Renewing Our Spirits in the Wilderness of Our World by Carolyn Lee Boyd

carolynlboydIn my garden blooming with native wildflowers, in nearby rivers and woods, across the New England landscape, the Earth is healing Herself.  Two centuries ago, New England’s forests had been cleared for farms; myriad species of  animals, birds, fish, and plants had disappeared; the network of waterways had been dammed to make power for mills.

Now trees are reclaiming land abandoned by 19th century farmers seeking better soil westward and today’s environmentalists are reintroducing native flora and fauna and hauling away obsolete dams. As a result, species not seen for generations are thriving, most of New England is again heavily forested, and whole ecosystems are reviving. Creation is once more beginning to remake the landscape into a place of wholeness, life, and connection.

As I consider stories of Goddesses from various eras and places, I notice that Earth’s impulse towards renewal, abundance and wholeness—her renewing spirit— seems linked with female divinity.  Demeter and Amaterasu, after withdrawing their power and making Earth a wasteland, returned and brought the planet to life once again.  Spring goddesses from around the world, from Ostara to Ma-Ku and beyond, oversee the rebirth of the Earth after winter’s sleep.


A stone wall that once divided the land into fields and now crumbles, overgrown with the renewed life of the New England forest.

If the Earth’s landscape is one face of this renewing spirit that seems to infuse creation, and stories of Goddess another, then perhaps there is also a third face, our own. I can think of many instances in my own life when I was overwhelmed with illness, anxiety, or depression and suddenly I found a small seedling of determination, hope, and joy rise up, seemingly impossibly but truly, from somewhere unknown inside myself.  Can you?  I wonder if perhaps we can draw upon this spirit together in times of collective fatigue and despair.

When I contemplate this spirit, and how we can participate in it as we seek to make a difference in our many and diverse ways, what do I find? I witness that this impulse towards regeneration is beyond ourselves and this moment. It is as big as the universe. It existed long before we first drew breath and will be on Earth long after we are  dust. When we act in a way that encourages the re-creation of life we are a part of a force that is larger and better than our conceptions of ourselves. We are not alone.

At the same time, this renewing energy is deep within each of us. It is the essence of the most sacred element of our being, it is Goddess herself. Just as we are part of it, it is part of us. It is how we know that the basic nature of humans is, sometimes against much evidence, also yearning for wholeness and connection, wishing for what is benevolent towards life.

Yet, connecting with this spirit demands much of us. She demands the truth, whether it is facing the environmental devastation of what we as a species have done or the injustice that pervades our daily lives, that shows us what we must do to make it right, even when it is hard.  She demands compassion, which is connection in action, whether in rebuilding an ecosystem or the reconciliation and trust that living in a society or community requires, even when we don’t want to give it. She demands commitment over a long time, whether to nurture generations of a reintroduced species or to change attitudes and beliefs held for centuries, one conversation at a time, even when we are so tired of trying.

This spirit also requires hard work that has a real effect on what is happening in our own communities. New England’s revitalization depended on the forces of growth of plants, animals, birds, fish, insects, and ecosystems, but also thousands of hours of hard physical labor done by human environmentalists. Just as it is the many small seeds sown that regrows the forest and each rock removed from the dams that frees the rivers, everything we do in our neighborhoods, in our daily lives to make the world better, no matter how small it may seem, is important.


A turtle suns itself in a pond that disappeared in a recent drought but reappeared with life-giving rains.

Where might I find an example of people making significant change by working hard in collaboration with a spirit of renewal? I need only look to all of you here at FAR and in the feminist spiritual community.  In only 40 short years, our spiritual landscape has blossomed with new rituals and liturgies, art of all kinds, fresh theologies/thealogies, the reconstruction of our history and exciting visions of better ways to live.  All these exist because of the labors of doing research that unearths the history of women’s spiritual power, building spaces for women’s circles, making poems, songs, stories, dances, and art celebrating women’s spiritual lives, working on committees to write new liturgies, joining together to develop rituals that truly speak to our lives and so much more.

This summer, the severe drought in New England dried up a pond near me, driving away the turtles I have watched sunning themselves for many years.  Then later in the fall, after only a few inches of rain, the pond was once again wet and the turtles began to come home. Given the smallest chance, life renews itself.  It is easy to fall into despair when contemplating the many catastrophic situations at home and around the globe, the many severe droughts of all kinds in the midst of slow and hard won but real progress.  However, the only practical way to respond is to get up every day and do the best we can to move forward.  When it seems as if a better future is far away, may we remember the turkeys and eagles, streams and forests, air and water that are returning to New England, greet the Goddess spirit of renewal within and outside of us, and know that what we need to do, we can do.


Carolyn Lee Boyd is a human services administrator, herb gardener, and writer whose work focuses on the sacred in the everyday lives of women. Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews and more have been published in numerous print and online publications. You can read more of her work at her blog,

Categories: Activism, Earth-based spirituality, environment

Tags: , , ,

15 replies

  1. This is a beautiful piece. I took heart a few weeks ago when the first house martins returned to the nests on my front windows. How I love them. Having become modernized, so many people now knock the nests down, because the birds are “dirty,” but there are also those who put up little platforms under the nests to catch the poo.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I love the story of the house martins! I envy you – after a mild winter we had a blizzard last week and my garden is under a foot of snow. Your story reminds me of some New England towns where people stand by the side of some of their roads for a few evenings a year because salamanders cross them in a yearly migration. The people look out for the salamanders and stop the traffic until they are across, or, if it looks as if one can’t make it across the road, they pick it up and carry it. One town even constructed a salamander underpass under one road.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hearing how land restores itself – given the respect and space to do so, I feel uplifted. Thank you! Renewed commitment to doing my part to nurture life and nature 😌🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad you feel uplifted! Yes – I really believe that we all have a part to play in nurturing life and nature – sometimes it is working on large global issues, but many times it is just making sure our own little spot of the globe gets what it needs to be healthy and sustainable.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks Carolyn, a very interesting post. I especially enjoyed your understanding where you say — “renewing energy is deep within each of us. It is the essence of the most sacred element of our being, it is Goddess herself.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • While I didn’t have the spring equinox in mind when I wrote this post, I’m happy that it was published so close to the equinox since that is a time to celebrate this energy within ourselves as the outer world also renews itself. Thank you for your comment!


  4. “Given the smallest chance, life renews itself.” Thank you! We suffered the same drought here in eastern New York State. I love hearing that the turtles returned to the pond.


    • I’m watching our trees with some concern about whether they survived the winter after the drought, and wondering what will come back in the garden this year. I’m hoping that our snowy past three weeks portends a wet spring and summer for both your area and mine!


  5. Thank you Carolyn. Last year we had a lot of construction here, and a lot of birds didn’t stay. But now they are back and singing in spite of rain, and frost. The image I most cherish from the construction is the damming of our little river to allow the water pipes to be laid under it. It was done so carefully, with the workers gently picking up any stranded fish and carrying them to safety. The salamanders reminded me!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “As I consider stories of Goddesses from various eras and places, I notice that Earth’s impulse towards renewal, abundance and wholeness—her renewing spirit— seems linked with female divinity.” I feel this truth every time I walk out my door… S/he is always ready to communicate and to heal if given the slightest chance to do so. I like to see articles that reflect this reality

    I have lived in Maine for 50 plus years, and in this state we have less than 16% of “mature” forest left. Mature requires explanation. According to the forest service a mature tree is 20 or 30 years old. Nut bearing trees don’t begin to produce food for animals until at least 40 years old. In Maine, when spring comes the mountains will one day be covered in lime and purple saplings budding out while few evergreens remain… Our forest has been raped so repeatedly and so severely that I believe that the next generation will not know what an old tree looks like.

    I am spending the winter in New Mexico. Here we can only burn dead wood and consequently real forests remain with lovely old evergreens and long lived junipers intact. I am so grateful to have been given reprieve from the devastation of the Maine woods.

    I guess the point that I am trying to make here is that the Earth IS in trouble and S/he desperately needs our help even though she is doing her best to help herself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right that the Earth is in deep trouble and the current political situation is making the challenge to make Her whole and healthy again so much harder, maybe even to the point of no return. Even with the small victories, yours is an important reminder that we do need to remember this always and keep on working hard, not only on issues directly related to the environment, but, as is so often mentioned here at FAR, on larger issues of justice, equality, and peace that are so intertwined with ecological issues.

      I’m glad to hear about the situation in New Mexico. What a wonderful idea for preserving old trees! I’m sure that the forest that has come back in Massachusetts, where I live, is not the same as the one that was originally lost, and that is a terrible and irreparable loss. I know it’s the same in Michigan, where I grew up and where I still visit frequently, especially in the northern part where, like Maine, the original tree species that were once abundant are now rare. Fortunately, there are efforts there to preserve what is left, I believe.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your post couldn’t have come at a more perfect moment. Today, I’d had enough. From the pressures and stresses of work, to the niggling worry over my next oncology appointment, the unimaginably long and cold winter, to the political mess of the country (and let’s be real, my job, cancer and snow up to my neck have produced less stress for me than the current state of our nation). The activism, and working toward the goal of good has left me depleted and used up, bare like the woods turned farmland you mentioned in your post. I had to say enough, to draw back and draw in. I need revitalization. I am getting better at understanding the warning signs of my own personal ecosystem being out of balance and under threat. It has taken years of mystery illness where I’ve been bedridden for months too weak to eat and every system working incorrectly, having not listened in time for my need for revitalization. And it has always been that one spark of hope, that light of Goddess within me that illuminates my situation and brings me back from the brink. Today I needed your words, and like a gift, here they were. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad the post was helpful. Thank you for your wonderful words! As someone who also has a stressful job, is a cancer survivor, lives in a snowy part of the world, and shares your concerns about current politics, I understand exactly where you are coming from. Listening to ourselves and our need to revitalize is so important – thanks for this essential reminder — Goddess bless and take care!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful post, Carolyn! Coming to it almost a year later, as the grip of winter cold is beginning to loosen, I feel uplifted by your words, your connection with seasonal changes, and your attunement to divine inspiration .


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