- Mountains And Waters
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
As I begin to write, hundreds of Extinction Rebellion protestors have been arrested around the world – over climate. United Auto Workers are in the longest strike in 50 years, against General Motors, over livelihood. Chicago teachers prepare to strike over student services. Hong Kong protests for basic freedom aren’t even news any more. Nor are family separations and deaths at the border, or floods, storms, wildfires killing people and other living beings around the globe, or record temperatures every month. It’s not news that crops are failing across the Midwest, and in gardens of people I know. Poverty, refugees, homelessness are not news, nor are countless acts of kindness and generosity.
News is a white police officer, called to do a wellness check, instead snoops around the house and then shoots through the window, killing an innocent woman playing with her nephew. News is the impeachment process, Trump’s increasingly irrational response, and his erratic, frightening foreign policy actions. Is it news that he is opening up more wilderness lands, for oil and gas exploration while gutting environmental protections? Probably not.
News is Greta Thunberg, somehow noticed by the media elevated to world leadership, chosen out of hundreds or thousands of youth activists. (Here are a few current names and stories; here is some history, including details on the 2017 Juliana case still pending, and mention of a 1990’s case won by youth in the Philippines. I encourage you to read both.
I’m giving too much attention to the news these days. Doing that makes me feel small and powerless, even while some of it is encouraging. Reading or watching commentary by people who agree with me isn’t fruitful either; I suppose tI do it to feel less alone and less powerless.
What I am doing, a little more, is going outdoors and walking among the trees, listening to birds, watching squirrels, seeing faces in the rocks, wetting my feet in the creeks. Last week I went down to the creek and, for the first time in three years, actually spent time in the area I once was developing as a quiet outdoor space. Until a storm threw trees across it and diverted a rivulet through the middle of the open space. Last fall’s tornado threw a few more trees down. Now again I found nourishment there.
In September a prayer gathering was organized by Interfaith Power and Light, at the Mississippi Headwaters (Itasca State Park). I went to offer something Buddhist – the chant Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo for protecting life. Here we are.
Last weekend I went to my teacher’s temple, gave a talk, talked with old friends, and did Zen practice with my old community. I came back with the thought that I need more zazen time. Two hours in the morning is more than twice as much as one hour. It’s time to settle down, become more quiet. And more time with the spirits of the land. I may do fewer events next year, even though the sense of urgency is stronger than ever.
When the world is falling apart – as is our shared human world, most of us – if we avoid the temptation of denial, if we choose to meet what is from the understanding of our place in the universe, our belonging to the family of life – well, that is my current question, and there are just inklings of how to move forward. One of these is to stay grounded, literally close to the earth. Another is that our human connections actually be human, not prescribed, rigid, machine-like, perfect, objectified, dead. Thus we are nourished; our decisions can be based on that awareness of belonging rather than on fear and isolation, or the need to control. That’s not even an outline; I’m working on it.
The Mushroom at the End of the World: on the possibility of life in capitalist ruins, by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing – contemplations by an anthropologist that uproot many of my habitual thoughts about human interactions, economics, and the like.
Why Civil Resistance Works, by Erika Chenoweth – a convincing study, rather academic, by someone who really expected to find that violent resistance was more effective. Not just encouraging, but instructive in the how of activism.
If Women Rose Rooted: the journey to authenticity and belonging, by Sharon Blackie – not started yet, but looks enticing.
The events listing on the front page is easier to read than ever. But I’ll mention the first few:
Sunday October 20, 2-5 pm sitting meditation (walking and outdoor options) at the farm
Sunday October 20, 5:30-8:30 potluck. RSVP is quite important. We’ll listen to a talk by Sharon Blackie.
October 26-27, Introduction to Zen retreat (beginning with a short workshop on Saturday morning). This might be cancelled; I’d like at least four people. If interested contact me soon.
Leaves are starting to turn, and I turned on the heat for the first time this morning. It’s fall. A little late, but every extra warm day is another day to go outside, sweaters or no. I want to buy a splitting axe, a really good one from Lehman’s; someone suggested a GoFundMe for the $200. Thinking about it. What does heating with wood and splitting it myself have to do with the well-being of the world, the alliance with plants and animals and all beings? Only a matter of getting closer to the earth.
Love to you all,