You will need:
- A Leafless Tree Model to which "leaves" can be attached
- "Leaves" made of paper, paperboard, cloth or real ones
- A siphon or wick system which can transfer coloured water between two containers
- Two containers
- Green food colouring
- Models of roots which can be attached to your Tree Model
- Musical Sticks
- a candle
- a bell or signing bowl
- a candle snuff
Leader: Who would like to share?
The participants briefly update each other on how they're doing and what's going on in their lives.
The third Liturgical Season runs from the spring equinox to mid-spring (approximately May 5th) and covers the period from the Cambrian explosion to the invention of trees in the Devonian. The major advances of this period are leaves, veins, roots, and wood.
- We gather to mark the passing of a week
- To align our hearts as one.
(Light the Sol candle)
- Bare rock ... still ... bare rock.
- And then ... <gasp> ... Green!
- Cells clump. Organs specialize. Life senses Sol. Structures harden.
- Forests grow.
- In the lush green forests, species are born.
- And for every species ... there was a story!
(Stand up a tree cut-out, leafless but dendridic)
(As one person stands it up, the others raise their hand and wiggle their fingers like a growing tree)
- This is the story of how they came to be,
- these trees with whom we breathe!
(Breath deeply three times contemplating that the oxygen you are breathing in came from green plants)
- First came the leaves, ?floating? leaves,
- the surfaces on which Sol's fire was captured!
(Pin or clip leaves to the tree cut out)
- Next came the veins, organizers of resources,
- Both Xylem and Phloem,
- raising water and minerals,
- and storing sugar.
(suck some water through a syphon tube from an elevated bowl, then let it flow up and down into a lower bowl)
- Then came the roots!
- Digging deep, searching for minerals.
- Digging deep, anchoring stems fast.
(Add roots around the base of the tree cut-out)
- Finally, plants invented wood!
- Turning soft cells into tall trunks,
- Reaching high into the air, thickening the biosphere,
- Making 100 meters of air freely available to crawling and jumping animals.
(participants play musical sticks, and dance around the tree.)
- Leaves. Veins. Roots. Wood.
(Squat with arms crossed and then, as you stand, spread your arms and fingers like a tree growing)
- From bare rock ... Forests!
Gaia's green face mask appears on your phone screen and says, "According to Gaiapedia, Little One, the first forests arose in the late Precambrian."
"What?" you cry, "That doesn't make sense! Land plants didn't arise until the Ordovician, let alone trees."
Gaia laughs, "The first trees were not plants, Little One." And suddenly your elephant has fallen into the ocean. The water splashes violently up around you, and to your surprise, it closes over you and your elephant is swimming underwater. You are chilled by the frigid sea water. Your phone is gone and Gaia is swimming beside you. Bubbles of steam appear from where Terra's skin shows between the pieces of Gaia’s blue wet suit. Her wet suit is patterned with animations of primitive animals, jelly fish, worms, sponges and bacteria. She hands you a breathing mask which you pull over your head. Its radio crackles to life.
You look at Gaia and speak into the radio, "But trees are plants by definition."
You hear Gaia laugh through the radio, "No trees are polyphyletic. Obviously, a Maple tree is more closely related to a dandelion (they are both angiosperms) than to a pine tree which is a conifer." Your elephant also has a breathing mask and you are swimming beside it toward a bright and multicoloured bank ahead.
"Well of course." you reply.
"So, the term "tree" is not cladistic, Little One." Gaia says as you close in on the bank and see that it is made mostly of stromatolites.
"What defines a tree then?" you ask.
"A tree is a sessile organism," Gaia swims in among the stromatolites, pointing to them as she speaks, "which gives structure to a three-dimensional space such that its reactive surface area and volume are increased through the introduction of folded surfaces." She waves her hands to indicate the bulbous shapes of multiple stromatolites growing beside each other.
Your elephant feels a calcareous sponge with its trunk. The sponge looks like it is hanging loosely from the edge of a stromatolite, but it is actually as hard as concrete and dotted with divots and each divot is pockmarked with tiny filter holes.
"So, these lumps of bacteria, " you ask indicating the stromatolites, "are trees? Does that make this reef a forest?"
"Yes, Little One, " Gaia replies doing a joyous summersault in the warm water between the stromatolites. "A zone of space the character of which is determined more by its biological contents than its geographical environment."
You glance about and then say, "Well, I called it a reef, but I don't see any coral."
Gaia laughs, "Coral is still very rare, Little One. We are early in the Cambrian and corals are rare commensal organisms, which take advantage of the microclimates of reefs mostly built by microorganisms like the bacteria in these stromatolites." She points between two stromatolites.
You swim toward her until you can see where she is pointing. You see a little flat red coral the size of a toad stool. "So coral isn't necessary in order to build a reef?" you ask.
"Eventually Corals will learn to build the most impressive reefs," Gaia caresses the little red coral, "But as yet they aren't even very good at it. The earliest reefs were built by bacteria."
Your elephant runs its trunk over the smooth surface of a stromatolite, "So corals took over reef building from stromatolites?"
"No, Little One," Gaia points to a hanging sponge like the one your elephant explored earlier, "Sponges took over from stromatolites." she waves a hand and the sun suddenly sets, and then instantly rises again and accelerates across the sky setting again moments later. When it rises again a fraction of a second later, it is moving so fast that the sky only flickers and soon days and years and millennia are passing in the blink of an eye.
Below you the reef blurs, its details changing too fast to see, but as a whole it moves like a writhing snake, rising up, breaking the surface, then slipping below the surface, the water flooding back over you gently. Then the reef arks its body sideways, carrying you, your elephant and Gaia out to sea, its lagoon filling in behind it, and you know that below you and on its seaward side, it is filling the depths of the sea with the broken remnants of millennia of calcareous secretions.
Then Gaia makes a slicing motion with Terra's gloved hand and time returns to its normal rate of passage. You glance around you and see that the reef has indeed changed. The stromatolites are gone, replaced by calcified sponges, growing on calcified sponges. On the edges of the sponges, drapes of algal mats hang also protected by secreted carbonate minerals. This time you can see what the carbonate is protecting the sessile organisms from; the reef is crawling with trilobites, nibbling on any exposed soft tissues of sponges or algae. But as you examine the reef more closely, you notice a diversity of animals living among the sponges and algal mats. A large armoured predator looking like a cross between an eel, a stegosaurus and a lobster swims by gobbling trilobites as it goes.
Gaia points out a few corals in a greater variety of forms now, but it is clear that they are living on the reef not building it. "So, did the corals take over from the sponges?" you ask.
"Not directly, Little One." Gaia says and, with another wave of Terra's hand, sets off the accelerating Sun, flickering sky, writhing reef sequence again. This time the reef once again breaks the surface but rises up many meters above the surrounding ocean. The lagoon goes completely dry and becomes a barren desert of sand dunes and algae clogged ponds.
Then the reef crumbles beneath your feet, massive blocks tumbling gently into the ocean, one after another and then many at the same time until the reef is gone. As it goes the sand in the dry lagoon blows away and only a rounded barren island remains which slowly sinks back into the sea.
As Gaia returns time to its normal rate of passage you find yourself swimming high above the sunken island watching it disappear into the dark depths. "How could the reefs have just died out!" you cry in despair, "Why didn't something, some creature, appear out of that diversity to continue the building?"
Gaia looks at you sadly, and you feel your elephant's eyes well with tears, "The Adjacent Possible does not guarantee anything, Little One." She says, "Sadly, sometimes nothing appears with the right characteristics to save the day. The reefs mostly died away and did not reappear for tens of millions of years."
Suddenly, you find yourself looking at the Wikipedia article on the Cambrian Period on your phone as you sit on city bus as it waits at a traffic light. As you return to your normal life, you reflect on the fact that the Adjacent Possible is not a promise but only a source of hope.
Leader: Please join me for seven minutes of silence while we contemplate ...
(Service Leader rings the bell)
(Service Leader rings the bell again at the end of the seven minutes)
Leader: Who would like to share?
The participants take turns talking about what they were thinking about during the contemplation.
Reading of the SolSeed Creed
Please respond to the portions of the Creed highlighted in bold in unison:
- Life is precious.
- It has always been precious,
- it will always be precious.
- Life exuberant
- bursting through boundaries
- to flower and spread
- creates the conditions for more Life,
- in an Upward Spiral
- of ever-growing possibilities.
- As you are alive, and I am alive,
- and in kinship with all other beings
- who call Terra home,
- we are Gaia --
- the body of all Life.
- The Destiny of Gaia
- is to take root and flower amongst the stars --
- to give birth to a family of living worlds.
- As intelligent sparks of Gaia,
- we are called to express her excellent nature,
- we are called to attend the Great Birthing.
- We who answer this call
- dedicate ourselves to Gaia,
- We join together
- in a community of practice
- to align our words and actions
- with our highest aspirations.
- Through awesome experiences
- of cosmic, biological, and cultural creativity,
- we awaken within ourselves and others
- the Cosmic Religious Feeling
- that ignites wonder,
- fosters compassion, and
- inspires invention.
- Our three sacred duties are to
- embrace Passion,
- cultivate Empathy, and
- pursue Wisdom,
- So that our being honors Gaia
- and our striving hastens the Great Birthing.
- Passion drives us.
- Without Passion
- Empathy and Wisdom are lethargic.
- I pledge to stoke the fire in my belly,
- to compassionately care for my inner elephant ---
- to really be me, Happy in the Sun!
- Empathy is transcendent.
- Without Empathy,
- Passion and Wisdom are evil.
- I pledge to love others as I love myself,
- to consider their needs as if they were my own --
- to Grow Ours, not just Get Mine!
- Wisdom is effective.
- Without Wisdom,
- Passion and Empathy are reckless.
- I pledge to train my elephant through regular practice,
- to stand ready to transform my worldview in the face of new evidence --
- to cultivate sound instincts.
- Through Passion, Empathy, and Wisdom
- we have come to know that:
- We are Gaia's People --
- children of the Earth and Sun,
- awakened by starlight,
- discovering --
- We Bring Life!
Leader: We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth, the warmth of community or the fires of commitment ... these we carry in our hearts until we are together again.
Leader extinguishes the candle with the Candle Snuff
Leader: May your week be blessed with life and love. Blessed be.