Monday, November 2, 2020

A gift that dispelled despair

 Today has been hard and I’m sure many of you understand. Seeing Washington, D.C. boarded up as if a category-5 hurricane were about to land, struck a blow. I was overwhelmed by what might happen if we lose tomorrow.

Then, a gift arrived … unexpectedly as most great gifts do. Looking for distraction, I stumbled on an hour-and-a-half video of a panel discussion. I’m a 3-minute attention span person, but it was with three of my favorite authors: Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, Terry Tempest Williams, “Refuge, Erosion and many others, and Richard Powers, Overstory, which I'm just now reading for the second time

Richard Powers, Terry Tempest Williams, and Robin Wall Kimmerer

Terry opened the discussion with a story. (Forgive the first-name familiarity with these respected people. I have cried with them for the past hour and a half and feel a level of connectedness with them.) 

The story was of the impending removal of the Divinity Tree, a hundred-year-old Red Oak on Harvard campus. The tree was failing … and also in the way of some planned renovations. Clearly, Terry, who is a professor in the Harvard Divinity School was feeling grief and anger and her emotion opened a vulnerable and sharing conversation. (The opening photo is of the stump of this storied tree.)

For some reason, as I watched these three wise and kind leaders talk about how they are navigating this world and how we are being helped by plant beings, the despair that I have been feeling began to heal. Tomorrow might not take us where we want to be ... nevertheless, we shall persist! 

In recent days and months, I've seen a lot of unimaginable hatred and violence from my fellow countrymen ... but I've also seen amazing generosity and engagement. Our democracy and our ideals may not survive this particular challenge, but we will continue to fight for what we know is right.

The presence of Robin Wall Kimmerer on this panel reminded me of the huge losses of the indigenous people, and yet they persist in relearning their languages, reconstructing their cultures, sharing the wisdom they’ve gathered over millennia, living in gratitude for the plant beings who make every breath we breathe.

We might lose tomorrow and life as we know it might change. But, life goes on, and changes, and so will we.

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