I consider myself incredibly fortunate that part of my work is tending to and listening to life forces and teaching others to do the same. My job is to pay attention to what is well and help that wellness take up more space in both the human body and mind. I have spent decades training myself and others to have this one-pointed focus. Yet, when faced with the current trajectory of our changing climate and its likely impacts, my skills can quickly vanish. When this happens, I do what I can to remember that life can change but it will in some form go on. I remind myself that nothing can stop the myriad of life forces from magnifying themselves. After all, if you consider what it would take, you’ll realize quickly that it is very hard for Life—the collective living, breathing world—to end.
This week I read of the UN summit on climate change happening right now in Poland, of the dire warnings and predictions of the demise of civilization within decades if humanity does not change course. This is not the only week I have been sitting with this reality. It is here often now, entering uninvited when I am with my daughter. I watch as she grows and changes and looks towards her life, and I can’t help but also wonder what challenges life will bring her, what climate-related events will alter her trajectory and impact her dreams. I can barely consider what possibilities have already been erased before overwhelm sets in. Do I regret bringing her into this world? Not for an instant. Do I have days when I’m glad to be in my fifties instead of my twenties because of what’s coming? Absolutely. Do I bristle at the greed of the oil and gas industry and use a gas stove to cook my food and a car when I want to? Yes. Both. I see the layers of destruction my culture and my life have demanded in order to maintain a familiar level of comfort and ease. I can grasp that consumer-driven cultures have contributed heavily to the current climate conditions. I can grasp that our global dependence on fossil fuels is such that any attempts to lessen the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere are so far unsuccessful.
But grasping that the realities of climate change means that the earth may not be able to continue to support humans is harder. There is nothing easy about looking at the possibility of our own demise. But look there we must if we are to act. As you grapple in your own way with the increasingly likely possibility of the life-threatening impacts of the climate to our species, hold fast to the simultaneous reality that life herself will continue.
For myself, I recognize that the comforts of my life, and my life itself, will likely be shortened by climate change. I had a taste of this reality last summer when for several smoke-filled hot months, I found breathing very difficult. I have since read articles on how the body reacts to extreme heat and discovered that even though the heat of this past summer in Colorado was not in the range that scientists call extreme, my reaction to it was. For the first time in my life, I found myself vulnerable to the environment in ways I had never been before, ways that others around me were not. I have healed immensely in these last months, and I am still more physically fragile than I was before. To regain the health I have, I have journeyed into my body and become more finely attuned to its needs. I have become more mindful, more disciplined, more aware. These are the calls of this time.
Inside the earth there are forces and beings of all sizes. They keep the world alive through their chewing, swallowing and metabolizing. These beings become enraged when humans turn away from their duty to protect and support life and are remembered now only in fairy tales, as dragons. They are earth guardians whose fierceness is necessary and whose anger is justified. They are grandmothers of intuition, fires of passion, keepers of ever present possibility. They know what you’re capable of and what the world is capable of. They know where to place their fire, and when to let their waters flow.
Justifiable anger is a relatively new idea for me, and anger of any sort has often been hard to access, except as an immediate full body response to something specific. Decades ago after learning of a friend’s rape, I turned into King Kong. I grew hair on my back, and my feet and legs became huge. I didn’t look in the mirror, but I didn’t need to. Every cell had become an out-sized powerful gorilla strong enough to rip off doors and tear buildings from their foundations. I loved the feeling of strength and rage turned to purpose, and I hated that something horrible had brought me here, that it took the violation of someone I loved to feel so strong. But it was confusing and painful not knowing what to do with my strength. My friend had survived her rape and was well supported. As much as I wanted to, there was no way for me to actually pick up her perpetrator and smash him into a building with a flick of my gorilla hand, though I swear for a few minutes I could have. My anger subsided, but what I learned and have retained is that anger combined with love is a powerful force.
When I turn towards the predictions of the coming decades, I have yet to feel like King Kong. The ongoing rape of the earth and the present danger to our lives and our children’s and grandchildren’s lives is fuel for the biggest bonfire of change the living world has ever seen. And yet this reality is too big for me—for anyone—to hold alone without collapsing. We cannot manage alone the layers of displacement, the reality of our collective disconnection and dependence on modern conveniences, or even a drop of the ocean of grief that wells up when we touch this reality. We need to join together, to get real, to grieve and to move. Only our combined strength and power can harness our anger and pull it out from behind our feelings of fear and helplessness.
It’s time to call out the dragons. It’s time to call our justified rage and grief out from under wherever it is buried. It is time for all of us individually and in community to get real about what we are seeing and see coming. We must cry together, plan together, take action together. We must collectively grow the strength to listen through our fear, to move through the places where we go understandably numb by the immensity of what the world’s climate is becoming. We can no longer afford to hover. We must dive in and plant the future. It is time to put all our hands on deck and pull out all the stops. We must start doing life differently. Now. We must stop looking outside ourselves for someone or some invention to save us. We must go into the places we have been scared to go, for as my mentor Anna Chitty says, that is where the work is. It’s only by turning towards and facing realities we’ve been scared to admit that we can change. This is true on the global and the personal level.
Let us be transformed by the necessity of now. For my daughter’s sake and her unborn daughter’s sake and for the sake of all the mothers and all the children of all species, it’s time to call out our dragons, our King Kongs, our super big hearts. With the love in all of us, for the love of all of us, may we be big in our actions and our commitment to life in all forms.
Also published on Medium.