Living the Elements: Earth

Late Summer

Earth, the element that embodies Late Summer, is all about the feeling of stability and satisfaction. It’s our sense of familiarity and comfort, our sense of homeyness. The stay-at-home measures of COVID-19 are definitely “bringing it all back home” for us, and that has certainly been giving us an opportunity to appreciate family and home much more—or else made us realize what’s absolutely got to change.

On a national and planetary level, there’s a whole lot coming home to us—and it’s been coming for a long time. We are living right now in the midst of so much upheaval that it is both an opportunity and a necessity for us to do the kind of pondering that Earth is best at: consideration of whether we are tending our garden well.

What makes all of this go much, much easier is taking the time to savor and give thanks for what we do have that is good and nourishing in our lives. Even if it feels like we haven’t got much in our garden this year, let’s share what we’ve got—including sharing some music, poetry, and art that specifically feeds our Earth element.  Here are some of my long-time favorites:

Song: The Beach Boys – Don’t Worry Baby

When my son was little, he would say to me sometimes, “Mama, I’m a baby—and I feel worried.” That was my cue to turn on this song, pick him up in my arms, and slow dance around the living room holding him and singing to him, “Don’t worry, baby; everything will turn out all right…” I loved the freedom with which my little one was able to admit to needing a bit of comfort sometimes, a bit of Earth sweetness and holding.

May we be as shamelessly sweet in our need for sweetness—and pass it on. (For more about receiving sweetness and passing it on, see our Stomach Points on the Chest: Generosity and Tolerance CEU.)

Song: Bonnie Raitt – Cry on My Shoulder

Sometimes I don’t like to share with anyone about my troubles, because I do want sympathy, but not the mushy, soggy kind that leaves me feeling even worse. I want the kind of shoulder to cry on that Bonnie Raitt offers here.

She’s compassionate and gives space to be honest about how hard it is, but it’s not an invitation to self-pity or collapse. In fact, she says, “Cry on my shoulder; I’ll help you rise above.” I love that! The struggle is real, but so is the support of having a friend to help us see it through.

(For more about differential aspects of healthy sympathy, see our “What is Sympathy?” article in the Earth section of the Five Element Archive, or in the Earth Archive Book.)

Song: Adrienne Young and Little Sadie–Plough to the End of the Row

Earth is the Element of hard work. Sometimes we are weary and covered in dirt, sometimes we are footsore—and yet in a healthy Earth Element, all labor is a labor of love.

(For more about the hard work of farming and digesting our lives, see our CV-KI-ST-SP in the Middle Burner CEU.)

Image: Lactating Fountain

We’ve seen enough fountains of little boys peeing. Want to see the mothers of those little boys? Lactating fountains are actually a great European tradition; if you’d like to see more, check out these links: Lactating Fountains (via Pinterest) Lactating Fountains of Italy (via Slow Italy) 

(For more about the glory of nipples and their spiritual and medical functions, see our CEUs Stomach Points on the Chest: Generosity and Tolerance, and Upper Spleen Points: Finding Fruition in Community Life.)

Poem: Marge Piercy – To Be of Use

I love to read this poem right after listening to Plough to the End of the Row (above). When I read it out loud, I can’t make it through the last lines without my voice shaking and tears coming to my eyes. The character for the Spleen shows “an ordinary object for everyday use.” I am grateful to Marge Piercy for conveying the nobility of the Earth Element.

(For more about the everyday nobility and purpose of the Earth Element, see our Earth Elements Within: Element Points on the Stomach and Spleen Meridians CEU.)

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy, “To be of use” from Circles on the Water. Copyright © 1982 by Marge Piercy. Source: Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982)


Do you have songs, poems, or images that really exemplify late summer or the Earth Element for you? Let us know in the comments!

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