“Our roots are in the dark; the earth is our country. Why did we look up for blessing — instead of around, and down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below. Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes, where human beings grow human souls.”
-Ursula K. Le Guin, “A Left Handed Commencement Address”
Le Guin’s two page speech might be my favorite speech ever, and look, here’s a link right to it. You should probably read it, especially if you’ve ever wondered about courage and kindness, women and men, soldiers and healers.
I like being happy. I like the moments when laughter takes hold and runs, like water downstream, sparkling and spinning, and any movement, any word, is enough to set it sparkling and spinning again. But I don’t only like being happy. I like being thoughtful, too. I like being curious. I like being confused, because that’s the door where questions come in. I like being exhausted after I’ve worked hard. I like being sad, when that sadness is part of the connection I share with others. My sorrow for the friends who’ve died is part of my love for them, and I wouldn’t give it up. I like being cold, when I’ve forgotten winter, and I walk outside during the first freeze to feel endless snows whispering past my skin.
“Why did we look up for blessings, instead of around, and down?” The sky is beautiful–I’ve been seeing a lot of it lately, on my way into school–but the earth is beautiful, too. A few years ago, I watched a baby playing in the dust and dirt. He watched an ant go back and forth. He watched the dirt just as much, I think, and finger painted with it, and nose painted, which is when you paint on the ground with your nose (and shouldn’t be confused with painting your nose in dust. Although he did that, too). I think he was finding secrets. Maybe the secret is, from the earth we grow. The secret is, all we need is beneath us. The secret is, all things have roots. The secret is, here.
We aren’t winning or losing, succeeding or failing. Why do we want those victories? Why do we value those coins? Gold and silver are only pieces mined from the earth beneath us, they’re little fragments, cooked and frozen, and we have the whole planet against our skin whenever we step outside. We are growing, this way or that way, struggling or laughing. Like Tolkien’s tree, we can “Eat earth, dig deep. Drink water, go to sleep.” There are days, too, and there are nights, and here, just here, we are growing. We have roots: to the community, to ourselves, and to the earth itself. We reach out with uncertain fingers and confused minds and gentle voices. We find earth and water, thought and connection, the rustling wind and an unending song.