August 16, 2021
How are you doing?
For me, there are days when all seems fine but, to be honest, there have recently been more days than not touched by sadness and concern and anger.
Today alone we are dealing with the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, in spite of the availability of vaccines - which is more likely to negatively affect our precious children. We are watching the take-over of Afghanistan by the Taliban, and grieving for what this means for the women and children in the country. We are thinking about the repercussions of last week's report about the climate emergency from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as people battle floods, droughts, and forest fires across the globe. And Haiti has been hit by another earthquake, while simultaneously dealing with the pandemic and political upheaval.
On days like today, I have a lump in my throat and feel tears at the back of my eyes, ready to flow at any moment. I feel anxious and sad about the world that might be ahead (well, it is already here to some degree) for my children and grandchildren, our children and grandchildren.
Joy is in my body as well, but it can be fleeting and it is often accompanied by foreboding - it feels audacious and a little risky to hold joy in the midst of all that is going on.
How does this fit with your experience?
My two sisters and I are doing a study together via Zoom, following Brenè Brown's 6 session podcast with her two sisters in which they dig into Brenè's book, The Gifts of Imperfection. In session 3, Brenè and her sisters talk about her research with thousands of people that shows how joy arises from gratitude. It is not that people feel grateful that they are joyful. Rather - experiences of gratitude lead to joy.
What are gratitude and joy like for you?
When the wheels fell off with the pandemic, I found myself going to the woods and meadows almost every day, looking and smelling and listening. The bigger the chaos in the larger world, the closer in I went, finding teeny tiny signs of life under rocks, attached to tree bark, nestled in clusters along creek banks. I couldn't name this at the time, but I see now that I was building a new daily gratitude practice.
Life goes on, in spite of it all, and it is beautiful and true.
Where do we humans fit into Earth's life? We are part of life on Earth - but we are only a part of it. Over the last couple of hundred years, we have drifted far from our recognition that we are actually animals whose lives are subject to the same laws of biology, physics, and chemistry as any other part of the natural world. We have forgotten that our lives are made up of Earth-based seasons and cycles.
And, ignoring these truths, we have propelled ourselves into the future dependent on non-replenishing extractive economies, detached from our responsibilities to each other and the rest of nature, moving faster and bigger and louder and more distant than ever from our animal nature. It is as though we have forgotten who we are.
So what to do?
I am preparing with gratitude and joy for upcoming visits from my children and grandchildren, our future. And we will go to the woods and meadows to remember who we are, to reaffirm the truth and beauty of our nature-selves.
Recovering from a state of self-forgetfulness,
I have caught myself counting the stamens of a flower.
DuFu, eighth century Chinese poet