By Susan Cross, Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant®
“I want the world to be kinder.
I am a woman
I am afraid.”
Linda Hogan, from Dark and Sweet
The growing light wakes me. It slants orangey-pink across the foot of the bed. The light’s changed some, rises a tiny bit later with a smidgen of southward drift. I need to get up, to do some work. The cat just wants his first breakfast. I shamble, bent over to fit under the ceiling, to the loft edge and crawl down the ladder like a stiff old bear. I’m emerging from my night crevice, my angled place of rest. As I brew my tea, the world rejoins me.
It’s still this morning. Not a breeze, not a sound. Even the birds are quiet. I like the silence. I like the smell of juniper. I like the morning light on the red and rust and tan cliffs. I like the lush green and the scattering of colorful blooms in my garden. I like my cat’s expectant face. I like caring for him.
I don’t know. Even surrounded by this beauty, even when the hummingbirds come iridescent purple and the sphinx moths flutter at night like ragged ghosts, and Jupiter is shining not far from the Milky Way, I feel lonely. I miss being a wife. I miss the matrix and responsibility of family. I miss the shared quality of experience. Sometimes my heart aches, sore and tight and heavy, acutely aware of what’s lost and gone. Lost and gone. Like vapor, things evaporate, phase-change, people come and go, times come and go, places come and go. We aren’t built like that. Not really. We’re meant, I think, for continuity, for long stretches of things staying the same. Maybe that’s my Neanderthal DNA talking. I miss 250,000 years of continuity.
I don’t know. For weeks now, maybe much longer if I consider it, (The wild god points to your side. You’re bleeding heavily. You’ve been bleeding for a long time, Possibly, since you were born. There’s a bear in the wound. from Tom Hirons) as I go about my business—driving, planning, working, visiting friends, reading—pulses of deep sadness wash over me. I live on the “Verge of Tears”, out beyond the pale, a tender territory I seem to occupy more and more. I feel affection, fondness, kind-heartedness, gentleness, compassion—toward everything. My darling mice and beetles, oh amazing clouds, the powerful flash of lightning, the raven flying and the pinyon pine setting cones. I love this world. I love all the things that have arisen from it. When I walk the land, I feel ancient magic and elemental power and I sense the dense sweetness of symbiosis. But still the sadness comes.
I think, maybe I’m feeling the pain of the Earth, the biosphere, and the ever-escalating pressure is squeezing my heart. As a society we’ve been talking about tipping points for decades. As a species we’ve moved past them I’m afraid. And that’s the source of the upwelling sorrow. My heart/soul, whatever makes this sentient-beingness, is super-conscious of the irreversible nature of what we’ve wrought. I’ve always carried a cavernous fear of the irreparable, of things that can’t be undone, of mistakes that carry the burden of irrevocability, of deadly permanence. It’s an on-going deep disenchantment, a true burden, finding that we are truly well over the line, living now on the other side of the ability to make prudent change and knowing that. Really knowing it, bone deep. Yet trying not to cave in to patching that perception over with hope-plasters and rescue-stories. Seeing beautiful Gaia, pushed to unpredictable, elemental, emergent agency and knowing-yes, we must learn to hunker down, to map a way in an unfamiliar and less friendly world. We’ve shaken the sleeping ones, my friends, steepened the angle of repose, let the genie out of the bottle, Pandora from her box. Sometimes my heart aches, sore and tight and heavy, acutely aware of what’s lost and gone. Sometimes my heart aches from the fullness, the appreciation for what’s here now—what’s still whole and working—what’s elegant and gorgeous and wild.
The Earth won’t die, nature bats last, bacteria rule. It’ll all wind up again in a different form. Though there is intense tragedy in losing all the marvelous creations that have been, that are now, I’ve never bought into the “end of life on earth” concept. End of life as we know it, yes. Ironically, humans aren’t at risk of extinction. No, we’re weeds. We’ll see our faces alongside starlings and in the trumpets of bindweed for centuries to come. We’ll be reflected in the slime of algae blooms and the grins of green iguanas. We can live suspended over a fucking pit mine. No, humans won’t be going away. What’s going away is comfort and expanding wealth. Biodiversity and stability. Predictability and an easy gift-like abundance. The rich will have their enclaves and the poor will scrabble. No end in sight, no end at all.
I keep busy. I make lists every day and I work hard. I join committees and build up the soil in my gardens. I try like the devil to be kind. I used to think I had something to teach, but I find I’m only hungry to learn. I love people who are honest and do their best to speak truth. (Whatever that is.) I love people who are working on implementing great ideas or making art or trying to help (somewhere, something) or who listen to their dream-world for direction. I love animals and plants and stars. I love the strength of my ancestors and the watery places we came from and I love my child and the places I’ve been “diaspora-ed” to. I yearn for a sweet healthy planet for our progeny. Like I said, I work hard. I’m tired at the end of each day. I like to pretend I have a purpose.
I’ve thought about this all day, how I feel about what’s happening. I hear the urgency and pain and confusion in so many of the voices that I love. I feel it too. The anxiety-over-the-state-of-the-world is ever-present, vague, distressing and free-floating. Today, I’ve tried to express how I experience our crazily chaotic spinning world. To express to you what it means to me when I read, we have about 18 months, instead of that lovely projected decade, to change direction on our juggernaut-wild-ride-to-uncertainty! To consider what it means to be alive right now and part of a lineage, a culture, a species. To wonder how families come apart and think about our inability to do reparations even at that scale. To feel the immense loneliness of being human and to still get up and make that second cup of tea—to go stand at my counter in the studio.
The light is fading. It’s still quiet, as it most often is. The cat has had his second supper. As I bear-shimmy back up my loft ladder to crawl into my angular crevice for a night’s rest, I look lovingly at my companion-cat. He curls up to sleep, blissfully in the moment. I don’t think he worries, except about first breakfast and second supper. I would like that kind of respite from the fore thought of grief we must live with. (dear Wendell Berry) I feel the breeze pick up and watch the thunderheads build, smell the juniper and dust, I hear a cricket start to sing, and I feel sadness and gratitude in equal measure.
So, what to do?
I don’t know. Maybe this is all to make us feel the love sharply, sense our interdependence keenly, and to see the lines of separation as the fictional fractures they are. To make us grieve the losses, atone for the excesses, propitiate the wild gods, and cast a larger circle of protection. I learned a new word from Martin Shaw, who knows a TON of amazing words. Apotropaic. The definition is: having the power to avert evil influences or bad luck.
I want that. A talisman. For all of us.
Sending you love as summer ripens