My sniffing continues and my tracking is turning from a meander into a trot. I can’t tell you how much difference all the midwives (listed at the end of this blog) have made and Joanna Macy is an amazing 92 year old whose beauty and grace, ferocity and endeavour is inspirational.
I am feeling so strongly, in response to all that I have read, listened to and felt, in my body, in my back garden, under the trees, walking around the same road, the same time, every day, again and again, that I want to rebuild my relationship with the earth as I wrote about in my last blog.
‘Mother earth’ is a cliche which had lost it’s impact on me until this time when I have driven less and sat for longer under trees and seen in the news how the air is clearer, the roads quieter and my survey showed how much people were enjoying slowing down, being in nature, connecting more deeply with loved ones and consuming less.
More and more in my coaching I have been drawing on yoga, meditation and mindfulness and doing this outside is so much more powerful. I need the connection to the outside world. It feeds me.
But I have never seen more clearly how she needs me. Or rather I have known it but felt helpless, not knowing what I can personally do to stop the mass extinction and the climate catastrophe which is happening. I have have enjoyed shopping and most of my work clothes are from second hand shops. But I have flown and travelled and use the car a lot so my recycling seems to have been paltry. I’ve been writing about Greta and the climate crisis and what it means for me or a while now, but this time under trees and sniffing my way has helped me understand that it is the not knowing that IS the thing I can do.
COVID-19 has raised temperatures, caused dangerous fevers in humans and human actions have led to fires in Australia, the Artic, the Amazon.
COVID-19 has flooded our lungs, drowning us in our own fluids as human actions have led to the floods we saw here in the UK at the start of the year.
COVID-19 is making us cough, choking us on the air we should breathe as we our behaviours have choked the air and the atmosphere.
COVID -19 is taking away our sense of smell and taste as our behaviours have been taking away the rich, succulent diversity of life in oceans, forests, jungles.
COVID -19 has left us cut off from those who love, leaving the oldest among us cut off, alone, often without a voice just as we are cut off from our roots in this land, a rich understanding that we the earth is not our storehouse or our supply house or our tip or waste disposal shute, but that we are part of the very system we destroy.
So what do we do when our mothers are sick, when our fathers, grandparents fall in, when our children ail? We do that which has been removed from us at this time, we sit with them.
We want to sit with them, be with them through their fever, their cough. We want to hold their hand even though we don’t know if they can feel us or hear us or if our presence matters. COVID-19 has brought death out of the shadows again and reminded us that what we want is to be together through life and at its end.
And we want to be there even if we don’t know if there is anything we can do. We want to be there in spite of our fear and pain. We want to be there because we recognise that without our mother, father, grandfather, grandmother we would not be here.
We do not want to abandon those we love when they are sick, even if we are helpless faced with the enormity of their failing, even if we feel lost, small, over-whelmed. Even if we have lost all hope of re-birth, we still want to sit with them until the end.
The earth, our mother is sick. She is poisoned. Ill. Ailing. Possibly terminally. If we feel into it too deeply, it is overwhelming and terrifying. But here is COVID-19 which has stopped our cars, our flights, our shopping, our quick coffee-shop-disposable hops. Maybe she is calling to us, suggesting to us that if we were to sit with her, by her side, in her sickness, then maybe still she has a wisdom to share as our roads are still quieter and the air less scarred with the white stripes of planes.
I feel changed, changing, unsettled, re-settled, un-settled again by COVID daily. And still every day I walk. And I walk. I muse, I wonder. And I listen to the podcasts and authors I share with you last blog. And I sniff and I listen to what nature herself has to say.
Here is the image that came to me as I was listening to Joanna Macy, Alice Walker and other elders talking about how we can mother the mother earth: https://podplayer.net/episode/5640498
We sit within the earth, held by her, fed by her, nurtured by her and sustained by her, still, in spite of all we humans are doing. I am feeling so strongly this urge to hold her within me, to acknowledge that just as she has sat with me, I can sit with her AND not know, and with no solutions, and with fear, overwhelm, frustration, hopelessness.
I know the power of sitting in a circle. I have had the honour many times to be in a circle of people; different in so many ways, but willing to connect. I know what can happen in the empty space of a circle, if we arrive curiously with hearts willing to be broken open through connection with another.
I also know that the women’s liberation of the 60s happened in circles of women, in front rooms, not just on the streets with banners, and that those women, our mothers, our grandmothers, made small changes to how they raised their children, what they wanted from a partner, how they would navigate the working world.
I don’t know if it is possible to save species from extinction, ice sheets from melting, oceans from filling with our plastic and waste. But I do know that I can no longer turn away and hope that someone else will solve this problem for me. I want to say to my children, I don’t know, but I am listening, I am awake, I am not turning away. I am alive at this time of so much change and I want to truly inhabit it and not anesthetize myself in screens and consumerism.
COVID-19 has stopped us in our tracks. The virus has spread so fast, so globally that never again can we hide behind the illusion that we are not all connected. That waste tipped over there does not pollute the air my children breathe. That my car journey exacerbates your child’s asthma.
It feels to me that this is a tipping point, a time where we are being invited by mother earth to do things differently. I honestly have no answers but I do know that I would never leave a loved one die alone if I had a choice. I do know that the more that I have sat under trees and walked around the block, the clearer I become on what I want and don’t want in my life. I do know that there are other people out there who don’t know either, but do know different things from me.
So my invitation is to join me in a virtual circle of not knowing, but caring, to see what happens if we create a space to share the uncertainty of this time and to be curious about what new can emerge from this break, this stop, from COVID.
Friedrich Nietzsche said ‘‘Out of chaos comes a dancing star’, which in its fuller context reads: ‘One must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.’
Will you join me in sniffing our way forward? You can listen to the podcast here or below.