Earth Day is every day, yet it takes on a new and deeper meaning here at Mariandale this year. This Retreat and Conference Center, and those of us who live, work and visit here, recently welcomed two hives of honeybees. Concerned as we Dominican Sisters of Hope are with climate change and its many unprecedented repercussions, we are doing something new to make a difference. The way we relate to the natural world is evolving. We are becoming aware of a mutually enhancing relationship with the natural world and therefore we are extending our land, our hearts and minds to make room for our sister and brother bees.

Colony collapse disorder has led to a diminishing honey bee population across our nation. To counteract that, as well as the loss of habitat for monarch butterflies, we have already begun to plant for the pollinators with herbs, flowers, and milkweed. The pollinators are co-creators with us as we prepare to plant and tend this year’s gardens of food, herbs, milkweed, and flowers. Other co-creators include the gardeners, bee keepers, composters, and anyone who picks up trash or listens carefully/prayerfully to what Earth is asking of us in these unsettling times.

Recently, the Dominican Sisters of the Northeast, some 1,000 of us banned together and through our Justice promoters, created a corporate stance about climate change. In it we stand in solidarity with the writers of the United Nations Preamble of the Earth Charter which says:

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. -Preamble of the Earth Charter

The five communities of Dominican women, from Amityville, NY, Caldwell, NJ, Blauvelt and Sparkill, NY and Hope from Ossining, NY, have committed ourselves to collaborate together. Our Earth Council created a DVD on Climate Change from the viewpoints of Dominican Women from key areas in the US who tell the stories of climatic changes from Washington states mudslides to California wildfires, Illinois extreme draught one year and floods the next at their CSA farm. Then there was Texas with wildfires from drought, Louisiana’s Katrina hurricane, and NY & NJ Hurricane Sandy’s massive winds and flooding. All pointed out what scientists have confirmed: such extreme weather is unprecedented.

We used the DVD to inform ourselves and to respond to the question the Earth Council raised,” What is Earth asking of us?” We realized that our present relationship with Earth and her resources area seriously out of balance and harmful to the planet itself and all of her inhabitants.

We educated our members and associates about the issues and committed to educating, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. For a full reading of the corporates stance, please go to Dominican Sisters Corporate Stance on Climate Change.

 “We realized that our present relationship with Earth and her resources area seriously out of balance and harmful to the planet itself and all of her inhabitants.”

Perhaps, for us, the bees are the “canary in the coal mine” that lets us know when the loss of oxygen is enough to kill. Loss of safe habitat, the danger of pesticides, GMOs, mites, and unknown frequencies, etc. are a kind of tipping point. Do any or all of these cause colony collapse disorder? We are waking up and we are joining others who are waking up, hoping it is not too late. We are all generating too much carbon, by our travel and other practices. Our wants are not the same as our needs. We are compelled to protect our unique sacred community of life which is sustained by Earth.

Three years ago, Mariandale hosted a meeting of twelve regional bee keepers. The next year, there were thirty-one beekeepers, and they named themselves the Hudson Valley Natural Beekeepers. This year, I attended the annual Spring meeting as a member, and there were one hundred bee keepers, filled with questions, suggestions, and the sharing of experiences. Ordinary people are waking up to the needs around them and are responding with direct action. We are collaborating together for Earth’s sake and the future’s sake.

“Ordinary people are waking up to the needs around them and are responding with direct action. We are collaborating together for Earth’s sake and the future’s sake.”

Today, a Native American woman walked with us through our land listening to the Spirit present in the trees, land, herbs, river, the bees, the hills. We have seventeen raised garden beds just waiting for spring warmth to open itself to our planning with neighbors from diverse cultures and a variety of ages and abilities. We meet people walking our Labyrinth who care about this planet and wonder what they can do, how can they make a difference.

The bees have arrived, our staff and members are educated about them, and there is a stir in the air. I call it ‘hope.’ People are excited and a little proud. Each of us has to start somewhere. There are lots of ways. Please read our Corporate Stance on Climate Changeand let your heart be stirred to some new action. Each of us can do something. Ask yourself, “What is Earth Asking of me/us?” and perhaps, “What can we do together that is better than we can do by ourselves?”

Finding your canary is a good place to begin.