By Alex Macias
This week, I am again home for the holidays. From the moment I land in Tucson, Arizona I am struck by how different it is from the urban environment I’ve now lived in for several years. The mountains surround the city. The sky is a piercing cerulean until it melts into a multi-colored sunset. The earth is brown, harsh and lined with saguaros. The moon and stars gleam against the black of a cloudless night.
But it’s not just the environment – I feel different when I’m here. I breathe differently. My skin immediately responds to the parched air. I feel the familiar crunch of my shoes on the dirt, like walking on cornmeal. I recognize the sounds of mourning doves, quail, and woodpeckers. I know the smell of rain from the creosote bushes. And I remember the curve of Campbell Road and that hill that gives that breathtaking view of the city before it descends into the valley.
I get the umbilical connection Lenore speaks of: I am a desert person. My body knows that I’m home.
Both Evelmyn and Lenore have explored theologies of creation that begin in Genesis and land in a corrective to a limited escapist eschatology. Both women have presented similar themes to guide our relationship to the earth: kinship and companionship. My experience with my hometown resonates with Lenore’s concept of kinship between the earth and the people. The Hebrew words for “human” and “earth” affirm the connection. Human is ha-adam because it is from ha-adamah (the earth). I especially like how Professor Jim Bruckner translates Genesis 2:7 “The LORD God formed the human creation out of the dust of the humus, and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life; and the human creation became a living being.” We are earth people. And, as Lenore might put it, we can share in Unci Maka’s joy and her suffering.
I am also struck by Evelmyn’s concept of companionship between earth and people. She rightly points out that “dominion over” should be understood as to “care for,” but there’s a further justice related component to this idea. “Companion” is a Latin-derived word that means “with” (com) “bread” (pan.) To be a companion is to share bread. It means to provide sustenance to each other – each person’s survival being contingent on the other. Not only is our survival contingent on the survival of the rest of the created world, this relationship calls us to true companionship with other humans.
When God speaks to Moses in Leviticus 19 (v. 9-10) he says, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.” In God’s preparation of the Israelite people to be a new community, he mandates that the vulnerable have access to resources that they never had before. The reaping and the gleaning of the fruits of the ground are not to be hoarded or exploited. The tilling of the soil spills over into compassion, and the harvest is intended for rich and poor alike.
Care for creation and justice for all humans cannot be disjointed. In the kingdom of God, when we experience heaven, all are fed and the earth rejoices!
As we round the bend into a new year, may we remember our kinship and our companionship with the earth. May we enjoy it, care for it, and share its fruits with those who need them most.