Spring is here in its northern way, with unexpected delights and disruptions–the wild turkey toms proudly displaying in the midst of old snow and random automobiles–a flock of starlings taking over the trees in our yard—two ducks hanging out in the brook. A small group of us celebrated with ritual on the Equinox to welcome these disruptive forces into our lives, to undo the stuck places we’ve found ourselves, and make room for new growth, new movement. We used a frozen bowl of ice, in which we placed candles, to symbolize the thawing times.
We do still have snow or ice over most of the yard, but each day another small patch of brown grass appears; our neighbor was already out raking in her snow-free yard. In the middle of this, two days ago, my car was rear-ended as I was driving the on-ramp toward the highway after grocery shopping in town. No one was hurt, thankfully, though my car is now in the shop waiting for the insurance bureaucracy to authorize repairs. I was able to drive it home from the scene, and take out the groceries, being careful to go through and watch for broken glass in the bags.
Still, it shook me up with the vulnerability that is life. We never know which day might be the last. And meanwhile I’ve been watching a show on Netflix called “Last Chance to See” which follows Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine as they make a journey in 2009 to visit endangered animals that were first documented twenty years earlier by Mark and Douglas Adams (author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Stephen Fry brings a comedic voice to their adventures as the urban klutz who doesn’t usually traipse about in nature. (I recognized his voice from the movie version of Hitchhiker’s Guide.)
But underneath that veneer of comedy is wonder and grief. The final episode was originally going to be about the Yangtze river dolphin, but the dolphins were declared extinct in 2007. So instead, they search for blue whales. Mark tells Stephen that blue whales, the largest animals ever on the planet, have been here for forty million years. Forty million years. And now they are endangered, along with so many others.
I was caught up in the awe Stephen and Mark experienced in getting up close to these majestic beings. I was filled with amazement at the beauty of this complex interwoven planet that we have been blessed to inhabit. And I tapped into the grief that has been haunting so many of us these days. Grief for the demise of so many beings. Grief for the losses that are being propelled by human activity.
I feel so powerless to stop this roaring train that “western civilization” has become. Perhaps there is nothing we can do to save all that is dying. All I could think to do was to let myself choose conscious gratitude and love–gratitude and love for the utter wonder of life on our planet. Gratitude and love for the animals and plants that are our elders and companions. Gratitude and love in the midst of grief.