The Kinship Effect

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM     April 22, 2023

The spring itch for greening was upon me and, even though my days here in “The Yukon” still held the possibility of frost, I simply had to find something leafy to plant. I bought a few lettuce plugs with the intriguing name, “Salad Bowl,” a mix of romaine and red leaf, and set them in their new home in a container on the patio. When I told a friend, I added, “I’m sure they’ll be okay because lettuce really likes the cold.”

With a grin, she asked, “Oh, so has it told you that?”

Why yes, yes it has, I thought. Immediately, I thought of my Dad, deceased almost forty years now. He was probably the first mystic I ever knew, living close to the earth with an eye to the heavens. When I was eight years old and the spring itch for greening was upon me, he carved out a small patch of our back yard for my garden with the caveat, “You can plant anything you want but you have to learn their names and take care of them.” That was enough for me. My choices reflected a whimsical bent, sometimes pumpkins and zinnias, sometimes string beans and marigolds, sometimes jonquil and narcissus and daffodil bulbs that would magically make an appearance next season.

One day I was proudly ticking off the names of all of the plants in my little plot when my Dad observed, “You know they have names for you, too, don’t you?” I was stunned into silence. How could it be that all those tender shoots for whom I lugged the watering can outside, whose every fraction of an inch of growth I crowed over, knew who I was? It’s true we spent an awful lot of time together but I wondered, was there more to this than caretaking? That began my journey into what we now call creation spirituality.

And it is a spirituality, a shift in our place in the Universe, a movement away from attitudes of domination and the thinking that all creation was made simply for our use and consumption. It’s about recognizing, in the face of every violet and dandelion, in the pleading eyes of a beloved furry companion, in the sweet repetitive song of the cardinal, in every wing and fin and cell a profound kinship. A deep knowing that our lives are connected even to the cellular level, that our shared future is bound up together. That we are about more than surviving. That at our core is a longing for thriving together, a yearning for the abundant life the Holy One desires for all creation.

I remember one occasion when I was carrying a heartache so terrible, crushing, and suffocating that I couldn’t find the words to articulate it to anyone. One day I arrived at my sister’s house before she came home and I was greeted by Bobbie, the family’s Golden Retriever. He came and sat at my feet, resting his head on my lap as I pet his soft coat. Suddenly, a torrent of words and tears was liberated in me and I sobbed my story to Bobbie. He simply listened as the sweet and wise spiritual director he was. His presence was my entry point into healing.

How graced we are to live in a Universe where we are comforted and companioned and inspired by the company of all creation! As we celebrate Earth Day, may we resolve to make of every day a celebration of all that God named as good. To greet the fuzzy bumblebee who mines the sweet scent of lavender beside us. To pick up the struggling earthworm on a morning after rain and carry it from the pavement to a grassy area so it won’t shrivel in the afternoon sun. To nuzzle and pet every four legged friend who says hello. To greet with reverence and awe the two legged ones as well. May we befriend them all and love them all and be in relationship with them because, after all, it’s very possible they may know our names as we know theirs. We pray that their names will always be safe and holy in our mouths.

I leave you with Rudy Francisco’s tender poem about how kinship transforms our actions:

Chris Koellhoffer,
Daddy Long Legs in my garden

“She asks me to kill the spider.
Instead, I get the most
peaceful weapons I can find.

I take a cup and a napkin.
I catch the spider, put it outside
and allow it to walk away.

If I am ever caught in the wrong place
at the wrong time, just being alive
and not bothering anyone,

I hope I am greeted
with the same kind
of mercy.”


Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
You may want to pause and pray outside, or sit near a window with a view of creation, or invite a pet companion to be by your side as you reflect.
If Earth, our Common Home, could speak to you, what might she say?
Listen, and act on what you hear.
Offer profound thanks for your Mother.

Featured Image:  Daniel Öberg, Unsplash

Blessings of Earth Day to you!
May we cherish and reverence the terrible, fragile beauty of this home that holds everything we love, and may we commit our lives to moving our world closer to the fullness of God’s dream for every bit of creation.

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14 thoughts on “The Kinship Effect”

  1. I love the Rudy Francisco poem. Especially in the world we live in I pray that if I’m in the wrong place just being alive that I may be safe and move on to a place of living still. You have such beautiful insight. I love receiving your posts. May God continue to bless you.

  2. Hi Sr Chris, I LOVED your reflection today – it’s absolutely perfect for Earth Day and beyond. Thank yo SO much for leading us in our praise of creation – making us stop and think. More power to your pen!

  3. Your words were so ‘down to earth’ on this earth day. Had to pause along the way, as if I was in the garden with you.
    I read each week, but this one really hit home. Brings back a host of memories from my gardening days and teaching my children, who are very good gardeners.
    Keep up the good work each week. God Bless you!

  4. Chris, I love that we can find God in ALL of creation! Thank you for your personal insights.–Judy Schiavo

  5. Thank you, Chris, for the warm hearted Earth Day greeting. I could picture everything about which you wrote since your words have that influence, even to seeing the little girl with uplifted eyes ready beyond her years to express her connectedness to all of life.

  6. I’m forwarding this post, dear Chris, to the 36 retreatants participating in my virtual retreat this weekend for the Sisters and Associates of our Congregation. Our retreat theme is Living Soulfully!! This will really resonate!!

  7. I was touched by your story of Bobby. Eight years ago God blessed us with a special dog. She was a rescue. She has rescued each one of us in her time. She played with my son as he watched his father die of cancer. She stayed next to my husband until his end. She still mourns him.
    When my daughter went away to school that dog barked over the phone until she had to come home. I had hoped for all of this when we brought her home.
    I wasn’t expecting her to comfort me when I became a widow. She did and still does. I guess God knew that I needed her.

  8. I love to change the word ‘Kingdom” to “Kindom” in the song, :He sent me to bring the good news to the poor / tell prisoners that they are prisoners no more, Tell blind people that they can see / and set the downtrodden free / and go tell everyone the news that the Kindom of God has come/ and go tell everyone the news that God’s Kindom has come!

  9. Lazaro and c
    Chata are by my side! I love your Earth Day blessing-The earth that holds everything we love! Simple but true.

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