After sheltering indoors for a week, protecting our lungs from suffocating wildfire smoke and highly toxic air, a fierce and cleansing weather system brought lightening, thunder, rain and wind. I sat in my garden this morning feeling astonished gratitude for simple pleasures–for home; for a lush garden; for fresh air to breathe; for damp earth beneath my feet; for the pleasure of sunlight warming my skin; for the caress of wind; the sight of trees bending and swaying; the rustling sound of leaves and branches; the ability to see the blue of sky; the luminosity of white clouds; for the wide range of aromas filling the air—rosemary and basil leaves, rain-soaked soil, the neighbor’s freshly-cut grass, the sweet-dankness of decaying compost. A week long sensory-deprivation from these basic elements pushed me to a new edge, physically, psychologically and spiritually.
All morning neighbors have come out of their homes to clean up storm debris, to tend their gardens, to return their space to some sense or image of normal. I see their actions as acts of love, of renewal, of habit. I wondered about my reluctance to engage in this behavior today. I surveyed the damage and neglect, minimal compared to the vast destruction across the pacific northwest. I wondered at the contrast between the desolation I felt inside and the resilient vibrance of the plants and birds in my vicinity. I attributed my reluctance to fatigue, to loneliness, to laziness, to grief. I was in need of restoration after all. I could still feel the waves of toxic-exposure coursing through my body, mind and spirit. My heart was heavy with grief for the destruction of forests and ecosystems I have known for a lifetime, for the loss of habitats, homes and lives. Instead of tidying up, I wept. I wept until I didn’t know what I was weeping for. And then I wept until I knew I was weeping for lifetimes of violence, disconnection, for countless losses, personal and collective. My cat lay beside me, offering a comforting, silent presence. Thinking back, I realize the felines in my life have often been my companions in grief, bearing witness to tears my fellow humans rarely see.
Upon reflection, I acknowledged my innate need to process, to reflect, to be with my sensory experience, to be with my emotions and my thoughts. After a week of living in survival-mode, and after the loss of so many beloved places, I needed time to pause. I needed time to reflect on my awareness of the unsustainability of this way of life, of the futility I often feel in my small acts of subversion, of the impatience and longing I feel for another world, and the longing I feel to live in a community of mutual care and reciprocity. I needed to reflect on my feelings of anger at the centuries spent stealing from generations of youth. I needed time to hold my children in my heart even if I couldn’t be with them in the moment. My daughter is, among other things, a dreamer. From a young age her nightmares have centered around her home or her loved ones burning in fires. My son, among other things, is a seer of truth. His early artistic expressions through drawings and paintings were all of smoke and fire, labeled so by him. Perhaps part of them has always known what was ahead. And now, as teenagers coming of age on the brink of a paradigm shift, in the midst of mass-extinctions, in a world bound for transformation, I observe their fear and doubt of the future, their rage and disbelief at the willful ignorance and cruelty of uninitiated adults, and their resilient determination to love and laugh anyway. I commit daily to doing my part in service of their future.
Sometimes I make meaning through movement, other times I make meaning by sitting with my experience, however painful and messy, by attempting to learn and grow from it. I am my mother’s daughter. She taught me that whenever I am curious, confused, or lost, to ask questions. In the asking, I have learned answers do not abide our constructs of time. I have learned responses come from unexpected sources. In the asking, I have become a lifelong student of attentiveness, of listening, of patience, of non-thinking, of not-knowing. I am questioning everything. I am questioning myself. I am questioning the systems that I am part of, assigned and chosen. When layers of familiar constructions of reality and identity are stripped away, when who I have been before may no longer be relevant, who am I? What parts of me are dying, already dead? What parts are still living, breathing, germinating, or even blossoming despite toxic conditions? What can be resurrected? What must be buried, mourned, transformed? What emergent realities are waiting to be named, to be summoned forth?