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"The Woman I Love Is A Planet; The Planet I Love Is A Tree"
by Paula Gunn Allen
From Reweaving the Web: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990.

Background on the context in which this essay was written.

Dat e Reading Was Discussed: March 2, 1992
Present: Colleen M., Catherine C., Cathleen M., Lisa B., and Robin Z.

This month's reading by Native American Paula Gunn Allen explored the cosmological interrelationship between ourselves and our planet, between our micro-ids and Mother Earth's meta-consciousness. Allen claims earth (and, by extension, humans) is in deep crisis, not necessarily because of patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, war, or a host of manmade socio-psychic disorders.

Rather, according to Allen, intense transformations are asunder because Mother Earth is going through menopause. "In this time of her emergence as one of the sacred planets in the Grandmother galaxy, we necessarily experience, each of us in our own specific way, our share or form of her experience, her form. As the initiation nears completion, we are caught in the throes of her wailings and contractions, her muscular, circulatory, and neurologic destabilization."

Women very much connected with the anthropomorphization of earth as alive and as female, and that her menopausal transformation is a rite of passage to be respected and experienced. [For a discussion on the pros and cons of depicting earth as female, see Nature as Female.]

Most women, however, felt that today's extreme climatic and societal upheavals are primarily human-caused. One woman declared that a more apt metaphor is that Mother Earth has been battered and raped. The violence of earthquakes, tornados, and other natural cataclysms may be a part of a sacred birth/death/rebirth cycle, but surely the destruction wrought by humans, a few women argued, is altogether different and heinous.

A woman disagreed, stating that morals, history, and human agency are anthropocentric concepts. We flatter ourselves by believing our species plays such a grandiose role in the production and destruction of life. Another woman said that since human animals are part of nature, perhaps human violence is simply another manifestation of nature's "violence." She asked, for example, how the ugliness of an Auschwitz is different from the ghastly destruction of a ruthless hurricane? Why aren't human-created catastrophes (and triumphs) simply another expression of nature's essence?

Women with more politically active backgrounds continued to resist the diminishment of human responsibility. They argued that humans are "co-creators" with nature and therefore comprise a distinctly separate category from other life forms. New paradigms are needed to understand that, yes, we are of nature, but we are also quite powerful in our ability to transform nature.

One woman commented that through genetic engineering and artificial intelligence, our species is capable of creating androids, humanoids that may one day take on a life of their own with unimaginable consequences. Likewise, she posited, what if homo sapiens are nature's androids and we are dangerously transcending nature's omnipotency?

As ecofeminists, we abhorred such visions of distopia. Women resolutely responded with spiritual prescriptives for understanding the world around us. One woman spoke highly of Trich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk who encourages walking meditations that help embrace aspects of violence as a means of reconciling a balance with nature. This same woman also extolled Joanna Macy's despair and empowerment workshops that concentrate on truly feeling the tragedy of the planet in order to become empowered to make change.

Another woman described Susun Weed's Wise Woman tradition in which bodily diseases are considered allies for transformation, not enemies to be purged. It became clear that death and violence are not "bad" per se (ex., euthanasia and abortions). A question, however, hovered in the air: If negativity is acceptable as inherent to life processes, than what motivation exists for change?

We ended our discussion by returning to Paula Gunn Allen. She, too, asks how we can be ". . . politically useful, spiritually mature attendants in this great transformation we are privileged to participate in?" Allen's proposal: "Find out by asking as many trees as you meet how to be a tree." Yes, let's explore our (human and nonhuman) roots as we branch outward in solidarity with Mother Earth's deep cathartic.

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