Make Good on the Promise

Day 5 of The Year

Mourning: still on the invisible ones

solidarity: with the ones becoming visible

rebellion: forcing myself to adjust to this project

I knew this would be hard, but I didn’t know it would be this hard. It’s HARD feeling these things. It’s HARD remembering the ones we’ve lost. It’s HARD figuring out how to hold the joy of playing with my baby alongside the devastating grief of  all the babies, of all the species, we’re losing each day on this planet . It’s even hard wearing black every day. I feel like a shadow. A shadow of myself.

I’m so lucky to not be alone in this. There are so many joining now. Our extended family household is abuzz with ideas, and quotes, and bits of writing, fluttering around with coffee, diapers, and the busy tinkling of daily life. Friends stop by and offer support, and more ideas, and their love.

But still, I feel a slipping. A shifting, sliding sideways feeling, like the moment between dreaming and waking. A homesickness for something I can’t name.

Grief can freeze you solid, steal your breath, stop each moment. It is at the same time endless and instant. It can drain your energy, exhaust you, steal your life.

Aikido, an ancient martial art, sometimes referred to as “the Way of harmonious spirit.” teaches its students to defend themselves not by pure, unadulterated force, but by “blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on.”

And that’s exactly what we’re hoping to do with this grief. We want to feel the feelings and then re-direct them into solidarity, rebellion, and ACTION.

We want to confront the culture of destruction and use it’s OWN energy to fight against it, not deplete our own.

And in this way, we become stronger, NOT weaker.

What we’ve discovered so far is that you can’t feel the weight of the sadness all day every day. It would mean complete suffocation. But what we can do is when it hits, when the sadness, and the loneliness, and the fear come rushing in during moments of quiet, in the car, or brushing your teeth, or cooking dinner, let the feelings in, shed your tears, say a prayer, and then promise yourselfand the world, that you will do whatever it takes to stop the madness swirling all around us.

And then you go figure out how to make good on that promise.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening,

That is all for now,

Natasha

And now, a beautiful guest post from our The Year’s photographer, Michelle J. We’re so lucky to hear your story.

You Belong Here

DSCN9988-001

Once, I found a baby bird who fell from our roof in early spring. “He was too young to fly,” the adults told me, unfazed. I cried all day over that tiny, beautiful body with it’s newborn, featherless wings and translucent skin. I didn’t believe in “too young to fly”. I brought him to my fort in the woods and placed him in an old nest high off the ground. I didn’t even consider burying him because I knew a bird would never be at rest underground. I mourned the loss of that little life with my full, thumping heart. No one taught me that.

  • As a child, I breezed through the space between branches like the wind does, swinging and safe; I lived with flowers in my pockets, with berry-stained hands, with feet of moss. At night I sang with the crickets and learned to see by the light of the fireflies. I blew wisps of dandelion that flew away until they were specks. I lived flush with the creek rocks, chasing sunlight through the water; I knew I had two mothers- my beautiful life-giver and my beautiful Earth. These things were not taught to me either– these cannot be taught. These are within me, these are me, deeply and most truly. Gently whispering:

    You belong here, you belong here.

    But I knew not to drink that water. That, I had to be taught. Long before me, there was water here safe for drinking. How can you miss something you’ve never had? But I ached for it nonetheless. My heart aches still.

    Mourning was taught to me as a private event. I never saw my parents cry. I never saw my teachers, the sisters, cry. So, when I felt the pain of a grove of trees cut down, a trampled flower bed, or a drying puddle of trash where a stream had once run, it became more and more inappropriate to express that dark sadness or even begin to understand or work through it. When I saw wild lions behind bars, massive gorillas in a run the size of my recess yard, when I saw the blank stares on their faces, I didn’t understand that kind of grief. So I looked away. I regret and feel embarrassment for that. I pushed the earth’s pain beneath my heart where it crested and broke silently, like a tidal wave behind my eyes, barely held back. I tremble to think how hard that was for me, and at once how easy.

    Humans celebrate life together. We dance and sing together. We give birth, embark on adventures, learn and share discoveries together. And so must we begin to mourn together. We must finally be allowed to feel that sadness with each other. There are plants, animals, habitats, and thriving ecosystems that have been permanently lost to this world. I want to feel that lump in my throat when I pass a graveyard of tree stumps and not push it back down. When I see fiery methane flares above the tree line and chemical-filled ponds at natural gas drilling well pads, I can no longer cringe and look away. I want to acknowledge my anguish for the coal-laden mines of mountains whose tops have been blown apart to fuel our homes and cars. We, like the earth, can heal, but we can never bring those vanished things back. May their stories be told. May we remember that each day we come closer to another extinction of our precious earth’s life and land.

    So this year and from now on, I will pass through the stages of earth grief again and again. I can stop doing what is easy and less awkward for others, and begin to grieve in a true way, with the members of my community, my family, with Natasha and Wilson and everyone who joins us. I will ask the earth to forgive me, and listen for the answer in the beating heart of this planet:

    You still belong here. You still belong here.

    DSCN8856

    Green Valleys

    by Dawn Thompson

    When we dumped the black money into your blood Mother did you howl?

    Millions of gallons of neglect pooling your body poison in the veins of your weeping, flooding you, filling you with our error

    And still you hold us

    And still you feed us

    And still you mother our tantrums as we try and clean an ocean with a hand rag

    When we dirty your air with our industrious doing sending dark smoke signals of fear and long hours towards the sun that loves you towards the stars that delight you filling your lungs with the weight of us

    And still you hold us

    And still you feed us

    And still offer green life from your breast to breathe us

    When we kill one another our blood staining the mountain of your face o

    our weapons blowing holes in the hills of you so that you cry in sorrowed streams

    And still you hold us

    And still you feed us

    And still you patiently wait for us

    To make our way back to green valleys.

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3 responses to “Make Good on the Promise

  1. just. keep. writing.

    all of you.

    love.

  2. This is beautiful, Michelle.
    Thank you.

  3. Reminds me of the concept of “sehnsucht,” essentially longing for something you have never experienced. (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sehnsucht)

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