CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups

 

April 2018

 

“What is the relationship between people and nature?”

 

Week One – April 1st

Easter

 

Supplies Needed: scripts for play (one per role, with part highlighted); costumes as desired; seeds (nasturtium seeds are large and work well), pot and potting soil for each person; watering can or pitcher filled with water

 

Chalice lighting

In time of silver rain
The earth
Puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And over all the plain
The wonder spreads
      Of life,
      of life,
      of life!

In time of silver rain
The butterflies
Lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth
New leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,
In time of silver rain
      When spring
      And life
      Are new.

-- by Langston Hughes

Check-in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.”

 

Centering

Sing “I Know This Rose Will Open” by Mary Grigolia

(Singing the Living Tradition #396)

 

“I know this rose will open,

I know my fear will burn away,

I know my soul will unfurl its wings

I know this rose will open.”

 

See here for tune.

 

Introduction

In March we explored the question “What happens when you die?” We continue that theme—sort of—today as we celebrate Easter. The Easter story, after all, is not just about how a good man came to die a terrible death. Even more, it is the story of what happened after he died—which isn’t the way stories usually work. Maybe you have heard the story, maybe you haven’t, but here’s the general idea. The Christian Easter story tells of the last days of Jesus, who had been traveling in the Middle Eastern country of Judea with his friends and students (known as the apostles), teaching and telling stories. Jesus’ message of love for all people and justice for the poor spoke to many, and he had an increasing number of followers. However, government leaders worried when Jesus talked about the “Kingdom of God.” Jesus emphasized the equality of all people, and focused on love rather than following the long list of rules that were so important to the leaders of the time. These people worried that Jesus was going to lead a rebellion against the government—and other people, who were hoping for a revolution, were disappointed in Jesus because he wasn’t leading them into war!

The story goes that one of Jesus’ apostles turned him in to the government, and Jesus was killed in a horrible way because the government thought he was a traitor. Of course, Jesus’ friends were torn up inside at the loss of their beloved teacher. After his body was taken down from the wooden cross where he was tortured and killed, they placed it in a cave, and rolled a huge stone across the front. Three days later, women who had been companions of Jesus came to wash the body and prepare it for final burial. But, the story goes, when they got to the cave, the stone was rolled away and the body was gone. Later that day, as two of the apostles were walking and talking about everything that had happened, they met up with a man who walked with them and ate with them. According to Luke, who tells the story, when they ate together, they decided all of a sudden that the stranger they were talking with was actually Jesus! Jesus, Luke says, then appeared to the rest of the apostles and taught them one more time before “he blessed them [and] parted from them.”

Unlike some more traditional Christians, most Unitarian Universalists don’t believe that Jesus actually came back to life and went walking around in his body that had been dead. However, the idea that something that feels dead and gone can come back to life in a new way is important to people everywhere. And the idea that sorrow can turn into joy, and that courage and compassion can transform the world, are certainly at the center of the Easter story.

Story

We’re going to enact a story that isn’t exactly an Easter story, but it isn’t exactly not an Easter story either. (Note – what appears here is adapted from an intergenerational worship service by John Benford and Greg Ward, which they adapted from the book “Jumping Mouse” by John Steptoe, which he adapted from a Native American story. Benford and Ward’s full version of the service is available at http://www.uuintergenerational.org/jumping_mouse.htm).

Participants in this story/play include:

Story Teller
Jumping Mouse
The Old Ones (2)
Magic Frog
Fat Mouse
Bison

 

STORYTELLER:
Once there was a young mouse who lived in the brush near a great river.

During the day the young mouse hunted for food with the other mice. (Jumping Mouse and the Old Ones appear looking for food). At night they gathered to hear the Old Ones tell stories. (Jumping Mouse and the Old Ones sit in a half circle as if at a campfire.) The young mouse liked to hear about the desert beyond the river, and the stories about the dangerous shadows that lived in the sky gave him shivers (Jumping Mouse looks scared and shivers). But his favorite was the tale of the far-off land (Jumping Mouse gets excited). The far-off land sounded so wonderful the young mouse began to dream about it. He would never be content until he had been there.

The Old Ones warned the young mouse that the journey would be long and dangerous, but he wanted to go anyway. (The Old Ones wag their fingers at Jumping Mouse warning him. Jumping Mouse dismisses them.) He set off early one morning, before the sun had risen. (Jumping Mouse moving around the outside of the room and eventually back towards the front).

JUMPING MOUSE: (dismayed)
Everything I want is beyond this river. But it is so deep and wide and I am so small. How will I ever get across?

MAGIC FROG: (gravely voice)
Well, you could try swimming. That’s what we frogs do (Jumping Mouse looks around and sees the green frog)

JUMPING MOUSE: (a little surprised)
I don’t know how to swim. I don’t even know what swimming is. Who are you anyway?

MAGIC FROG:
I’m Magic Frog, and this is swimming. (Frog jumps into the river and “swims.”).

JUMPING MOUSE:
Oh. I don’t think I can do that.

MAGIC FROG:
How bad do you want to get across the river? (Hops back on the bank. and waits for an answer)

JUMPING MOUSE:
Oh, very much! I want to go to the far off land. It’s a beautiful place where my dreams of how life should be are waiting for me to come and make them all true. To live a lifetime and not see it would be unbearable.

MAGIC FROG:
In that case you will need my help. What is your name?

JUMPING MOUSE:
I’m a mouse.

MAGIC FROG: (Laughs)
That’s not a name. I’ll give you a name that will come in quite handy on your journey. I name you Jumping Mouse.

STORYTELLER:
As soon as Magic Frog said this, the young mouse felt a strange tingling in his hind legs. He hopped a small hop and, to his surprise, jumped twice as high as he’d every jumped before.

JUMPING MOUSE: (Surprised, and admiring of his new, powerful legs)
Thank you!

MAGIC FROG:
You’re welcome. Now step onto this leaf and we’ll cross the river together.
(They cross the “river”).
You will encounter hardships on your way, but don’t despair. You will reach the far-off land if, in your heart, you keep hope alive.

STORYTELLER:
But once on the other side, as Magic Frog hopped out of sight, Jumping Mouse realized he felt dreadfully alone. He thought about his dream of the far-off-land and how far away it was. He wasn’t ready to give up, but it occurred to him that he could use some help.

The shadows circled above, but Jumping Mouse hopped quickly along from bush to bush and avoided being seen. He ate berries when he could find them and slept only when he was exhausted. Days passed. Though he was able to travel quickly, he began to wonder if he’d ever reach the far off land on the other side of the desert. Then he came upon a stream that coursed through the dry land. Under a large berry tree as he was reaching for a particularly plump berry attached to a long vine, his hand grabbed something alive. And then he heard a shout.

FAT MOUSE:
Hey, who’s got my tail?

JUMPING MOUSE:
Excuse me!!! I was hungry and I was hoping to stop and rest and have some berries, and I guess I thought you were a berry when I grabbed your tail.

FAT MOUSE:
Well, that’s the first time anyone’s called me a berry. Allow me to help you... (Fat Mouse pulls out a basket of berries and shares them with Jumping Mouse).

JUMPING MOUSE:
These are delicious, thank you.

FAT MOUSE:
....I’ve been tending these vines for a long time. I’ve gotten pretty good at growing berries. (He looks closely at Jumping Mouse’s legs). Say...... you’ve got some pretty sturdy hind legs there. Can’t say as I’ve ever seen a mouse with such big legs.

JUMPING MOUSE: (Proudly)
They were a gift from Magic Frog when she named me.

FAT MOUSE: (Curiously)
What good are they?

JUMPING MOUSE:
They’ve helped me come this far across the desert. And they’re going to get me to the far-off-land. But right now, I’m a little tired. May I rest here for a while? (Climbing up next to Fat Mouse with a begging look and “his hat in his hand.”)

FAT MOUSE:
Indeed you may. In fact, you can stay forever.

JUMPING MOUSE:
Thank you. I appreciate the offer, but if it’s alright, I’ll be off again after I’m rested. I’ve seen the far-off-land in my dreams and I must be on my way as soon as I’m able.

FAT MOUSE: (Scornfully)
Dreams.... I used to have such dreams, but all I ever found was desert. Why go jumping about the desert when everything anyone needs is right here?

JUMPING MOUSE:
That certainly sounds like a good question. And I can’t say as I can answer it. I just know that it’s something that I have to do. Haven’t you ever felt like that?

FAT MOUSE: (Snorts again)
No! And if you’re smart you’ll stay here too. A snake lives on the other side of the stream. But he’s afraid of water, so he’ll never cross over here. As long as you stay with me, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

STORYTELLER:
Life was easy beneath the berry bush, and Jumping Mouse was soon rested and strong. He and Fat Mouse ate and slept and slept and ate. And Fat Mouse talked Jumping Mouse into staying an extra day or two. The safety and the food and the rest and the coolness of the season were comforting. Jumping Mouse got up each morning and looked at the road leading away and it looked tricky.... a little tiring. And for a few days, he was able to put off his journey. And during that time he and Fat Mouse become friends.

But one day, when he went to the stream for a cool drink of water, he caught sight of his reflection. (Jumping Mouse climbs down with difficulty. He waddles to the edge of the stream and looks at his reflection). He was almost as fat as his friend Fat Mouse.

JUMPING MOUSE: (To self)
It’s time for me to go on. I didn’t come all this way to settle down under a berry bush and eat berries.

STORYTELLER:
Just then, Jumping Mouse spotted an old branch which had fallen from a tree. It was large enough to cross the whole stream. And just at the end of the branch Jumping Mouse caught a glimpse of a snake’s tail as it slithered ON THIS SIDE OF THE STREAM.

JUMPING MOUSE:
Oh my goodness! Now the snake has gotten across the stream. I’d better warn my friend Fat Mouse. FAT MOUSE!!! FAT MOUSE!!! HURRY!!! THE SNAKE IS COMING!!!

STORYTELLER:
Jumping Mouse ran around looking for Fat Mouse... but he was nowhere to be found. Then he stopped and sniffed in the air and he noticed a strange smell.

JUMPING MOUSE:
SNAKE!!!

STORYTELLER:
All at once, Jumping Mouse knew what happened.

JUMPING MOUSE:
I’m too late. Poor old Fat Mouse. He lost hope of finding his dream and now his life is over.

STORYTELLER:
And then he realized that if he didn’t want to end up like his friend Fat Mouse he had best not forget that he was on his way somewhere. He remembered his dream. He remembered the far-off-land. And he looked out at the road leading away. It was a little darker... a little more frightening.... He knew there was more danger out there... perhaps even worse than snake. But he also knew he had to go.

(Jumping Mouse hurries away.)

Jumping Mouse traveled all the way through the night. The next morning he saw that he had reached a snowy plain. Exhausted, he hopped toward a larger boulder where he could rest in safety. But as he got closer he became more curious at what he saw. It was not a boulder he spied. It was a shaggy bison lying in the snow. (Bison stumbles forward laboriously and collapses). Every once in a while the bison groaned in pain. Jumping Mouse shivered at the terrible sound.

JUMPING MOUSE: (Trying to sound brave)
Hello large friend. I’m Jumping Mouse, on my way to the far-off-land. Are you hurt? Why do you lie here in the snow as if you are dying?

BISON: (Groaning)
I lie here in the snow because I AM dying. I drank from a poisoned stream. Now I am blind. I can’t see to find my way through the snow to where the grass is still growing and where the good, sweet water still flows. With the winter cold upon me, I shall surely die.

JUMPING MOUSE:
It makes me sad to hear your tale... to see such a beautiful and powerful animal such as yourself so helpless. When I began my journey, I had a friend named Magic Frog who helped me when I felt helpless. He gave me a name and strong legs to carry me here. My magic is not nearly as powerful as hers, but I do know one thing I can do to help you. As I was named, so can I name you. I shall call you , Eyes-of-a-Mouse.

STORYTELLER:
As soon as he had spoken, Jumping Mouse heard the bison snort, power returning to his enormous frame. He heard the spirit of joy and amazement in the breath of the bison. He heard... but he could not see a thing... for he had given this stranger his own sight.

JUMPING MOUSE:
I cannot see. In my wish for you I must have given you the only sight I could. My own sight.

BISON:
Your gift has saved my life. I cannot say any words to convey my thanks. But I know that if you are blind you will not survive the bitter cold that is coming. If you hop along beneath me, the shadows of the sky won’t see you.

JUMPING MOUSE:
But how can I travel beneath you?

BISON:
Listen to the sound of my hooves and learn their rhythm. Follow my steps and I will protect you.

STORYTELLER:
Jumping Mouse did as he was told. He hopped to the rhythm of his friend’s hooves, and in this way they traveled together toward the far-off-land.

In time, Bison and Jumping Mouse came to a wide and open plain. There were other Bison there and they came rushing over to their friend Eyes-of-a-Mouse. He snorted and stood up on his hind legs to keep the other bison back. He didn’t want them to accidentally crush Jumping Mouse. Then he turned to his new friend, sadly and spoke:

BISON:
I owe you more than I can repay. But I am an animal of the plains, so I must stop here. I am worried for you. How will you manage when you can’t see?

JUMPING MOUSE:
So many times I have been frightened and felt I was at the end of my quest to find the far-off-land. But I had the courage to begin and the strength to continue. Now I can feel my dream so near. I must do what I have always done, trust that importance of my dream will allow me to survive.

STORYTELLER:
And so as Eyes-of-a-Mouse pointed him in the direction of the hills on the far side of the plain, Jumping Mouse set off.

Jumping Mouse’s journey across the plain passed through the winter. One bright morning, as his sleepy thoughts contemplated crawling out of his winter hole, he realized he no longer needed to: the snow which had formed the biggest part of the hole had melted. Jumping Mouse found himself at the edge of the great plain and the beginning of a lush meadow.

JUMPING MOUSE: (Excitedly)
I’m here!!! I feel the earth beneath my paws. I hear the wind rustling leaves on the trees. I can feel the sun’s warmth on my back. I am finally here in the far-off-land. (Suddenly he slumps down). But I cannot see it. I know I should be happy to be here. I have come so far and been through so much. But it’s so disappointing to know that I’ll never be the same as I was. How will I ever manage? (Jumping Mouse begins to cry).

MAGIC FROG:
Last one in the swimming hole is a dirty old mouse!!!

JUMPING MOUSE: (Swallowing his tears and smiling)
Magic Frog!?! Is that you?

MAGIC FROG:
It’s me. And from the looks of it, none too soon. What’s wrong my fuzzy friend?

JUMPING MOUSE:
It took everything I had to get here. It was much harder than I thought. Most of the time I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Then I had to give up my sight. Now that I’m here, I don’t even know if it’s worth it because I can’t see how beautiful everything around me truly is.

MAGIC FROG:
My friend, you already know how beautiful everything around you is. Your care for Fat Mouse and Bison has shown that. Your courage to face the dark and cold has shown that. Your willingness to risk your own dreams for the dreams of others has shown that. What you are now just learning to see is how beautiful everything inside you is. LOOK! Jumping Mouse. LOOK and jump high!

JUMPING MOUSE: (Protesting)
But I .....

MAGIC FROG:
LOOK WITHIN, Jumping Mouse. Look to the vision that brought you here. You were able to see beyond difficult times, see beyond comfort, see beyond sacrifice. That is your true gift of sight. Use your powerful legs to jump in your dreams. JUMP, JUMPING MOUSE!

JUMPING MOUSE: (Hesitating)
But...

MAGIC FROG: (Encouragingly)
JUMP!

JUMPING MOUSE: (Jumping without having his feet leave the ground)
I... I... I can... I can jump.

MAGIC FROG:
Yes you can. You have been using this sight all along. Jump high now...

JUMPING MOUSE:
Weeeeeeeeeeee..... Look at all the things I can see....

MAGIC FROG:
Soar with the eagles. Look down on the land you have traveled. See all the creatures you have met.

JUMPING MOUSE: (Holding out his hands as if blind, with his eyes closed)
I can see!!! And look there is Fat Mouse! and Bison!

MAGIC FROG:
You mean Eyes-of-a-Mouse.

JUMPING MOUSE:
Yes. I can see all of them.

MAGIC FROG:
Jumping Mouse, today I give you a new name. You are now called Eagle, and you will live in the far-off-land all of your days. You have lived there in your heart, and in your courageous vision. Now you may soar in its majesty forever.
 

Ritual

The Easter story of Jesus, the story of Jumping Mouse, even the story that spring tells in the natural world, all point toward the idea that what looks like defeat can actually be the beginning of something that you can’t yet see. Jesus died, but his teachings became a religion practiced by millions of people. Jumping Mouse arrived at the far-off land blind and grieving, only to become an eagle. And plants die back in the winter, but they can leave behind seeds. Seeds that don’t look like much, just like little wrinkly pebbles. But hidden inside those seeds is the new life of the plant that has died.

As you plant your seeds into the soil, imagine what the plants they hold inside them might look like. (You can show a picture from the seed packet.) So much life and beauty tucked up inside and invisible. Perhaps there is something in your life, something in your heart, that feels sad or defeated. As you water your newly planted seeds, imagine that you are making a way for that sad or lonely or scared place inside you to sprout out into something that you can’t even yet imagine.

Closing

Sing “I Know this Rose will Open” as in centering. Close by saying “I know your rose will open. I know your fear will burn away. I know your soul will unfurl its wings, as Jumping Mouse did when he became an eagle. Happy Easter.”


Week Two—April 8th

Introduction – “What is the relationship between people and nature?”

 

Supplies Needed:  Question bowl, yarn, scissors, thread, needles, string-able food for bird feeders such as popcorn (popped), cranberries, raisins, pieces of apple or orange, and/or bread cubes

 

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting:

 

We light this flame to guide our search for truth, and to remind us to look on the world with bright eyes, and to meet the world with warm hearts.

or

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Check-in:

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.”

 

 

Centering:

Take a deep breath. Feel it fill you, filling your lungs and your belly and all the way down to your toes. Let out the breath, releasing the air back into the world around you. Breathe in. (pause) Breathe out. Breathe in, knowing that you are bringing into your body a breeze that has travelled across an ocean to reach you. Breathe out, knowing that the air from inside you will enter a nearby plant even though it has no lungs to breathe it in. Breathe in, knowing that the air which enters you has been through giraffes and emus and dogs and dinosaurs and is just as fresh and good for life as it ever was. Breathe out, knowing that that little puff of air will be part of the life of someone who will not be born for years to come. Breathe in. Breathe out.

 

Introduction

All of the big theological questions we’ve been asking have more than one answer. The answer you give to a theological question matters, because it is likely to make a difference in how you live in the world. Our question for this month is no exception. The question is “What is the relationship between people and nature?” As we learn more and more about the effects of pollution and global warming and the loss of habitat for animals, how we answer this question, and how we act on the answer, becomes more and more important.

 

Let’s take a minute to think about this question: “What is the relationship between people and nature?” What kinds of questions come to mind when you think about this big question? We’ll pass around our question bowl, and when it comes to you please share out loud any questions you might have on the subject. (You might want to prime the pump with questions like “Are people more important than animals?” “Is it wrong to eat meat?” “Do I even have a relationship with nature, since I live in the city?”)

 

Story

The stories we tell about who people are and how we got here are an important part of how we understand how people are related to the rest of the world. Do you remember the creation story from the Hebrew Bible that we told back in October? (If willing and able, kids can retell story as they remember it.) Here’s the story again:

 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 1 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

 Then God said, “Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

 So God created humans in his own image,
       in the image of God he created him;
       male and female he created them.

 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Discussion: What do you think it means when God, in the story, tells the first people to “subdue” the earth and to “rule over” all the living creatures? Some scholars point out the word in the original Hebrew which we translate as “rule over” is the word which in other places in the Bible is used to describe a good, caring king. Does this change how you see the story? Do you think this story mostly gives a helpful or not helpful idea of the relationship between people and nature?

 

Story #2

Here is another creation story, this time from the Hopi tribe of Native Americans. As you listen to it, think about what it might have to say about the relationship between people and nature. (Note: you may wish to have children act out the story as you tell it.)

 

The Four Creations

      The world at first was endless space in which existed only the Creator, Taiowa. This world had no time, no shape, and no life, except in the mind of the Creator. Eventually the infinite creator created Sotuknang, whom he called his nephew and whom he created as his helper to create nine universes. Sotuknang gathered together matter from the endless space to make the nine solid worlds. Then the Creator instructed him to gather together the waters from the endless space and place them on these worlds to make land and sea. When Sotuknang had done that, the Creator instructed him to gather together air to make winds and breezes on these worlds.

      Then the Creator charged Sotuknang with the creation of life. Sotuknang went to the world that was to first host life and there he created Spider Woman, and he gave her the power to create life. First Spider Woman took some earth and mixed it with saliva to make two beings. Over them she sang the Creation Song, and they came to life. She instructed one of them, Poqanghoya, to go across the earth and solidify it. She instructed the other, Palongawhoya, to send out sound to resonate through the earth, so that the earth vibrated with the energy of the Creator. Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya were sent to the poles of the earth to keep it rotating.

      Then Spider Woman made all the plants, the flowers, the bushes, and the trees. Likewise she made the birds and animals, again using earth and singing the Creation Song. When all this was done, she made human beings, using yellow, red, white, and black earth mixed with her saliva. Singing the Creation Song, she made four men, and then in her own form she made four women. At first they had a soft spot in their foreheads, and although it grew solid, it left a space through which they could hear the voice of Sotuknang and their Creator. Because these people could not speak, Spider Woman called on Sotuknang, who gave them four languages. His only instructions were for them to respect their Creator and to live in harmony with him.

      These people spread across the earth and multiplied. Despite their four languages, in those days they could understand each other's thoughts anyway, and for many years they and the animals lived together as one. Eventually, however, they began to divide, both the people from the animals and the people from each other, as they focused on their differences rather than their similarities. As division and suspicion became more widespread, only a few people from each of the four groups still remembered their Creator. Sotuknang appeared before these few and told them that he and the Creator would have to destroy this world, and that these few who remembered the Creator must travel across the land, following a cloud and a star, to find refuge. These people began their treks from the places where they lived, and when they finally came together Sotuknang appeared again. He opened a huge ant mound and told these people to go down in it to live with the ants while he destroyed the world with fire, and he told them to learn from the ants while they were there. The people went down and lived with the ants, who had storerooms of food that they had gathered in the summer, as well as chambers in which the people could live. This went on for quite a while, because after Sotuknang cleansed the world with fire it took a long time for the world to cool off. As the ants' food ran low, the people refused the food, but the ants kept feeding them and only tightened their own belts, which is why ants have such tiny waists today.

      Finally Sotuknang was done making the second world, which was not quite as beautiful as the first. Again he reminded the people to remember their Creator as they and the ants that had hosted them spread across the earth. The people multiplied rapidly and soon covered the entire earth. They did not live with the animals, however, because the animals in this second world were wild and afraid. Instead the people lived in villages and built roads between these, so that trade sprang up. They stored goods and traded those for goods from elsewhere, and soon they were trading for things they did not need. As their desire to have more and more grew, they began to forget their Creator, and soon wars over resources and trade were breaking out between villages. Finally Sotuknang appeared before the few people who still remembered the Creator, and again he sent them to live with the ants while he destroyed this corrupt world. This time he ordered Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya to abandon their posts at the poles, and soon the world spun out of control and rolled over. Mountains slid and fell, and lakes and rivers splashed across the land as the earth tumbled, and finally the earth froze over into nothing but ice.

      This went on for years, and again the people lived with the ants. Finally Sotuknang sent Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya back to the poles to resume the normal rotation of the earth, and soon the ice melted and life returned. Sotuknang called the people up from their refuge, and he introduced them to the third world that he had made. Again he reminded the people to remember their Creator as they spread across the land. As they did so, they multiplied quickly, even more quickly than before, and soon they were living in large cities and developing into separate nations. With so many people and so many nations, soon there was war, and some of the nations made huge shields on which they could fly, and from these flying shields they attacked other cities. When Sotuknang saw all this war and destruction, he resolved to destroy this world quickly before it corrupted the few people who still remembered the Creator. He called on Spider Woman to gather those few and, along the shore, she placed each person with a little food in the hollow stem of a reed. When she had done this, Sotuknang let loose a flood that destroyed the warring cities and the world on which they lived.

      Once the rocking of the waves ceased, Spider Woman unsealed the reeds so the people could see. They floated on the water for many days, looking for land, until finally they drifted to an island. On the island they built little reed boats and set sail again to the east. After drifting many days, they came to a larger island, and after many more days to an even larger island. They hoped that this would be the fourth world that Sotuknang had made for them, but Spider Woman assured them that they still had a long and hard journey ahead. They walked across this island and built rafts on the far side, and set sail to the east again. They came to a fourth and still larger island, but again they had to cross it on foot and then build more rafts to continue east. From this island, Spider Woman sent them on alone, and after many days they came to a vast land. Its shores were so high that they could not find a place to land, and only by opening the doors in their heads did they know where to go to land.

      When they finally got ashore, Sotuknang was there waiting for them. As they watched to the west, he made the islands that they had used like stepping stones disappear into the sea. He welcomed them to the fourth world, but he warned them that it was not as beautiful as the previous ones, and that life here would be harder, with heat and cold, and tall mountains and deep valleys. He sent them on their way to migrate across the wild new land in search of the homes for their respective clans. The clans were to migrate across the land to learn its ways, although some grew weak and stopped in the warm climates or rich lands along the way. The Hopi trekked and far and wide, and went through the cold and icy country to the north before finally settling in the arid lands between the Colorado River and Rio Grande River. They chose that place so that the hardship of their life would always remind them of their dependence on, and link to, their Creator.

Discussion: What does this story say about the relationship between people and nature? What does it say about what the Creator wants from people? Do you prefer what this story teaches about the relationship between people and nature or what the biblical creation story teaches?

Activity:

Our Unitarian Universalist principles talk about “the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.” In other words, UUs understand that all of life is connected, and that we have to remember how our choices affect everyone around us, plants and animals included. We’re going to create our own interdependent web. I have here a ball of yarn. I’m going to hold onto the end, and then throw it to another person. When the yarn comes to you, catch it, and then hold onto the string of the yarn when you throw the ball to someone else. (Note: this activity requires at least five or so people. If you have fewer you may wish to omit it and move on to part two.)

 

We’ve created our “interdependent web” connecting us all together. But the strings that tie us into an interconnected web with all of nature aren’t really visible as strings. But sometimes they are visible as actions, like when we choose to help and support the non-human members of our community.

 

We’re going to use literal string to string food for a bird feeder, a way for us to build a connection with the wildlife that may live in our back yard or just outside our apartment window. When you’re done you can hang the feeder in a tree or bush. Maybe you can find a spot where you can watch to see who comes to eat from your feeder.

 

Closing

Attributed to Chief Sealth:

 

This we know.

The earth does not belong to us;

We belong to the earth.

This we know.

All things are connected

Like the blood which unites a family.

All things are connected.

 

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

We did not weave the web of life;

We are merely a strand in it.

Whatever we do to the web,

We do to ourselves.


Week Three – April 15th

 

What is the relationship between people and nature? – Henry David Thoreau

 

Supplies Needed: journals (can be the ones created for this class), pencils, colored pencils or crayons

 

We light this flame to guide our search for truth, and to remind us to look on the world with bright eyes, and to meet the world with warm hearts.

or

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Check-in:

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.”

 

Centering:

Sing the chant: “The Earth, Water, Fire, Air”

 

The earth, the water, the fire, the air,

Return, return, return, return.

 

See here for tune.

 

Story

We like to share the true stories from our Unitarian Universalist history, but the person I want to talk about today wasn’t exactly a Unitarian or a Universalist. But he hung out with Unitarians, and his best friend was a Unitarian minister, and although he didn’t really go to church, if he did go he almost certainly would have gone to a Unitarian church. So we like to count him as at least being a good friend of the family. This man is Henry David Thoreau.

 

Henry was born in 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts, and aside from a variety of trips, he lived there his entire life. His father was a pencil-maker, and Henry worked some at his father’s factory, as well as working as a teacher, handy-man and surveyor at various points in his life. But we know him today as a thinker and a writer. The most famous man in Concord, Massachusetts when Henry returned home from going to Harvard University, was Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Unitarian minister who is still very famous today as a thinker and a writer, and a founder of the school of thought called Transcendentalism. Transcendentalists believed that people could know what is right and good by looking to their own conscience as much as through formal religion, and they said that people can get in touch with God, or what they called the Oversoul, as much in nature as in church. Emerson encouraged Henry’s writing, introduced him to his friends the Transcendentalists, and helped him to get published. Emerson also hired Henry to tutor his children and help around the house, so Henry lived at Emerson’s house for a couple of years.

 

But the most famous part of Henry’s life, perhaps, happened when Henry moved out of the Emerson house, but stayed on the Emerson property, next to Walden Pond. He built himself a tiny cabin there, made of recycled materials. He lived very simply in that cabin, focusing on observing and writing about what he say in nature. (Note: if you can get it, D.B. Johnson’s picture book Henry Builds a Cabin is a fun rendition of Henry building his cabin.)

 

Henry wrote a very famous book about the time he spend living in his cabin, called Walden. But while he lived there, much of the writing he did was in the form of keeping a detailed journal of everything he saw in nature. He was passionate about noticing everything that happened around him, trying to get to know the woods around him the way you would know the habits of a very close friend.

 

Activity

We’re going to try making a nature journal like Henry David Thoreau.

Note: There are several ways that you can do this. You can go for a nature walk in a park or nature preserve. You can go outside to your own back yard or outside your church building. You can mark off a square meter of land and ask children to see how many forms of life they can find there. You can provide magnifying glasses. If the weather doesn’t permit going outside, you can bring natural objects into the room, and have the children describe them in terms of sight, feel, scent, etc. You can encourage children to draw as well as write. You can ask them to use all five of their senses if you are careful to steer them to items (such as a blade of grass) that are safe to put in the mouth.

 

Discussion

What do you think was Henry David Thoreau’s view of the relationship between people and nature? Do you think living in a little cabin in the woods made a difference in that view?

 

Closing

Have kids share what they wrote/drew in their journals. Close with these words from Henry David Thoreau:

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”


Week Four—April 22nd

Earth Day

Supplies Needed: Drums or other rhythm instruments (optional), paper plates, hole punch, hole reinforcers, elastic thread, (or blank masks from craft store), pencils, crayons and markers, variety of leaves/bark/acorns/natural materials, hot glue, sheets of newsprint if playing Penguins and Icebergs

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

 

May the light of our chalice show us the invisible light that shines inside of every living being.

 

or

 

May the light of this chalice warm our hearts, and guide our search for truth.

 

or

 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

 

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering

Sing “The Earth, the Water, the Fire, the Air”

 

The earth, the water, the fire, the air

Return, return, return, return.

 

See here for tune. You may wish to distribute drums or other rhythm instruments and have participants create percussion to go with the chant.

 

Introduction: April 22nd , is Earth Day, a special holiday to honor and protect the natural world. This, of course, goes perfectly with our seventh UU principle, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.” So today we celebrate Earth Day, and our connection to the interdependent web of all life.

 

Story: We begin with a story called The Green Man, about someone who finds his connection with the earth in a rather surprising way.

Once upon a time, there lived a rich and vain young squire. Servants prepared his favorite foods each day. His every wish was granted.

One of the young man's favorite things to do was to ride through the woods that were part of his kingdom, hunting small animals for sport. He thought that the woods and all its creatures belonged to him and he could do as he pleased with them.

The people in the village had a different idea about the woods. The woods provided a home to all the creatures that lived there: chipmunks, birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer, and wild pigs. They told their children a story about a Green Man who lived in the woods and cared for all of the small creatures. They said he even watched out for children in the woods. The villagers faithfully left out food on winter nights for the Green Man to eat.

One autumn day, the squire decided to go on a hunt. He called to all of his servants to saddle up the horses and get on their riding clothes: they were going into his woods.

They rode into the woods, trampling nests and dens as they went, sending dogs out ahead to chase small animals out of their homes so they could be easily hunted. After a time, the squire became separated from the rest of the hunting party. He was looking for them when he came to a pond — a beautiful, clear, cool pond.

"How clever of me to have a pond in my woods to refresh myself!" he said.

The young man began to remove all of his fine clothing — his shoes, his hat, his jacket, his shirt, his pants, and his socks. He laid his clothes neatly folded by the edge of the pond and jumped into the cool water. He swam back and forth, enjoying himself immensely.

While he was swimming and splashing away, a hand reached out from behind a tree and took his clothing and led his horse away. When the squire got out of the water, he discovered that he had nothing left to wear save a piece of rope. He took the rope and fastened some leaves to it to make a cover up. When his hunting party came looking for him, he was embarrassed to be seen dressed in nothing but leaves. So he hid.

At night, the squire went looking for some shelter and he stumbled into a cave. He didn't sleep much that night. It was dark, and he was frightened, and he kept hearing animal noises all night.

In the morning, when the daylight came, he saw that he was not alone in the cave. There was a goat there, and a chicken, and a gourd for holding water. Someone had been living in that cave! He found some grass for the goat and feed for the chicken. He discovered some grain that he could eat as well.

Over time, the squire settled in to life in the cave. He fashioned a whole garment out of leaves. He ate eggs from the hen and drank milk from the goat. He covered his hand with mud to prevent stings and reached into a beehive for honey to eat. He became acquainted with all the small woodland creatures, and he cared for them, helping them over swollen streams when heavy rains fell, making sure they had food and water, and sheltering them in the cave on the chilly nights.

One day he came upon two small children trapped by a wild pig threatening to bite. When he had chased the pig off, they looked at him. There he was, covered head to toe with leaves and mud, with a wild-Iooking beard and hair. "Are you the Green Man?" they asked.

"I guess I am," said the man, who no longer looked anything like a squire.

When winter came, the Green Man was happy to go into the village at night and to take the food that the villagers left out for him, sharing it with all his animal friends. A year passed peacefully, until one warm day when a hunting party came into the woods. The Green Man hid behind a tree to watch. A rich young man, a squire perhaps, became separated from his hunting group and decided to take a swim in the clear, cool pond. He took off his clothes, folded them, and left them under a tree. The Green Man reached out a hand and took the clothes and the horse, leaving behind his garment of leaves and a coil of rope. He used a sharp stick to trim his hair and beard, and rode into town, back to his parents' castle.

 

Discussion: Do you think that the man in the story went back to being vain and greedy after he returned home to the castle? How do you think honoring our connection to the earth might change our behavior?

 

Activity:

The Green Man, a mysterious figure covered in leaves, halfway in between a man and a tree, goes back in time far before this story. There are carvings of the Green Man in very old British churches, but the figure of the Green Man almost certainly goes back to a time before Christianity. No one knows for sure what the pictures of the Green Man mean, or who he was supposed to be, but it seems reasonable to guess that the Green Man was a kind of god of the forest, a way of expressing the connection between people and nature. We are going to create Green Man masks, so that we can try on being the Green Man (or Woman) ourselves.

 

To make the base for the masks you can cut eye holes in a paper plate, and punch holes at 6:00 and 9:00 to thread elastic through to hold the mask in place. Or, for a more elegant effect, purchase blank plastic masks from the craft store. Participants can draw leaves and vines onto the paper mask (see image below for an example of what the Green Man looks like) and/or use hot glue to affix leaves, bits of vine, bark, seeds, etc. to the mask for a more natural effect. It is possible to draw on plastic masks with permanent markers, but they will be more attractive and meaningful with natural materials attached. With younger children, adults will need to handle the hot glue gun, but hot glue will be much more effective (and quicker to dry) than regular glue.

 

Activity Pt. 2

When we put on the Green Man mask and see through his eyes, we with a different perspective. The Green Man sees our connection to nature, and the need to do what we can to protect the natural world. We are going to put on our masks (or simply put on our Green Man perspective) and take a tour through our human-designed environment. Everything you see will probably look familiar to you, but as you see this well-known building, try to look through Green Man eyes. In each part of the building we will ask ourselves: “What can we do here to help protect and preserve the natural world?” and “How might we be able to connect to the natural world in this space?”

 

Take notes on the “Green Man” observations, or ask participants to do so. At the end of the tour discuss which of the suggestions about improving care of the environment and/or connecting to the natural world you could actually apply. (Possibilities might include things from tuning off lights and conserving water to growing herbs indoors or air-drying clothes.)

 

Activity:

If you have additional time, play Penguins and Icebergs.

 

Closing: Ask each person to say one thing they commit to doing to help protect and preserve the earth.


Week Five—April 29th

Arbor Day

 

Supplies Needed: Copies of the play “The Great Kapok Tree” (see below). Costumes if desired. Construction paper and markers or crayons; or felt or other sturdy, solid-color fabric and fabric paint. You may also want wooden dowels and/or string, so that you can have a flag pole, or a dowel for hanging.

 

Chalice Lighting:

Earth teach me limitation

as the ant which crawls on the ground

Earth teach me freedom

as the eagle which soars in the sky

Earth teach me resignation

as the leaves which die in the fall.

Earth teach me regeneration

as the seed which rises in the Spring.

--from the Ute Indians of North America

 

Check in:

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering:

See week two.

 

Introduction:  Arbor Day was started in 1872 by a man named Julius Sterling Morton as a way to encourage people to plant trees and to appreciate all the good that trees do for us. Like Earth Day,  Arbor Day serves as a reminder to think about our relationship to nature – both the ways we depend on the natural world and the ways the natural world depends on our choices to survive. There are many concerns about the effects that people are having on the environment, including air pollution, water pollution, garbage, loss of habitat (living places) for wild animals and climate change caused largely by our use of fossil fuels like oil and gas.

 

Play How we think about our relationship with nature has a big effect on our choices, and our choices have a big effect on the health of the natural world. We’re going to do a play based on a book by Lynne Cherry which seems very appropriate for Arbor Day. It’s called The Great Kapok Tree.

See http://www.timelessteacherstuff.com/readerstheater/GreatKapokTree.pdf for a copy of the play. If you have only a few people you can have one person play the narrator, another be the man in the story and another be all the beings who visit the man in his dream. Or assign multiple roles to different people. It will work best to print out enough copies of the play for each participant to hold one.

 

Discussion: How do you think the man’s view of his relationship with nature changed because of his dream? The man made the choice not to cut down the Kapok tree. What actions do you think you could take to honor your connection with nature? (Note: Children tend to get stuck with the idea of picking up garbage and recycling as the only things they can do. Encourage them to think about conserving energy and water, walking or biking rather than asking for a ride, buying used rather than new clothes and toys, etc.)

 

Project In the United States, kids start the school day by reciting the pledge of allegiance. Do you know what allegiance means? (If you don’t get a clear answer, allegiance can be defined as loyalty, commitment or devotion.) To pledge allegiance to the flag means to promise to love and support and stand up for your country. But as big as the idea of a country is, maybe we need to think about pledging allegiance to something larger – like the whole planet. We’re going to come up with our own pledge of allegiance, but this time it will be a pledge of allegiance to the planet, rather than a country. (Note: you can do this exercise either as individuals, having people write their pledge in their journals, or by consensus as a group, writing down ideas on easel paper and having the group choose the final form.)

 

In order to pledge allegiance to the flag of the planet, we’ll need to have planet flags.

Using either construction paper, scissors, glue and markers; or fabric, scissors, glue and fabric paint, have children create their own flag for the earth as a whole. It could be a picture of the earth, but could also depict particular natural elements, such as mountains, butterflies, trees, etc. You can attach the flags to a “flag pole” by gluing or stapling to a slender wood dowel, or make them hangable by wrapping the top edge around a dowel, gluing or stapling it, and then tying a string to both ends of the dowel.

 

Closing

Have each person recite their pledge, or have the group jointly recite its common pledge of allegiance to the Earth.