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Earth, capital ‘E’: I immediately picture the planet, that beautiful watery ball floating through space, green and yellow and brown patches dotting the blue, all under a wispy swirl of high-atmosphere clouds. I have no photos of my own (yet!) that depict the Earth, the whole Earth.

Small ‘e’ earth, I am intimately familiar with. My feet know its ground: squishy sand, hard-packed dirt, spongy tufts of mud-grass, stern granite slabs.

Iceland June 2014 266


My eyes follow its paths, up and down mountains, around trees, alongside streams.

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My nose breathes in its fertile scent – decomposed leaves, fresh shoots, the oxygenated freshness right after a rain.

Iceland June 2014 405

My hands sift sand, move rotted logs, dig deep in boggy peat.



Big Earth is made small for me through the earth it has in common. The rhododendrons I adored as a child in Pennsylvania spring from similar soil in the Himalayan valleys of Nepal. The sand in Delaware buckles into ridges just like those on the Tasman Sea shore.


The grasslands in South Dakota rustle like the savannah in Tanzania, and the scree on a pass in Patagonia slips and slides under my boots just as it did on high slopes in Tibet and the Alps.

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I like the abstract idea of Earth, and in my mind’s eye, I see myself, a tiny dot, crisscrossing it with a mission, but what I really love is earth, that organic foundation of it all, the part I get to actually touch, see, and smell as I ramble the globe.

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Inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth.