THE ROLE OF NATURE
We live on a planet whose beauty is often breathtaking, a planet that has nourished us for millenia. In a way, just realizing this is the beginning of celebrating it. Sometimes it is really great just to feel thankful even if your life is not going so great that day . . . at least you are alive. It is amazing to think that we can live so long so happily in this environment. I like to do something for the Earth, even if it as a planet cannot "hear" me doing so.
Our celebrations allow us to align ourselves with nature's cycles. The Sabbats and Esbats help us recognize the fluctuations in the balance of the Earth and the Sun and Moon and the other planets. The Sun, the masculine aspect, seems to climb in the sky and set each night, only to rise in the morning; this is typical of the daily cycle of a human male. The Moon's cycle is closer to monthly; it is the female aspect. We, as humans, are aligned with this just by nature. And though we are not reborn every Earth-year on Yule, like the mythical God, and recycled on Samhain, we too have our cycle. We have within us the same aspects that make the entire Earth what it is . . . we have cycles of birth and death; we have Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects; we are naturally part of this ever-moving journey.
Most Pagans recognize this alignment and try to make the most of it. On special days on certain parts of the year, rituals are held to remind us of our "spot" in life in relation to the life of the God. For instance, on Yule when the God is supposedly reborn, this is also the "birth of the day," because it is the longest night of the year and from that point on the day is growing in length until Midsummer . . . and this is a time to think of what *we* want to set into motion to grow more prosperous, what sort of seeds *we* want to plant this year. By the same token, Samhain is when the God descends to the Underworld, or Summerland, or whatever someone wants to call it; this is a time to think about other people who have left this life to join the mysteries or to be reborn or whatever anyone believes happens after death. (Many Pagans believe in reincarnation because in nature everything comes full circle.)
Alignment with the Sun's cycle has been mentioned; let's not forget the Moon. It's just as important! Though men do not have the physical capability to carry children, they should pay just as much attention to the moon cycles as women do, because we all have the ability to bring forth life in many forms. The Moon is a reminder that life keeps moving and that nothing lasts forever, and that one must keep nourishing one's seeds all the time. When Witches practice magick (as we are so famous for doing), we usually do so depending on what phase the moon is in. If the Moon's phase is waxing, that is a good time to do spells for beginnings or attraction, and waning phases are good for banishings or endings. Full Moons are supposedly the strongest time to start something, while New Moons (or Dark Moons) are sometimes a time for no magick or for contemplating the dark aspects of self. The point is, all of the magick that is done is done in the context of what is already in motion. Going against nature can throw intentions off or make things go in a different direction.
Finally, I come to just plain appreciation of the world. Sometimes it is good to forget that walking in the rain will require a later change of clothes and possibly a shower and some cleaning up. Sometimes it is good to play in the dirt even though it is "dirty," or to watch some bugs (and even touch or play with them) even if usually you think they're "icky," or spend some time looking at the stars even if it is cold outside and you want to get back into your heated little bed. When you are in touch with what's out there, you'll find it a lot easier to both interpret it and work with it.
Caring for Mother Earth means doing your part; it doesn't mean you have to become a fanatic, but just that you do as little damage as possible, are thankful for what you receive from the Earth and don't waste it, and do what you can to conserve resources and clean the planet up when you have the chance. In most places it is not difficult to recycle, and even if there is no recycling program you can help by cutting down on buying items that are overpackaged and by re-using items when you can (like using dishes instead of paper plates, et cetera). Conserving water is important, also! Our resources are not unlimited! You've probably heard these things a hundred times: Turn the water off while brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, blah blah blah. You may think this one is gross: Don't flush the toilet every time you "go." You should flush #2 but letting #1 stick around for a while is fine, provided it doesn't gross anyone else out. (I live alone so anyone that minds is trespassing! >:) ) If you do this it is a good idea to make sure it is flushed before company comes over if they would care, and to keep the toilet seat down if you have pets that like to use the toilet as a drinking source! "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." And as for pollution: Don't drive your car when you can walk or bike (I don't even have a license!), don't burn your trash, and please don't litter! I keep old school papers and write my novels on the backs of them, and use them for scrap paper; I ride my bike everywhere; I am something of a fanatic about recycling, turning off lights, and not leaving the water running. I do these things because there is no reason to take this planet for granted.