Love and its more than fifty shades of green

May is a beautiful month but this one has been exceptional. In Latvia we experienced the sunniest and warmest May I can ever remember. Everything was blooming all at once. Lilacs, wild roses, chestnuts, rhododendrons, now jasmines … like blooming season on steroids. Makes me want to scream, ” Slow down! Save something for the rest of the summer!”

I took my grandmother who is suffering from dementia to Botanical gardens and she simply came alive. She may not know many things anymore, get confused and forget what she did the day before or even few hours ago but she never forgets the names of flowers! Anything blooming, beautiful and colorful catches her eye. Grandmother will touch it, smell it, adore it… and talk to it.

Yes, she talks to the flowers and tells them that they are pretty and that each is unique. She also talks to a tall tree and asks where does the tree draw its strength and what kind of stories could it tell. We sat down in the grass and grandmother was gently stroking it like it was the smoothest silk. Saying ‘thank you’ for this soft, fresh and green blanket we get to lie on.

My grandmother is a very spiritual person as well and looks at the nature as Creator’s love letter. If she had lived in medieval Italy, I imagine she would have followed the teachings and example of St Francis of Assisi. They would have gotten along very well and probably would have talked for hours about every little creature there is.

Actually I did not mean to write this post about her but about one very important document published by Pope Francis. Encyclical “Laudato si (‘Praise be to you’ from old Italian) was  published in 2015 with the subtitle “On Care For Our Common Home.” It covers theology (creation, nature), science (ecology, global warming), environmental ethics (consumerism, irresponsible development), politics (unified global action)… just to name a few things covered by this paper. Above all, though, it talks about life style described as “integral ecology”.

For a spiritual person, it is a lifestyle that integrates our four relationships – with God, with ourselves, with other people and with all created order (nature and animals).

Read the encyclical which you can easily download or listen to audio! It is long but it is so well written in common language while reflecting serious theological and scientific research. Of course, it does not cover everything on this topic but it does encourage and even force a deep and open conversation about how to have peace and just relationship with all nature and all its inhabitants.

So, instead or writing about the importance of recycling or how to limit our personal environmental print or what to do about systemic injustices to our earth, I decided to write about love. St Francis of Assisi was a lover of nature and has become a patron of animals and the natural environment. You could say the “saint of ecology”.

Pope Francis who obviously picked the name ‘Francis’ for a reason has said that “God always forgives; human beings sometimes forgive; but when nature is mistreated, she never forgives.” Like a scorned lover who has been rejected, abused, enslaved and mistreated. Our relationship has been broken and it will take more that this encyclical, books, world conferences and declarations.

I wish I could say I was my grandmother’s granddaughter when it comes to this awareness but I am not. Just a beginner in what has been described as ‘eco conversion’ but don’t see any other way. How can we care for ‘peace on earth’ without caring for ‘peace with the earth’?

A question not to ask me

“Do you miss Latvia?” or equally irritating “Is it nice to be in Latvia?” Yes, I do get annoyed from time to time… I know it is just a nice question and usually it is part of small talk but for some strange reason I wonder why people ask me this kind of thing.

There are many things I miss about Latvia when I am away. I miss the woods and the green fields and the walks through the countryside. I miss the wild flowers and making a wreath or a simple bouquet. I miss sitting or laying in the grass and not worrying about snakes (well, there are still lots of small bugs but they are harmless). I miss swimming in the lakes and rivers and not worrying about crocodiles. I miss the Baltic Sea and finding some amber or beautiful rocks on the shore.

I miss the four seasons. Even though I wish the winter was shorter, the autumn was sunnier, the spring was earlier and the summer longer. I miss the different moods I experience during these seasons. The autumn for sure brings some melancholy. It is a great time for reading books and reflecting. The winter is perfect for cozy places and long chats with friends. The spring brings so much hope and anticipation. And the summer is simply… busy, busy, busy.

The reason why I don’t like these type of questions because I don’t like to categorize and compare. Is Latvia more beautiful than Thailand or Australia or South Africa? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! I love diversity… I look at the mountains and jungles in Southeast Asia and I enjoy the sweet smell of tropical plants. I will always miss this smell.

I remember the green, rolling hills in South Africa and I start hearing the music from “The Lion King”. Yes, this is the kind of place for the King of the jungle. Can you imagine lions in Latvia? I cannot! Or giraffes? Or elephants? I will miss the big, open spaces with lots of wildlife.

Diversity is something to be celebrated. Not to be compared or rated. We are amazing because we are so different. Our planet is so beautiful because the nature and landscape is so diverse. I believe that nature teaches us many things and it tells us deep truths if we are willing to listen. It tells us that we are a part of this Creation and that we need to relate to it with love and respect. I am blessed by the simple beauty of Latvia and I hope that Latvia is blessed to have me here.

I am blessed to be here this autumn which is exceptionally sunny. The colors change weekly and sometimes daily. It is a beautiful, ever-changing canvass. There is a popular Latvian song which says, “The autumn comes to paint Latvia but don’t try so hard. She is beautiful to me… Any Way.”

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Latviski: Jautājums, ko man labāk neuzdot

“Vai tu skumsti pēc Latvijas?” vai vēl kaitinošāk “Kā tev patīk Latvijā?” Jā, ir lietas, kas mani kaitina. Es saprotu, ka tā ir vienkārši pieklājīga un draudzīga saruna, bet kaut kāda iemesla pēc manī rodas šī reakcija. Kas tiek domāts ar šo jautājumu?

Ir daudzas lietas, kuras man pietrūkst, kad neesmu Latvijā. Man pietrūkst zaļie meži un pļavas un pastaigas pa laukiem. Man pietrūkst pļavas ziedi un vainagu pīšana. Man pietrūkst sēdēšana vai gulēšana zālē, kur nav jāuztraucas par indīgām čūskām (nu, kukaiņi arī reizēm traucē, bet tie ir tik nekaitīgi). Man pietrūkst peldēšanās upēs un ezeros, kur nav jāuztraucas par krokodiliem. Vēl man pietrūkst Baltijas jūra, un smuku akmentiņu un dzintara meklēšana.

Man pietrūkst četri gadalaiki. Kaut gan ziema varētu būt īsāka, rudens varētu būt saulaināks, pavasaris varētu būt agrāks, un vasara garāka. Man pietrūkst tie dažādie noskaņojumi, ko izraisa gadalaiki. Rudens vienmēr ir melanholisks pārdomu laiks, kad var lasīt grāmatas un domāt par dzīvi. Ziemā ir forši iekārtoties kādā siltā stūrītī, un jauki pavadīt laiku ar draugiem. Pavasarī rodas daudz cerību un gaidu. Un vasarā vienkārši… visam nepietiek laika.

Man laikam nepatīk šie jautājumi, jo nevēlos salīdzināt. Vai Latvija ir skaistāka par Taizemi, Austrāliju vai Dienvidāfriku? Ir tāds teiciens, ka skaistumu piešķir tas, kurš skatās. Man patīk dažādība. Kad esmu Dienvidāzijā un skatos uz kalniem un džungļiem, es ieelpoju smaržīgo tropu gaisu. Man patīk turienes augu un ziedu smarža. Tā vienmēr pietrūks.

Kad atceros Dienvidāfrikas zaļos, maigos pakalnus, man ausīs sāk skanēt mūzika no multenes “Karalis Lauva”. Jā, šeit var dzīvot dzīvnieku karalis. Vai variet iedomāties lauvas Latvijā? Es nevaru! Vai arī žirafes? Un ziloņus? Man pietrūks tie lielie plašumi, kur tik daudz savvaļas dzīvnieku.

Dažādību vajag svinēt. Nevis salīdzināt un sacensties. Mēs paši esam tik apbrīnojami, jo esam tik dažādi. Mūsu planēta ir tik skaista, jo daba un skati ir tik daudzveidīgi. Es ticu, ka daba māca mums daudzas un dziļas patiesības, ja esam gatavi ieklausīties. Tā atgādina, ka esam daļa no Radības, kuru mums jāmīl un jāciena. Man Latvijas vienkāršais skaistums ir par svētību, un ceru, ka arī mana klātbūtne ir Latvijai par svētību.

Vēl esmu pateicīga, ka šogad varēju piedzīvot tik saulainu un skaistu rudeni. Krāsas mainījās pa nedēļām un dažreiz dienām. Kā viena liela, mainīga, dzīva glezna. Kā dziesmā, “Nāk rudens apgleznot Latviju, bet nepūlies, necenties tā. Man viņa ir visskaistākā… Tik un Tā!”