December 26th 2017.
After the momentousness of 2017, it was a relief to hunker down with my family and once again to ground myself in important Life ingredients: fun, laughter, compassion, generosity of spirit and love in all its funny little forms. As becomes an older family member, I was part tourist and part-contributor. Tourist, as I observed and sampled the rituals and events (and dishes) that had become important to my children and grandchildren; some were outgrowths of my traditions and some were completely unrelated to the ways I used to manage Christmas Celebrations. I found that setting aside my habitual expectations was a relief and also made the time we spent together much more enjoyable.
Now it is Boxing Day, and, in English tradition, time to consider the needs of others. (some would note that it is a massive sporting day!) Sports aside, I reflect on large scale needs and how I might act in relation to them.
For these last few months my email inboxes and house mailbox have been jammed with warnings and pleas for contributions – much, much more than I could reasonably respond to – and also with cries of ALARM, DESPAIR, and calls to Resist, (all in CAPS accompanied by exclamation points!!!!!!) There were so many that I often felt bruised and depressed. What world, what country are my grandsons growing into?
I am not one just to sit in denial for long– although it is very tempting – I decided to work out some coping strategies for myself. These constitute framing how I can offer just a “widow’s mite” to everything that needs to be done and understanding that there are, by no means, magic bullets or ”one right way to save everything”. It helps to know that there are many more people like me out there with humble but important contributions.
Long ago I was often encouraged by John Seed, a Rainforest activist from Australia, who was fond of saying “We are not looking to persuade everyone. We just need to reach tipping point. And you never know, the next person you talk to may be the tipping point.”
Years ago I drew a portrait of the remaining members of a few species thinking that the drawing would help people see their beauty and help to stop their disappearance. I have not had the courage since to see if any of the creatures depicted have made a comeback or even survived. I had high hopes then that we humans would soon reach a tipping point and the destruction would stop. But I forget that it takes a long time to recover from centuries of damage and it requires patience and concerted effort to reverse the processes our ancestors put in place. (Except of course for the indigenous people on every continent)
This post is dedicated to Tipping Points!
Having settled on the scale of my own modest possibilities for proactive participation, I needed to contemplate the direction of my path. In doing so, I started to build my coping and my strategies. My reflections often connect 2 images, which are deeply embedded in my felt memory.
One is of the dense jungle (The Bush) of Guyana, my childhood home, and the other a newly clear-cut area in Mendocino County, California, where I lived for a time as an adult. I still remember the pain when I saw the silent, desolate clear-cut and how I wept long and hard. It was such a sad contrast to the vibrant Bush, of which I had written the following:
“…..when it rains in the tropics after a long, dry season, it feels like a miracle.……The drumming of huge warm drops on every surface breaks the spell of quiet, drowsy waiting. In response, a frenzied dance of wild growing begins. To be on the edge of the Bush after a downpour, is to be caught up by the stir, body buzzing in rhythm with all the strivings of surrounding growth. Each plant and tree, it seems, is birthing whole new generations with such energy that the air vibrates. Birds and monkeys scream with joy, accompanied by the sounds from orchestras of insects. I feel the life inside me, and outside. I know that Nature is alive and much bigger than I am. “ (1995) 1
The juxtaposition of these two memories continues to give impetus to my project. I have to decide where my efforts are going to be made. One of my needs is to be involved in something that inspires me and gives me hope. Funnily enough I note that when I am protecting and nurturing, I feel protected and nurtured.
I read that there are places on the planet that are like cradles – nurseries for huge number of diverse species. In the name of enlightened self-interest, I want to help protect these nurseries so that they thrive and eventually spill over into areas that we have turned into cemeteries for millions of other life-forms.
One of these nurseries is the Amazon Headwaters. There are others to be protected as “No-Take” reserves in the oceans. An oceanographer inspires when he says that if we made 20% of the oceans into no-take reserves there would be a great chance for healthy oceans.
These give me hope. Researching the protectors is easy online. I am thrilled to find that there are a number of organizations at work to protect these bio-diversity “nurseries”. (2 and 3)
During my reflection process, where I typically use images, in paint, I find myself I returning to my own habitat – my garden. I discover that bees are flying into my paintings. My attention also becomes focused on the precious bee. Consequently I am making my garden a welcoming place for them. And petitioning against the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture and gardens. I am encouraged to hear in the November news that Europe is banning their use.
The painting that follows is an homage to bees – it incorporates a poem by Mary Oliver, which is on The Honeybee Conservancy web page (http://thehoneybeeconservancy.org)
Mary Oliver has a way of opening up language to expand experience.
BY MARY OLIVER
What is this dark hum among the roses?
The bees have gone simple, sipping,
that’s all. What did you expect? Sophistication?
They’re small creatures and they are
filling their bodies with sweetness, how could they not
moan in happiness? The little
worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.
Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand
that life is a blessing. I have found them-haven’t you?—
stopped in the very cups of the flowers, their wings
a little tattered-so much flying about, to the hive,
then out into the world, then back, and perhaps dancing,
should the task be to be a scout- sweet, dancing bee.
I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t
admire. If there is, I don’t know what it is. I
haven’t met it yet. Nor expect to. The bee is small,
and since I wear glasses, so I can see the traffic and
read books, I have to
take them off and bend close to study and
understand what is happening. It’s not hard, it’s in fact
as instructive as anything I have ever studied. Plus, too,
it’s love almost too fierce to endure, the bee
nuzzling like that into the blouse
of the rose. And the fragrance, and the honey, and of course
the sun, the purely pure sun, shining, all the while, over
all of us.
Discovering the sweet joy in little things.
- From “Mindscapes into Landscapes” M.Kellen-Taylor, p85
- Several Amazon Headwaters Protection Organizations; Pachamama Alliance; WWF; Blue Moon Fund; Wyss Foundation; Upper Amazon Conservancy and more
- Enric Sala’s Ted Talk at https://www.ted.com/talks/enric_sala/transcript