Mushroom on a dirt path with someone walking away in the background

The Homecoming

By Aurora Sarchet

“Creator of All, 

We are grateful that from your communion of love you created our planet to be a home for all. By your Holy Wisdom you made the Earth to bring forth a diversity of living beings that filled the soil, water and air. Each part of creation praises you in their being, and cares for one another from our place in the web of life…” 

Prayer from the 2021 Season of Creation Celebration Guide.

Walking through a wilderness area feels somehow like exploring an alien landscape. Around you, butterflies whose names you’ve never heard dip down to drink from flowers foreign to you; trees of unfamiliar species grow as the elements have shaped them, leaning or crooked, creatively contorted to reach toward the sky. It’s wonderful and overwhelming at the same time; somehow humbling.

I have walked through neighborhoods where flat fields of clipped grass stop respectfully at the sidewalk; ornamental trees grow rigidly in little sculpted flower beds. There are butterflies there, too – not many species, but the hardier ones. Once, all of these carefully contained spaces were a diverse wilderness; if we were sent back in time, dumped into the wild space that would someday become a lawn – would we recognize it?

The “eco” in Ecology comes from greek oikos, a word that can be interpreted to mean house, household, family – a diverse word centered around the structure of the home. Ecology is the study of the household of the world, all the relationships and systems that allow our home planet to function. When I think about the way wild places impact me – as something wonderful but unfamiliar – I feel grief. These foreign-seeming species were once part of the household, the ecosystem, of the sterile spaces where I now live. They have been excluded, driven out, relegated to the few scraps of wilderness we have preserved. We have taken a home and made it a house.

I recently moved more than halfway across the United States, from Washington to Tennessee. Settling in has been hard. When I first walked into my apartment, my bedroom was empty and desolate-seeming, with white bare walls. Gradually, I have remedied this. I have hung pictures and set out my books and aquarium; I have bought thrift-store furniture and a striped rug for the floor. The room is no longer quite so empty, so impersonal. But is it home?

There are layers to a home. There’s the building, a place to shelter and seek refuge; there are furniture and appliances for comfort. There are the personal touches: books, mementos and decorations that are of sentimental value. But for me, I think what really makes a home is people – whether family, friends, or other loved ones – whose presence helps me feel content, grounded. In short, community. A home is a place to invite others into fellowship.

This year, the Season of Creation theme is oikos – home. Together with believers across the world, let’s explore what a home on earth looks like. Not just a house, a place to live, but a home – a place for community. Let’s focus on building spaces that will be places of welcome and refuge, places to gather in the forgotten and excluded, places of restored relationship. Maybe oikos will mean introducing yourself to your new neighbors, helping them feel at ease in a new setting. Maybe it will mean planting native species in your garden, welcoming back flowers that haven’t bloomed in this ground for a hundred years. I hope it will mean a growing love for the beautiful diversity that is meant to surround us; an invitation to community, to coming home.

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Explore what oikos looks like in your life

Get familiar with your home and try some of these activities:

  1. Introduce yourself to new neighbours.
  2. Plant native species in your garden, balcony, or care for a potted plant on your desk.
  3. Engage your local ecology and try the Earth Examen (PDF).
  4. Encourage your pastor/priest to integrate creation themes into Sunday liturgies. Guides can be found at the “Learn More” button above.
  5. Advocate for ecological restoration through local or global campaigns.
  6. On September 30 – newly designated as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – take the time to pray for and be moved by the peoples who have lived in the land before us.
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Aurora Sarchet is a volunteer writer with a passion for books, outdoor adventures, and finding friends in unlikely places.