Skyline, Winter - 2000

By Diane Pendola

Opening Lines

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Dear friends, family, colleagues,

This is the first of what I intend to be a quarterly journal. I would prefer to call it an earth journal because my purpose in writing is to share with you my growing and changing consciousness as shaped by my listening and responding to this, my native place on earth. My family has called this particular place “The Skyline” as far back as I remember. So I’ve chosen to call this journal “Skyline Earthlines.” It is a small way that I can participate in opening the “lines” of communication between my human world and the natural world particularized for me in these wooded foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Why I am writing to you

I feel led to write this journal at this time in my life for several reasons

As some of you know the spiritual dimension of life has fascinated me for many years. That fascination led me to an undergraduate degree in religious studies, a master’s degree in theological studies and a year in a Carmelite monastery. It led me to co-create a non-profit organization called “Skyline Harvest” which provided pastoral care to women in and out of prison. It has inspired my personal search for meaning, for justice, for service and for unitive experience with that Great Source in whom I live and move and have my being. It has opened me to the tremendous spiritual wealth accessible now through the diversity of religious traditions coming into dialogue with each other on a scale never known before in human history. It has inspired the deepening of my Christian roots and the branching of my spiritual life into vitalizing encounters with Buddhism and Hinduism and the earth based spirituality of North America’s indigenous peoples.

And now it inspires this earth journal. I believe that in our time the basic concern of all religion must be to preserve the natural world as the primary revelation of the Divine. Regarding the on-going degradation of so many of earth’s systems, theologian Daniel Maquire says, “If current trends continue, we will not. And that is qualitatively and epochally true. If religion does not speak to this, it is an obsolete distraction.” These are powerful words that ring true. Without this generative earth, without its air and water and fertile soils, without its beauty and numinous mystery sustaining and inspiring our souls, there would be no religion. Thomas Berry puts it this way: “The well-being of the earth is primary. Human well-being is derivative.” In other words, no earth -no us!

As most of you know, we had a forest fire sweep through “The Skyline” on October 16, 1999. It was a stripping that we never would have asked for, devastating to the forest and to our own spirits. But it has also been an occasion for renewal, a catalyst for searching our souls and reexamining our priorities. Now over a year later Teresa and I begin to recognize the gifts of the fire, the mythical “phoenix rising from the ashes”. These “Earthlines” represent that rising, a greening of our hearts and our land and a “next step” in our spiritual pilgrimage. In sending Earhlines to you we invite you to be part of our journey. And we thank you.

Journey to North Carolina

One tremendous gift has come to us through our meeting with Thomas Berry. In September we traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina to meet with him. I have never met a more kind or gracious human being. Thomas is a cultural historian who has also been referred to as a geologian and an ecotheologian. He is one of the germinal thinkers of our time, articulating a new cosmology that unites the best of contemporary science with deep religious insight gleaned from a lifetime of inquiry and exploration. He offers a comprehensive understanding of the evolutionary processes of the natural world and the unfolding universe thus providing us with a coherent new story to guide our way into the future. We spent three blessed days with this remarkable man discerning how we might best use the resources of our lives and this land in service to the “Great Work” which Thomas so masterfully articulates. It is my intention to introduce you to his work and thought ongoingly through this and future issues of EARTHLINES.

I find in Thomas Berry not only a voice that articulates the sacred depths of my own experience of the natural world but also a spacious mind who invites me into a whole new mode of being. Cosmology is concerned with our understanding of our origins, where we come from and how we got here. Our model of the structure and dynamics of the universe absolutely shapes the way we see our world and ourselves. Every culture and every people has its own cosmogony, its own creation story, out of which its cosmology arises. In the twentieth century our knowledge of the origins and evolution of the universe made a quantum leap. This knowledge is now shared across the globe and presents the possibility of a common cosmology, a shared origin story for the first time in human history. This shared story reveals us to each other as kin! We are kin not only to every other human being but also with the wolf and the whale, the redwood and the butterfly. Within this expansive cosmology I experience a sense of homecoming. The flat surfaces of a Newtonian world crack open and the subjective depths of my own nature are now made accessible through communion with my relatives in the rest of creation.

We are returning to our native place after a long absence, meeting once again with our kin in the earth community. For too long we have been away somewhere, entranced with our industrial world of wires and wheels, concrete and steel, and our unending highways, where we race back and forth in continual frenzy.

The world of life, of spontaneity, the world of dawn and sunset and glittering stars in the dark night heavens, the world of wind and rain, of meadow flowers and flowing streams, of hickory and oak and maple and spruce and pineland forests, the world of desert sand and prairie grasses, and within all this the eagle and the hawk, the mockingbird and the chickadee, the deer and the wolf and the bear, the coyote, the raccoon, the whale and the seal, and the salmon returning upstream to spawn…

…Presently we are returning to the primordial community of the universe, the earth, and all living beings. Each has its own voice, its role, its power over the whole. But, most important, each has its special symbolism. The excitement of life is in the numinous experience wherein we are given to each other in that larger celebration of existence in which all things attain their highest expression, for the universe, by definition, is a single gorgeous celebratory event.
(Thomas Berry)

Lessons of the Fire

The fire which destroyed so much of our forest, which has left so much of our landscape barren and our soils exposed has reawakened me to the preciousness of what remains, not only here at Skyline, but in extension, throughout our planet. Suddenly I feel as though I have been shaken from a fitful sleep to open my eyes to the enormity of the loss we are facing. As Thomas says, We are losing splendid and intimate modes of divine presence. We are, perhaps, losing ourselves.

Imagine the world without the Pelican, the Whooping Crane or the Condor, without the Wolf, the Grizzly Bear or the Whale singing its beautiful song through the sea! How impoverished we would be! How lonely! All these species are endangered. When species become extinct they are gone forever, never to return again! The species I mention need large expanses of air and land and water to survive and thrive. And yet we do not value wilderness for its own sake. We humans measure wilderness in terms of its use to us. We have lost our sense of the sacred, our sense of the unity of all life, our sense of the integrity of the whole. These lines from a Bob Dylan song have played in my mind many times over the last months: when ya gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?

For me, Thomas is a contemporary prophet asking me to see with my eyes and hear with my heart so that I may turn and be healed. I am haunted by his assertion: to wantonly destroy a living species is to silence forever a divine voice. This startling message has deeply entered my heart. Maybe because the shock of the fire burned into my soul the realization of just how dear my towering Fir and Pine and Cedar trees were, just how essential to my knowledge of who I am and what I value, just how much a part of my body and my being. Because of them, and all the beauty and wisdom with which they blessed me, I dedicate my life so that those unique and magical manifestations of the divine that are now threatened across the planet, may not be silenced.

We should be clear about what happens when we destroy the living forms of this planet. The first consequence is that we destroy modes of divine presence. If we have a wonderful sense of the divine, it is because we live amid such awesome magnificence. If we have refinement of emotion and sensitivity, it is because of the delicacy, the fragrance, and the indescribable beauty of song and music and rhythmic movement in the world about us. If we grow in our life vigor, it is because the earthly community challenges us, forces us to struggle to survive, but in the end reveals itself a benign providence.
{Thomas Berry)

Winter Solstice

I have chosen to send Earthlines during those times of the year when we are particularly conscious of the movement of our planet and its effects on darkness and light and the changing of seasons: winter and summer solstice, and fall and spring equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, when the earth is tilted away from the sun, the winter solstice (about December 21) is the longest night and the shortest day of the year. Peoples from ancient times, connecting with the rhythms of the universe, have celebrated this fecund darkness as the maternal womb from which new life comes. On this darkest of nights the light of the world flares forth. The sacred fire is lit. It is the birthday of the new Sun King. The Son of God is born. It is a time of celebration. A time to celebrate new life and the seeds of new hope. At this time of year we rekindle the light that we carry within ourselves, spark from the original flaring forth of the universe 15 billion years ago!

It is in this spirit of the season that I would like to close this issue of Earthlines with a poem. I wrote this in anticipation of the birth of my niece, Hayley Kristen Allen. She was born September 29, 2000 while Teresa and I were in North Carolina with Thomas Berry birthing some new possibilities of our own. This journal is one of the fruits. Thank you for receiving it as a labor of love.

Hayley’s poem

We await the birth of your star,
ember of original light,
struck to flame by incarnate love,
by fire seeking fire in embodied embrace,
igniting the fire of your form.

We place our hands upon the hard belly
of your mother’s longing,
the soft glow of you hidden beneath taut skin.

And we are stirred and made ready
for your delivery into the circle of our belonging.

No doubt your coming changes us
and recreates us in an image
of illimitable light

carrying through timeless space, into the
circumscribed flesh of our hearts,
the revelatory seed of a unique divinity,

awakening old love made new
in the fragrant Being of you!

-Diane Pendola-

For your information:

Did you know that?

Some success stories:

For information on endangered species as listed by the ESA you can go to the home page for the US Fish and Wildlife Service:

Bibliography & Suggested Readings:

Thomas Berry, The Dream of The Earth, Sierra Club Books, 1988
Thomas Berry, The Great Work, Bell Tower, 1999
Brian Swimme & Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, Harper, 1992
E.O. Wilson, The Biophilia Hypothesis, Island Press, 1993
Daniel Maquire, The Moral Core of Judaism & Christianity

(All quotes from Thomas Berry were taken from “The Dream of the Earth”)


©Diane Pendola, December 2000. You are welcome to print or make a copy in electronic form for personal use or sharing with interested persons as long as the copyright notice is not removed or altered. Please do not print it in any other publication, or sell it, by itself or as part of another work, without express written permission of the author. Thank you!

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