It is raining here today. Thankfully. The water cools the heat that should have left by late September and covers the dirt in the empty stream beds. I have never seen such dryness where I live. The lake where we spend much of our summer has receded by feet from the shore. The sandy cove popular with swimmers, now a vast mudflat exposing the spindly legs of a dock that no boat can go near. It is surreal. It is so uncomfortable to observe, I could not take a photograph.
Each day brings a new challenge to face, asking us to learn how to live on the edge, and quite often inside the roiling elements of life. Too often, I find I am chasing after my breath and asking it to expand out of the constriction of my lungs. I got outside during these moments and lay on the good earth to sync my heartbeat back to the mother. It is best way I know how to live inside chaos.
The area where I live has become beloved in a way I never thought possible. A simple acre of land surrounding my home somehow enough to show me the vast wonders of creation. Life contained, yet not contained. The birds come and go and so do the squirrels and the chipmunks. The trees stretching networks of roots too vast to comprehend the mystery of what it means to be rooted. We can move without moving, and with my belly pressed against the grounded life that deep stirring fills the ache of belonging.
Life has become a game of tension and release and I often wonder who is really controlling the bind. I wonder how far we need to go back to remember the vast connection that both binds us into division and frees us into unity? This juxtaposition of a truth that seems alien to our rights if you feed into the beliefs of the mind struggling for separation.
As I listen to the fall of rain and the birdsong of gratitude I am reminded of how false the hold is. The entangled mind that tunes into dissonance feeds a disease that spreads through all minds if the frequency is found and listened to long enough. Why boil the internal waters if what the body needs is a cooling into peace?
My heart hurts. There are tears forming ponds in my lower eye lids. The air feels heavy despite the lack of moisture in the sky. Since the pandemic made its way to NH, I have found myself turning to the garden for peace and comfort. Digging through spring dirt warming with life brings me home inside a world that feels electrifyingly out of control. Most days. Some days everything seems to make sense as the Wheel of Life turns in its continuous cycle of renewal.
In March, I planted seeds on my windowsill. I marveled at the impeding miracle of life as I pressed future broccoli, summer squash, tomatoes, and peppers into tiny mounds of potting soil, then covered them in a plastic roof to mimic a greenhouse inside my home. What a marvel it was to witness those first green shoots pushing past darkness to drink in the light from the window! Life is a continuous wonder. So much potential held inside a speck tinier than sand.
I find myself wondering, too often these days, why there is a turning back to darkness after the touch of light. We don’t see it in the same form in plants, as we do in ourselves, but even nature holds a mirror for us. In my tiny pots, one seed will flourish, while another struggles for space beside it. Outside, in the woods beside my home, burning bushes and bittersweet vines do their best to dominate native species. The vines of bittersweet slowly wrapping the trunks of trees, like snakes, to suffocate the lungs of our forests.
I can’t stop thinking of George Floyd, and how he is just one of the few in too many to want to count, of lives choked into stillness by those that wish to dominate. My heart hurts. Tears collect once again to ensure the ponds of my eyes do not grow arid. It’s the first of June, and the stretch of land that divides the road from the tiny forest in front of my home showcases the efforts of my labor of these last few weeks. On Saturday, I dug out the last clumps of weedy grass and spread mulch over my newly extended garden, nestling new plants into a protective quilt of tree fibers. Death nurturing life. The cycle playing out around me. Yesterday the last of the zinnias and calendula seedlings I grew in my outdoor greenhouse found extended space beside the road. Soon enough they will mature into glorious blooms the colors of autumn.
Some days I can immerse myself so deeply into the land I think of nothing but the joy it brings. I could not do this as I finished my new garden this past weekend. It was my beautiful, privileged, white-enough daughter who spurred me to watch the video.
“Why,” she implored me, “Why did this happen?”
Nearly ten excruciating minutes filmed of a life ended for no reason than dominance.
“His life doesn’t matter because he his black,” I am paraphrasing one of the bystanders.
For eight minutes and 46 seconds white knees press the privilege of birth inside a suit of power, pressing, pressing down on life until it is extinguished. You can feel the lust through the screen as the trail of urine trickles closer to the edge that separates you from what you are witnessing. There is a nervous man, who is at least of partial Asian ancestry, in the foreground, posturing at control. You can read his nerves loosely veiled behind his exposed skin while he grabs at weapons designed to control. Staring, witless, at the imploring crowd of bystanders. He too is drugged by a darkness. Afraid of the power of the white man choking the life out of a black man. He knows it could have been him. In a different moment of time. At least this is what I see.
I don’t want to see a video like this again, but it is more likely I will than I won’t. It’s difficult to reconcile that five years ago a half black/ half white man held the position of POTUS beside his equally educated, equally brilliant, black wife. Impeccable morals exhibited every day for eight years, held to an impossible standard because of skin color. It’s difficult to comprehend how much we, as Americans, have resisted giving up the chokehold of enslavement.
Inside the oval office, a white man now lords over his throne. Every fiber of morality that makes us human, broken. By him, unchecked, as the world watches. Excused by his minions and followers, cowered either into admission, or fueled by their own darkness and fear. Somehow the standards are not the same if you are a white man who feeds on power and shouts hatred in the language of ignorance.
When I think too much, I find myself spiraling inside the chaos that is our reality. I am baffled by the love of a weapon designed to kill, over the love of life. I am baffled by the hatred of skin pigmentation and sexuality that are perceived as other, and somehow lesser to the point of the desire to extinguish life. I am baffled that this is the world we live in. Still.
And, so, I find myself turning to what makes sense. The sometimes quiet and sometimes raucously loud symphony of nature, untamed and yet harmonious, outside the doors of my home. I shut the screen of my laptop and open the front door to escape into it. I am pulled into the refuge of birdsong and the silent beauty of the unfolding petal. I am renewed by the hope held inside Mother Earth and her ability to yield to the cycle of rebirth over and over again. I am forever her humble student, trying to find patience and acceptance, as we humans battle our individual and collective darkness.
But it is not enough. To escape is to allow. As helpless as I may feel as a privileged, white, middle-class woman living in country that is being ruled by a bigot; a misogynistic, power-mongering white man, I have a moral obligation to thread light through the darkness. I have moral obligation not just to bear witness to all that is morally corrupt in our nation, but to bring it to the light of awareness in whatever way I can. We all do.
What can we do? We can write letters. We can sign petitions. We can make phone calls. We can find local causes that support justice, and support them. We can vow to do whatever we can to elect moral leaders. And we can also do the inner work. We can dig inside our own darkness and examine our fears and their hold upon us. We can go outside and reconnect with the living land. And we can love instead of hate. The broken web of our humanity depends on it in order to heal. We must try and keep trying to thread the pieces whole, because if we don’t there will be more and more videos showing us the horrors of our brokenness.