A more winding piece than usual... I believe this particular bit of writing is a part of my grieving process, about everything all together and an attempt, as usual, to sort out both the roots and the medicine.
Through the upheavals and the troughs of loss over the last year(s), I have often found myself, between waves of grief, wanting to "count on something". I've sought to find and grasp onto what is reliably stable, only to find that much is in a process of dissolving and transforming. In reality, we are being called to let go and to create from the ashes. I know I am not alone in this experience; my personal is often your personal and all of it creates a collective pattern. Whether we speak to these difficult truths of these times or not, they exist; I believe they are always worthy of acknowledgment and we create bridges toward one another in doing so. Liberation. As continued pandemic times and a shifting climate beacon us into accelerated change + crisis we are called to suspend the sometimes-assumption that all as it has been will continue to be. A thousand griefs about the old world with its interwoven horrors and niceties, a total unknown about the new world, and the liminal chasm – without walls or windows – in between. To be in some state of spin and mourning while denial still remains rampant is disorienting, to say the least.
Denial doesn’t lead anywhere but farther from being present to what needs tending (the truth) while also creating internal pressure that expresses in unruly ways... a sort of sleepwalk that is unrecognizable to its own self. Denial is complex and layered; it can be both a cultural norm and an expression of trauma that often creates more if not healed. I believe there is a deep interplay between denial and the additional construction of the falsely separate categories of "human" and "animal/nature" which influence much of the shape that denial takes. From this mindset, we are able to act with power-over other beings. And, from this mindset, we don't even consider that the extinction of an animal species or a plant species will reach us, too. That, somehow, our homes and our cities and our always-busy bodies and ability to endlessly distract ourselves and turn on our air-conditioning and ugh-I-had-to-go-to-the-store-again-and-they-didn't-have-my-brand-of-cereal and avoiding the truth of death and sitting in traffic because we have to, we have to.... will all still be here. No. We are as animal as Sei Whale, as the Passenger Pigeon, as the Chinook Salmon and the Bristlecone Pine. The fate we've placed upon them is the eventual fate of our selves. More grandly, we are of the same family.
We could choose to welcome the breakdown of illusion. We will, at a time, be unable to deny. In some places, in some communities, this is already true. We will be unable to hide our projections of okay-ness and must put down the collected tokens that culture has told us are success. We will recognize and perhaps even lean into our true intimacy and animal vulnerability. We could accept the invitation to create an unwavering center inside ourselves and a durable rope of solidarity within relationship. We could feel, and feel, and feel again and grieve and become through grieving.
Living in the Pacific Northwest through two intense fire seasons has been eye-opening. In late summer 2020 and 2021, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was off the charts and in hazardous conditions for over a week in many areas. Breathing gets tough, the birds become quiet, and the sky hangs over in... a looming. When the smoke cleared in 2020, a thin layer of ash coated everything: the earth, the plants, the dewey spiderwebs. I couldn't shake knowing what this ash belonged to once, what it represented, what it was. Homes, bones, entire forest ecosystems. It laid on the ground -- a reminder and a warning -- for a long while. The ash became a living prayer until it integrated back into the soil and the plants grew up around it, our footsteps pushing it in.
Nature* exists in rhythmic cycles, complex relationships, and, at times, an unpredictability that can become chaotic. Human-induced (and, very importantly, not induced by all humans) impact on the planet has given rise to more frequent and intense pulses of this unpredictibility, as directly named in the phrase climate chaos. Rather than living in balance with the world, there are myriad ways that colonial forces have sought to extract from and control it instead. The place we call civilization creates distance from ourselves and these uncertainties (and beautiful, collaborative interdependency), such harshness (and such softness), and such vulnerability (and such extraordinary vitality). Many don't recognize that our modern systems equal many harms on many bodies, our own bodies included. We’ve created islands. Islands of fracture and isolation where highways cut through the last wild places, where tuna live in pens within the ocean, where the sky has become a road, not a flyway, and borders are straight lines carved into the elements of movement, aliveness, and family. And, in the social sphere, we tally the ways we disagree, cutting one another off and out, rather than comprehend how we are intrinsically linked and needed. An individualist mindset of separation; a tendency to blame rather than truly let our hearts break.
~ Letting ourselves grieve, and grieving together is a part of the medicine. ~
Might the now-change, the now-crisis, the now-chaos be the pull away from our human-centric “certainty” toward a deep trust of the earth beneath our feet? Might it show us the possibilities beyond our islands of perceived safety into a state of relationship with what wild remains? Might it be the surrender towards something beautiful we haven’t yet imagined ~ a future that can only emerge from a true letting go and grieving of what was. What is lost opens up possibility... what will we do with the blank space? What happens when one perceives the uncertainty of life as an invitation to meet – perhaps, for the first time – the living, breathing world right where she is: with the dark green wisdom, a swirling commitment to the continuance of life, the spirit that vibrates in all beings, the heroic and humbling ground-shaking storms and flames and cracking soil, the true proximity to death at all times and letting that be a reverence for living. The wind won't quiet; actually, the wind is just waking up. Living, right now, means leaning into unknown spaces knowing that they will shake you and they might claim you and they will always, always hold you. We can learn to hold them, too.
* What is referred to as "nature" isn't real; this is, again, language of separation, as it is referenced as some place outside ourselves. In reality, we belong to and are a part of the living + breathing earth, within which we have constructed a "built environment". We are the land and the water, the air and magic.