Many of us on the West Coast woke up this week to eerie orange skies and layers of ash. It felt like the day the sun refused to rise. Some compared it to eclipses or the day the dinosaurs roamed confusedly after the comet crashed. The birds seemed to be behaving differently, quieter and more pensive. The Canadian geese still honked boisterously, but with a curiosity on their beaks.
Perhaps the sun itself is quarantining? Perhaps Fire is an Elder asking us to be broken open by our own consequences?
We’ve had to learn a new word, pyrocumulonimbus. You can look up the science, but the poetic translation is “fire-breathing dragon of clouds.”
Meanwhile, my home state of Iowa recently sustained millions of acres of damage from the fury of devastatingly high winds, those in the south and east enduring hurricanes, others unseasonable snow, floods or record heat. Wherever you are, it seems the era of escape is over, old strategies of fleeing are failing–the era of compost is here.
Something stubborn in me feels that inserting a typical story about climate emergency is too banal, and we all deserve a more creative story to match the root of things, worthy of our heart’s longings.
Yesterday was Mary Oliver’s birthday. Many of you know and adore her poetry and the gift of presence she brought to daily life and shared with the world. Recall her lines from Wild Geese: “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
And right now my soft animal body wants to heave with grief on my knees. It seems to want to experiment with frenzied yelps as I gulp the ashed air of our shared inheritance, “Hey lover earth, I’m fucking alive and listening!!” and “Elder Fire, I’m dying and being reborn with everything you destroy!!”
As we apprentice ourselves to new levels of loss, I am walking with these questions:
Could we weave our grief, unknowingness, sacred rage, and delicate unthwartable longings into previously undared and shared possibilities?
What if we are imaginal buds in the caterpillar’s dissolving body (our current crumbling patho-adolescent system) as it shapeshifts into the dawn of wingéd newness?
What if we embraced the moment and felt it all, re-imagined Seed-paths of Belonging seeking the sun through the cracked concrete of these discrete disruptions?
I invite you to join me in the halls of these questions too. Because we know that community is core to these transformative times. Silent suffering is one of the cruel myths of modernity. Yes, there is a time for solo journey through the underworld–parts of the journey where only we can face and embrace ourselves; yet, community is an essential container for knowing and being known, for navigating upheavals, for deep belonging.
Aside from the Deep Belonging courses and 1:1 soulwork, I am in the process of creating a platform, with regular Wild Nature Heart Circles, where we can explore the challenges of the the Great Unraveling and the seeds of new culture together.
Mary’s poem is a ultimately a poem about belonging. It ends,
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
So may the sun behind veils and grief behind masks be invitations to new intimacies and wild remembrances. May we smuggle in contraband questions under cover of haze.
Take care of yourselves, be gracious with your own and other’s journeys, let curiosity spring from your beaks, lend your tears to the watershed, and tend to your heart and wild dreams,
With arms outstretched to assist in this Great Turning,
Director of Creative Earthiness
Writing from ancestral Wiyot and Yurok territories, Northern California