Spring! The song of robins and the throaty call of sandhill cranes lift our spirits with the bounty, beauty, and beneficence of nature. Mother Earth sustains and nourishes us. Barring human interference, she fills our every need.
Last month I mentioned a course on ancient Mesopotamia in connection with marshes. For the Sumerians and their successors, nature was how the gods expressed their anger. Having created humans to dig irrigation canals, gods punished or tried to destroy their irksome creation with storms, plagues, famines, and floods—not for moral failings but for making too much noise. Far from wanting a closer relationship with the deities, people brought prayers and votive offerings to try to fend off their wrath.
Who got it right? Are the wonders of nature the gifts of a loving planet, which needs our tender stewardship? Or mighty, capricious dangers from powers we wish would leave us alone? Both and neither. We have sunshine and showers, blizzards and tornadoes. Earth doesn’t care. How we treat it matters not to the planet but to humans now and for generations to come.
Image: Akkadian cylinder seal depicts the deities Inanna, Utu, Enki, and Isimud, 2300 BC. British Museum.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.