I wake this morning to soft rain and lie there a few extra moments grateful that our flower and vegetable gardens are drinking in this blessing, until I remember horrific flooding going on right now in Pakistan with 33 million affected and over a thousand dead. In just the last few weeks torrential rains have killed people in Afghanistan, Sudan, China, Yemen, and South Korea. At the same time, others suffer mightily with drought including other areas of China, countries in the Horn of Africa, two-thirds of Europe, and nearly half of the U.S. All is this is brought on or intensified by climate change and about to get worse. A new study in Nature Climate Change says it’s now inevitable that 110 trillion tons of ice will melt in Greenland. This would cause a foot of sea-level rise. This doesn’t even include additional sea-rise from melting ice in Antarctica. Worse yet, the study doesn’t “factor in any additional greenhouse gas emissions” so it’s actually a current best-case scenario. Already we’re experiencing catastrophic storms, floods, and droughts worse than what climate models predicted. That foot high sea-rise could end up as a 20-foot rise if we don’t turn things around very, very quickly.
I get up to let out the dogs and make coffee. I quietly appreciate my dear spouse who kneels on the kitchen floor trying to entice our 16-year-old dog to eat a few morsels of meat which my husband regularly buys and cooks for him. I look out the window, delighted to spot a great blue heron in the pond.
I try to stay in the moment, just watching this creature’s prehistoric-looking countenance and admirable patience as it waits to spear a fish, but here it comes again, my awareness of what we’re doing to this beautiful planet. Nearly half the world’s bird species are in decline due to degradation of their habitats as well as to climate change. In North America alone the bird population has dropped by nearly three billion birds, a decline of 29 perfect since 1970.
Okay, I’m going to stop with the reality overflow. I simply want to acknowledge this is how the day goes for many of us. We’re fully enmeshed in our ordinary lives — getting to work on time, stopping at the grocery store, making supper, keeping up with family and friends, trying to pay bills, hoping to get a better night’s rest than the night before. At the same time we carry the weight of guilt and anxiety over the state of the planet.
E.B. White, author of much beloved books such as Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, as well as The Elements of Style co-author, once said, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” I have to disagree with the late Mr. White. I don’t think we can save it without truly, wholeheartedly savoring it.
Savoring, for me, is about awe. It’s about seeing relationships between what is and sensing the expansiveness of what’s just beyond our rational minds. It’s about connection. It’s about what my friend John C. Robinson calls partnering with Creation.
For many, many generations we humans have been told we are separate from our past, our bodies, our communities, our inner promptings. Even more unbelievably, we’re told we are separate from Earth itself. We’re told its normal on this planet to extract what we want from the labor of others, even from the natural resources essential for future generations. We’re told life is a competition, a constant struggle to ensure our needs are met. Maybe we’re also told we should advocate for others, typically those so similar to us that they share a religion or a language or zipcode. The materialistic “needs” of some impair the very essential needs of others for food, water, shelter, medical care, and justice. This spoken and unspoken worldview is pressed into our awareness from the time we are small children. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Four Arrows and Darcia Narvaez, in their new book, Restoring the Kinship Worldview: Indigenous Voices Introduce 28 Precepts for Rebalancing Life on Planet Earth (library link) explain there’s a disconnected Dominant Worldview and a connected Kinship or Indigenous Worldview. To shift into the connected worldview, it’s time to decolonize our minds. Here’s a look at hope.
A few related hope-inducing books I’m (very slowly) and reading:
- Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science (library link) by Jessica Hernandez
- Active Hope (revised): How to Face the Mess We’re in with Unexpected Resilience and Creative Power (library link) by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone
- What Your Food Ate: How to Heal Our Land and Reclaim Our Health (library link) by David Montgomery and Anna Biklé
- Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution (library link) by Peter Kalmus
And this offering of this poem of mine about connection, recently published in About Place Journal.
“Language is a tailor’s shop where nothing fits.” – Rumi
I can’t fit words around
a feeling I carry
sweeter than sadness
sliding past the shape of questions.
As I snip parsley from its blue pot
I consider how
each injury a leaf suffers
triggers an electric charge,
the way an alarm flashes
as a building is breached.
When very young I knew for sure
everything was its own kind of awake.
Honeysuckle vine and bees visiting it.
Air trapped in a room, the room itself.
Dark watchful eyes of animals,
wild speech of water,
still presence of stone.
into unseen universes,
awake beyond our small knowing.
Although thank is too weak a word
I want to thank this parsley plant.
Is it enough to notice each leaf’s symmetry
before the soft green shush under my scissors?
Is it enough to taste the transfiguration
we call photosynthesis?
I can’t put it into words,
but can almost summon
lost memories of an original
language we once held in common.