With the words: It is not a drill Greta Thunberg opens the video message she and George Monbiot have prepared to highlight the need to protect, restore and enable our natural environment to tackle the climate crisis. The video is a must see for it’s direct and explicit messaging. The communicators are essential for mobilising. Their advice in this little video is to plant trees. Such a simple act. The stages are protect, restore, act.
I have just moved into a new home and the garden is a literal desert, save for a beautiful flowering gum that belongs next door and has found a way for some of its branches to fall over the fence. On my first Saturday here I went to find things to plant and support for the soil which has had no love in years it seems. Over the coming year this will be part of my own response to protect, restore and act.
These steps are steps for the activist too. We must protect ourselves from the loss and grief we are encountering lest it render us to a state of paralysis. This will mean going deep into our sense of regret, sadness, despair – that last bastion of hope. David Whyte writes Despair is a difficult, beautiful necessity a binding understanding between human beings caught in a fierce and difficult world where half of our experience is mediated by loss, but it is a season, a wave form passing through the body, not a prison surrounding us (from Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words).
When we face facts, it is in not a drill, we look at what we have done to get us to this point. It is personal, it is political. We move to protect ourselves so we can own the despair, move through it a pace where it can be integrated and take us to the place where we can be restored to our best version of ourselves. To that place where we can find the good in us to lead us to action. Protecting ourselves invokes poetry, music, beauty in our surrounds and in our relationships. To be there for each other without judgement or blame. To be seen sobbing and to be heard cursing. To be in the shelter of each other as we each fumble and find our way to restoration.
Restoring our selves – bringing ourselves back to a former state – a state of childlike wonder, a state of union with all that is needed to sustain us, a state of appreciation for all that connects us. Inside the process of restoration lies forgiveness, appreciation of all that has gone before, a eye to potential and discovery of essence. The acts that follow are grounded in fundamental, although occasionally some inconvenient truths as well, but they are acts with integrity and ones evolved through a process of recovery and renewal.
I am reminded of the principles of any 12 step program – admitting we have a problem, seeking support and guidance from and with peers, recognising we are not alone and calling on a higher power to get us through, making amends and evangelising to bring others to the process. It starts with despair though and this is a step we can’t skip over as it is fuel for hope. When we get to rock bottom, and the sirens are sounding, our vulnerability arrives with all its fragility, complexity, tears and tantrums and we know we can’t do it alone, then we can begin to road back to Eden.
As I am making a new home I am wondering what has been before, that can be protected and restored and have begun a little research in these first few days. I have been lent a copy of RetroSuburbia, joined a couple of Facebook groups about butterflies and gardening, turned up at a local nursery and had some loam and compost delivered. I have been blessed by dear friends with John O’Donohue’s Elemental Blessing for a New Home. It is a beginning, in this year of activism.
Elemental Blessing for A New Home
Before a human voice was ever heard here,
This place has known the respect of stone,
The friendship of the wind, always returning
With news of elsewhere, whispered in seed and pollen,
The thin symphonies of birdsong softening the silence,
The litanies of rain rearranging the air,
Cascades of sunlight opening and closing days,
And the glow of the moon gazing through darkness.
May all that elemental enrichment
Bless the foundation and standing of your home.
Before you came here, this place has known
The wonder of children’s eyes,
The hope of mornings in troubled hearts,
The tranquility of twilight easing the night,
The drama of dreams under sleeping eyelids,
The generous disturbance of birth,
The anxieties of old age unclenching into grace
And the final elegance of calmly embraced death.
May the life of you new home enter
Into this inheritance of spirit.
May the rain fall kindly,
May daylight illuminate your hearts,
May the darkness never burden.
May those who dwell here in the unseen
Watch over your coming and going,
May your lives of love and promise
Refine and deepen the mind of the land.
John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us