Laying in my tent. Camping in Cape Cod. A little bit ashamed about scrolling through my phone. I saw another headline about the burning Amazon. And how it will take hundreds of years for the rain forest to recover. My chest welled up. I wanted to cry. I said “not now” to myself. And I kept scrolling.
Then I paused. I paused long enough to notice the choice I had made. I paused long enough to wonder if it was too late. Could I come back to the headline and the heartache? Could I take advantage of the quiet of the morning and let myself cry for what we have already lost? It didn’t feel like I could. But I’m not sure that feeling held truth.
I’m a sunny side person. An optimist. I look for the light. I practice gratitude. I cultivate a positive stance.
But I don’t turn a blind eye to the darkness of our times. We are living through the sixth great extinction. Our political and economic systems are coming apart. The spoils of violent extraction are hoarded by a dismal few. And the Amazon is burning right now. There is a fire raging in our planet’s lungs
I have been slowly and carefully reading “The Wild Edge of Sorrow” by Francis Weller. It is a book about grief. Grief is the other side of love. All those who love will know grief. Grief can make us truly human. But ours is an adolescent culture. And we run away from grief.
When we don’t process our grief. When we don’t allow ourselves to feel it. To be broken down by it. We deprive ourselves of wisdom. The wisdom of the elders and ancestors. The wisdom that awaits us on the other side of sorrow. We are running from our grief. Or we are left to grief alone. And it is this cultural denial of grief that keeps us from the wisdom, the courage, the power that we need.
We must let ourselves cry for the Amazon. We need to allow ourselves to feel the grief of the species gone extinct. We have to feel the tears of a melting glacier. And sense the loss of a starless sky.
This separation is breaking our hearts.
Fear will always fall short. And anger will never be enough. One is paralyzing. The other leads to senseless action.
We must allow our hearts to break.
Let us not forget the plight of our ancestors. The flows of love and grief that got us here. The way we were prayed into being by those who had nothing left but tears.
Grief is terrifying. It makes us feel so alone. We fear drowning in it. And it always feels like forever. But every wise person you know. Every compassionate person you know. Every person that you’ve met that walks firmly upon this earth. This is a person that has lived through the pain of grief.
In “Braiding Sweetgrass,” Robin Wall Kimmerer says that we have to move from love for the world, to deep grief, to greater love for all life.
Because all of life is interconnected. This is the most sacred understanding that is held by the ancestors. We have forgotten this sacred wisdom. And we are left with separation. Radical individuation. Compartmentalizations and atomization.
The things that lead to extinction.
Bare witness to the fires that are consuming the land. Notice all that has been lost. Allow yourself to feel grief. Reclaim your birthright. Cry with others. These are not times to be alone. Gathers rituals for the grief. Come to the fire. Sing songs together. Tell stories. Hold each other.
Trust that you will find new laughter.
Life is everything together. We must act. Take down governments. Globalize a Green New Deal. Reject accumulation and extraction. Take to streets. Dream something new into being.
But all of it. All that is good in it. Anything lasting that will be born of it. Will come from songs sung around the fire. It will come from people holding each other through our tears for what is already lost. And for the loss that is coming.
Let yourself cry for the Amazon. Let’s find our wisdom together.