Earth Day: Celebrate the Spirit of the Earth Within


Dear Readers…I am taking a break from my regular blog to share parts of my recently published novel, Child of Duende, and to write about the spirit of DUENDE. May it inspire you! 

As birds court the earth with their love songs, and we renew our vows of change and new life with the earth, I wish to share a special word and spirit with you: duende. It seems so many people are talking about immense change, upheaval, and confusion in their lives. Yet, maybe, this simple, yet powerful word, duende, can give insight into what’s happening, and inspire us to truly see what’s possible in our lives.

Dancing and Singing in Honor of Duende, 2014

The famous Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca, once said that duende is “the spirit of the earth” that one must awaken in the remotest mansions of the blood. He went on to say that duende both breaks us and is the constant baptism of new life. It is that transformative spirit from which all great art and performance stems, and which brings with it an almost religious enthusiasm. The duende doesn’t arrive or awaken within us, though, without a battle, or work, or without letting go of the old, warned Lorca.

This Spanish poet’s words seem appropriate at this time of great change. Yet, how do we awaken duende, this spirit of the earth that is within us, and that is our authentic self?  How do we let go of what we have learned to be, and allow our full spirits to be embodied, to be duende, to be dueño de, “owner of,” this temporary house that is our body?

I had been writing about duende for years as part of my recently published novel, Child of Duende, and had done so through the eyes of my magical protagonist, Duende, who carries the spirit of the earth within her. When writing, I connected deeply to Lorca’s idea of duende, and still do. But it was only recently that I finally experienced and learned to embody this energy.  

About a year ago, I met a Dutch woman on a plane who told me that she had encountered a duende. Until that plane ride, duende had only been a concept, an idea, a feeling. But this woman, who claimed she had never seen spirits or believed in them, told me that an actual duende—a nature spirit or goblin that, in Latin America, is seen as protecting the earth and rainforests—had arrived with a strong wind, and was so real and fierce, it alarmed her.

I went home that night, changed. The next morning I woke up with a sudden anxiety, but then remembered what she had experienced. Duende, I realized, was not just an idea or a transformative energy. It was a being that protects the earth and a spirit that is within each of us. Like the character in my novel, I realized that I too was this duende, and that the anxiety I had carried was unnecessary if I chose to walk in the world with this fierce, protective love that honored the spirit within me and the earth.

What transformed me that day, also transformed my novel, Child of Duende, which I finally published in early spring. I will soon have an official novel launch in late May or Early June, with Flamenco and a celebration of duende (for more information on this launch, book signings, and healing circles, please visit, or But for now, may this child of duende that you carry awaken within you and release its love into the world!

6 thoughts on “Earth Day: Celebrate the Spirit of the Earth Within

  1. i love your understanding of duende and the way you describe it, with an emphasis on its radical and transformative energy and spirit. You’ve captured this so well and so clearly. Duende, for me, is that heart-wrenching and deeply painful, yet exhilarating, rupture by which we can make true and profound and liberating connections with the depths of the universe and who we are, and can be, within this. It dances with death because the power of this force has the capacity for creativity or destruction. That’s why for me, and you’ve expressed this so potently, duende has such an urgency and significance in our contemporary landscape, just as it always has. It puts us in touch with what it means to be truly human, which is, and needs to be and always, the opposite of annihilation. Thanks so much for your piece, Michelle.

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    • I love what you’ve written here, Lizzie, on duende. It’s interesting where we go with this word, essence and spirit. When I wrote my novel initially, my reference to duende was primarily from Garcia Lorca’s words. But then, as I mention in my blog, I really got that I was leaving out the duende that is connected to Latin America and indigenous people. I feel they are the same, yet one–Lorca’s–is more, it seems, a reference in relationship to art and a way of living. Whereas, the duende of Latin America is embodied in form, in a being, in an earth being that is neither form nor spirit, but a place in between that isn’t always clear. So, in my novel, I wove these two together. I’ll have to read your book when I have a moment. It’s interesting how we connect with this words across the sea. Thanks for sharing what you did here.


  2. Duende for me is a going back and forth between who illusory extremes that have the commonality of having a certain quality of high intensity that invokes this electric vibration and on-rush throughout the body. The two extremes for me are being on the edge of life and death, when I am naturally inclined to do things outside my normal operating range; fueled by that electric vibration; and a flood of intense unconditional love where everything is being, and being is everything with no beginning and no end. Love is an aspect of the Earth; Earth is an aspect of the being-force; the being-force is an aspect of the Sky; the Sky is an aspect of the Universe; and the Universe is an aspect of Love.

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