I wish this could be true, I feel that it is much too late in the game for this, or any other type of behaviour altering solution.
The thing about predicaments like the one we find ourselves in is that, unlike problems, they don’t have solutions. Predicaments, however, once fully understood, are fantastic catalysts for invoking meaningful responses. Veganism, as a response to the ecological crisis we face, is the deepest form of honouring that we can offer Gaia in this critical moment.
Veganism is a deeply honouring expression of our connectedness to all life. In choosing it, we walk beside all the living beings on this planet, as well as the planet herself. Veganism is a choice that directs us to wholeness. To fully reclaim our own wholeness we must recognize the wholeness in all living beings. Veganism is an act of “wholeness recognition”. When we honour all the lives that live outside of our own, we honour the immensity of our own lives.