On a recent trip to Mexico, I made a new acquaintance and soon we were in deep conversation. I am not a very spiritual person, he said. How about you? Do you believe in God?
I had spent the several hours before our encounter strolling the wild beaches of this sleepy village, alone for miles around. A blue heron and I had made silent friends, she knee-high in the ocean, and I by the rocks, together without imposing, a rhythm of safety settling between us. Many times that afternoon, my hands brought to my awed eyes shells, rocks, and plants of the sea, and my only dress was a mélange of gritty sand and dried-up salt, fitting so undeniably well on the skin. The sun and I sat together in the falling evening– our hearts connected by a blazing thread across the ocean– as we both sank deeper into the earth, eye-gazing. Lying breathless on my back, I cried silent tears of ecstasy as the waves roared a goodbye ode to the sun’s departure. The sky was a mirror reflecting nothing. And moved by a wild passion, I danced uncontrollably in the phantom temple of the new moon.
And here I was, mere hours later, this new friend asking if I believed in God. Do I?
“I don’t know her name,” I said to him, “And I don’t know who she is but she has been here all day. In every stretch of sky, water, and land that I can bear to behold, she is here. And I love her, I love it, I love him! .... So tell me, what is there to BELIEVE about God?”
Was that a tear I saw welling up in his eye?
We spoke a lot longer, he the godless person and I the one with my own god, united in the lap of the same ocean. And what we knew, under the words, was that beyond anything that set us apart, we have been equally given one gift, and it surpasses all else: To walk this exquisite, marvelous Earth, to smell and touch and to feel its aliveness– and ours. To belong to the larger-than-human community of differently-legged and winged creatures, of rumbling waters, mossy-rock allies, and ancient tree relatives, holding our root and calling us back to our own trunks.
We may not have any common ground, but this IS: the ground under our feet. And this common ground is woven with a simple human truth: That we and the Earth, we belong to each other. That this belonging is a legacy. An endless love affair. A pain in the heart when she hurts. A longing of the skin to be with her waters, to curl into her green lap, to bury our bare feet in the warm soil, to rest our bones back with her skeleton when they can no longer carry our shell.
So, you see, I don’t have to believe in God because we are together, God and I. Where I stand, dear friend, on this holy ground, there is no pause between my body and its sensuous earth, so there is nothing left to my faith. The only way to “believe” in my god is to let the soul of my body love this ragged, exquisite terrain, and to love it as deeply and endlessly as this heart can possibly bear.