Yesterday marked Imbolc, the cross quarter day. Winter is passing here; the first signs of Spring begin to emerge. We celebrate light. Cold beams stream in across the doorstep as I write this. The day is chill but I can’t bear not to have the door open, to remember what the sunlight feels like, to see that big blue sky there waiting.
Ever since the fire here in October, I’ve been experiencing a richer, more embodied, more urgent understanding of the plight we’re currently in as a planet. The reality of climate change, for so long an interest, a diversion, came right up to the threshold of my life, tore over it, ripped my sense of safety and control to shreds.
And what to do with that knowledge? What to do with the sense that I am bearing witness to deep and irrevocable changes? How to turn that into action?
As the winter rolls on, even as the first signs of Spring emerge, I force myself to sit with it.
To notice where I am a part of the solution. Where I tread so lightly on the earth she doesn’t know I’m there. Where I contribute to renewal, where I give thanks by reusing and recycling, where I can be thrifty so as not to exploit still further the dwindling resources she has left.
I celebrate the infinite abundance of sunsets, of the moon, of the water flowing in the river. I am mindful of my plastic use. I eat food grown on the land I live on, I pay extra for the organic produce, I avoid the corporations.
The cheap flights booked, to visit family in a few months’ time.
The new clothes, factory made of synthetic materials, bought in a strip-lit mall.
The back up generator when the solar failed. The plastic bottles of water and juice. The disposable nappies destined for landfill.
I am failing at this, as all of us are, hopeless, helpless, seeing the solution and yet so fallible, so human, so unable to resist.
I examine this fact in my mind, weighing it. Broken hearted. What does this mean? What can this mean?
And I circle back to this freezing air, this big blue sky, this land which is healing and sprouting and growing even in the face of the great blaze that trampled over it. I think about how creative we are, how beautiful, how our imperfections are our gifts.
I forgive myself tenderly, forgive all of us, remember how important it is to be kind. Even when the whole damn ship is sinking, it’s important to be kind. I allow myself to be held by this hibernation and to remember that awakening is a slow process, and that there are no easy answers, and that sometimes just staying with a question, really being there with the broken heartedness, is actually the most important thing to do.
“It’s a beautiful thing, staying. I always knew it would be, but if you’re used to always leaving, it’s difficult too.”
There is something in this, staying. Because the running, and the hustling, and the thinking we know best, have not served us so well thus far. I might not be in the house anymore but I’m still on this land, nestled in this valley, I watch the sunset from the same vantage points. The same river rushes past.
I cannot make a difference to the whole world, but I am making a difference in my own way. And part of that means taking responsibility. Holding myself to account. Becoming aware of what is going on each time I make a choice I’m not proud of. Starting to shine a light on the currents that sweep me along, on the winds that blow around me.
Holding still and paying attention is subversive. It is what we are taught not to do (run! buy! escape! change!)
It is anathema to the great modern grind, the culture which presses down on us, tells us we do not belong, we are not enough.
“Contemporary capitalism has not just accelerated the behaviors that are changing the climate. This economic model has changed a great many of us as individuals, accelerated and uprooted and dematerialised us as surely as it has finance capital, leaving us at once everywhere and nowhere.”
Spring is rising, but winter still reigns. Every day I slow down, root myself, look around at what is here. I am, here. We are, here. What comes next?