THE FOUR SEASONS
A Creation Story, by Dani age 6
Once, before there were trees or plants or animals there were only the 4 elements: Water, Fire, Air, and Earth. At first Water and Fire were enemies; Earth and Air were allies. But then a new alliance came. Earth and Water were allies – and you may not be able to imagine why, so I’ll tell you. Earth made space for water; Water made sure Earth could live. Then there was Air and Fire’s alliance, which you may think absurd but remember, Air helps Fire burn and Fire burns more space for just Air. And that’s how it happened, until Water and Fire started to fight. First it was a fight, and then a battle. But Air and Earth did not like that their allies were fighting so they decided to be friends again. But when Fire and Water saw this they became angry, and it became a war. That’s when animals came along. The wisest eagles of the pack came to try and help, and even the wolves with their cute babies could make a small difference.
So they decided to make seasons so there could be peace. Spring was for Air which balanced everything. Summer was hot for Fire which liked the heat. Winter was icy and cold for Water who loved to be chilly. For Earth it was fall – Earth always helps make new things, so the leaves falling to make new things was perfect for Earth. So they got along for a few days, or weeks, or months, or maybe even years. But then Fire, the selfish one of the group, wanted two seasons. And because this wasn’t fair soon an argument broke out. Earth settled this by saying the arguing will cause chaos. Earth did not like chaos and now that there were living beings on it, everyone needed Earth, so they stopped fighting.
And soon Fire settled for peace, and that’s when humans came along. When humans came along they started things like plastic, and companies and factories. At first Air, Water, Earth, and Fire thought that they couldn’t help. Then they thought and thought, and thought some more… they had thought all humans were mean and didn’t care about the Earth, however they soon found themselves mistaken. Water, Earth, Fire, and Air decided to spy around and see how bad things really were. At the first few places they found big factories. But at the last place they visited, they found a farmer taking care of her sheep and deer and chickens and plants. They found that not all humans are bad. And Water, Air, Fire, and Earth decided to go back and rest. And that is the end.
Dani has been talking about fire, “the selfish one” a lot recently. I suspect it is a trauma anniversary effect – when environmental conditions start to replicate what they were during the original traumatic event, the body notices and reacts. Though there are still months before an actual anniversary of any local fires, the drought has the environment mimicking the height of dry season already, and everyone in my community can feel it. Adults pause in friendly conversation when we feel the wind blow. When we hear sirens, we stop to watch which direction the fire trucks are heading, and sigh with relief to see them going towards town, not the hills. Two nights ago my daughter had a nightmare about fire so severe she, usually fearless, could not fall back asleep. The next day, she told this story.
I’m so glad she gave me permission to share it. Not just because it is a story of integration and resolution – a healing story. It also speaks so well to the values I seek to instill in her. Honoring of the elements of creation, and above all, seeking balance. As this-growth-at-all-costs society we are embedded within begins to reckon with the consequences of perpetual resource exploitation and destruction, Dani’s story, like so many creation myths, reminds us that a healthy system – be it biological, social, or ecological – above all requires balance.
Her story also shows her grappling with a challenge I have been undertaking for years now, though I have not spoken directly with her about it. My personal spiritual practice has long involved honoring and appreciating the four elements, a mindful practice in which the energies of the life force are each embraced. As fires rage and water recedes, this has become more and more difficult to accomplish. How to sit in meditation embracing elements so out of balance that a constant, underlying hypervigilance about them has become the defining force of my days?
This summer I had the opportunity to explore this question with spiritual guidance from Wilderness Torah, teachers of an Earth-based Judaism. It took weeks of thoughtful reflection, three days of camping on beautiful land with no cell phone service, and many hours of swimming in a lovely pond that functions as both recreation and rainwater catchment for my friend’s permaculture farm. Finally, I felt ready to undertake the ceremony I’d created, a combination of the traditional Jewish Mikvah bath and my modern pagan elemental meditations. In the end I achieved my goal: a single moment of pure, true gratitude, joy and love directed first at fire and then at water. For one instant I experienced how I used to relate to the elements, before the realities of climate crisis interfered with that felt connection. It took a lot to get back there, and the experience was brief but precious.
It seems almost inevitable that the elements of creation are going to continue to get more and more out of balance for the remainder of my lifetime and Dani’s, as our species is just beginning to reap what we have sown. For those of us dedicated to helping find a new balance – so that our grandchildren’s grandchildren may experience their world as a healthy ecosystem again – it feels imperative that we continue to find ways to love, respect and honor the elements despite our innate fear of them. May I do well in guiding Dani on this journey. And perhaps, just perhaps, enough of us will wake up soon enough that we can put our brilliant collective technological and innovative minds into bringing balance back, while Dani is still alive to see it.