What buried thoughts/feelings/knowings are rising to the surface? Perhaps re-emerging? What dreams? In this new time-space, what is stepping forward?
Beginning in April, we invited our readers to write in with short responses as well as visuals—most of which we posted on our Facebook page. We’ve compiled them here along with the artwork that accompanied their texts.
Azul Valerie Thomé
I have been mingling DNA with the crowned virus for almost 6 weeks and
I am being increasingly …Undone.
Not in a way that needs rescue nor advice nor fixing
that would be theft
Not in a way that requires life coaching towards improvement nor a
booklet of positive affirmations
that would be theft
Not either a reminder of how sacred and enlightening it all is or not
that would be theft also
This time is the deep longing of many life times…
to be undone collectively
while being invited to an erotic listening with en-soil-ed gravitas
and the daring of the deep subversive emotions
that our society has colonised and pathologised with great financial
success…with the potent spell that illness and death are
failures…how perverse a culture
My guts tell me that anything that is happening right now
that is anything BUT being undone is of great consequence…
In my observation there has not been enough time yet for our psyche
to fall daringly ,
to be in the void,
to be undone…
like in any passage worthy of being called a rite.
may this wondrous and blessed experience be deeply heard ~ not to be
wasted in past scenarios and new great plans, that is my plea and my
Azul Valerie Thomé is a bit French, a bit Lebanese, a bit mycelium and part Raven…She is a creative visionary, a soul activist and an artist infused by earth’s deep dreaming. Azul lives and creates in a tiny wooden cabin on the edge of the wood, in Devon, soothed by the beautiful river dart. She is glad to announce that her new book is ready for pre-order: Four Sisters of the Last Forest on Earth
A lesson, a warning, a flare
Here in Montreal, my window looks out onto Parc Laurier. With this view, I have been drawn with a cord of tenderness into the intricate politics of neighbourhood cats, the love between a chickadee couple, the diligent industry of iridescent black birds nesting in a nearby tree, the aesthetically pleasing daily walk of the man in the red coat with the Dalmatian, and the ceaseless antics of the squirrels.
This year has been one of partings without end: one billion animals dead in the Australian fires, swarms of locusts in Africa on a scale never seen in living memory, mass bleaching of the coral reefs, the warmest January on record.
And so I have found some comfort in the stories of nature ‘rebounding’ during the pandemic. Shy but adventurous wild boars, coyotes and deer wandering the empty streets; skies clearing to reveal faraway mountain ranges not seen from industrial cities in a lifetime; the canal waters of Venice almost crystalline (with rumours of dolphins!). It is breathtaking, the sudden clarity, the speed, the utter brilliance of the blue, and green, and the rough fur of the wild against our city surfaces.
These stories offer a peephole to another kind of city. One that is wilder, one that is allowed to go to seed, one with cleaner water and skies. Once you have seen the mountains, you will know to miss them.
And through this eyelet of possibility comes a lesson, a warning, a flare. The pandemic teaches us this: rapid, coherent change is possible. It has also laid bare that there is much to be actively dismantled, and much to be actively built.
Down in the park, I found the body of a young squirrel, small and sleek, under a tree. I marked its place with the most ancient of human writing, pushing sticks into the frozen ground, setting a circle of stones around it. An act to bear witness to life at a time when life seems so worth witnessing, and as a call for dog walkers and gentle children to observe the perfection of its paws and the almond shape of its closed eyes.
Katrine Claassens is a painter from Cape Town, South Africa. She has a master’s degree in Climate Change and Adaptation from the University of Cape Town (2015) and an honours degree in Visual Art from Stellenbosch University (2007). Her paintings reflect her interests in climate change, urban ecology, and internet memes. She has led workshops and given public lectures all over the world from the Arctic to Antarctica. As well as practicing as a painter, Katrine works as a science, policy and climate change communicator for universities, think tanks and government in South Africa and Canada
Falling: the expressway is collapsing
April 12, 2020
It is a clear, blue-sky day. We are driving on an expressway, like a causeway, elevated with water below. The pavement ahead is breaking apart moving toward us, crumbling into the water as we keep driving ahead. To the right Corinthian columns that support the structure are bending, collapsing, falling over into the water. We pitch over with the crumbling road…over the edge…falling… I am falling slow motion into the water. It is murky. As my left foot touches bottom, I lift off. Moving upward, I’m concerned, wondering where the others are.
The Western structures of our culture supporting the expressway, the fast and progress-oriented way we live, are falling over. This way of life, our cause-way, is crumbling, falling apart. The new reality is murky, unknown and unclear, yet possibly swimmable. But where are the others?
The dream came after the first month Ontario and most of Canada was in sequestering mode. We had become, in the space of four weeks, quiet, having to make do. Such beauty and peace in the new-found quiet –and such fear and uncertainty as we absorbed what we, all of us, human and non-human, are in….
Debby Black is an artist. A fledgling writer, she lives in downtown Toronto with her partner, a tiny front garden, now a mini forest and a small back garden, with vines, trees and herbs, birds and feasting squirrels, raccoons and insects, not to mention a fox during the “quiet time” who stole by on the street one early May morning carrying a skunk to her den.
Let us free ourselves from the virus of war
While racist murder and mayhem
all over the world continues
I wish for the protests to also
address the MEGA looters, plunderers
& profiteers of the time we were all sent home
to sit in house-arrest & cover our mouths
May the armed forces be ordered
to ‘shelter in place’ and
‘Let Us Free Ourselves
From the Virus of War’
The blackbirds are out
talking away a storm in
a language only a mere
fraction of which is audible to
me still it captures my heart
Berlin, 7pm in the long evenings of June
I. Rose grew up in Israel and has been a traveller on the long path for peace through AIDS, 9/11 and endless wars. Since 2016 she has divided her time between NYC and Berlin.
Healing with dirt and bones
The sky is dark, it is night. I am in the middle of a field of bones. I panic. I start to scream, and as I do so, my hand covers my mouth. My mouth fills up with small pieces of dirt and bones. I make my way over to an old, stone wall and spit out the dirt and bones onto the stones.
Sometimes the journey is to go back to the dirt and the bones, to the root of things. Then we begin to find our place in the world. Not despite our despair, but because of it. It is the path of grief, the journey of trauma when we suddenly, inexplicably, get lost in an unknown world Is it the wound that drives us or the betrayal of beauty? What if we imagine that the world is animated with Spirit, that we lay our painful wounds upon Nature’s altar to heal? If we find our place is with all the creatures of the world, with their suffering? If we are not separate? What then? Every relationship is an ecology of soul with each dis-ease in the Earth body affecting everything else. As an elder woman, I work on behalf of the earth…the dirt and the bones. Our ecology depends on each of us learning to eat the dirt and the bones of our world. Don’t spit them out, digest them. They are the bones of our past and the food of our future.
Kathryn Smith-Hanssen has degrees in Mythological Studies with an Emphasis in Depth Psychology and Counseling Psychology. She recently retired as the Academic Dean and professor from Viridis Graduate Institute, an online graduate program in Ecopsychology. From 2000-2015 she co-directed an international environmental organization that works with rural communities in Asia. Prior to her international environmental work, she had a private body-mind therapy practice in based in archetypal and imaginal psychology. She is also an alumna of Hedgebrook, a women’s writer’s retreat on Whidbey Island, WA.
I hear an ancient voice
I believed I imagined.
Humans have been for millions of years
before this modern speed
My bones with their blood
hear from the Earth’s bones.
I wake up.
It is actually living to see
the Apple Tree from stick to blossom.
I begin a list
of risks I am willing to take.
Elizabeth Pecoraro attended Sterling College where she developed a major titled “Cultural Activism.” Cultural Activism looks at the root causes of ecological and social issues within society and proposes that these root issues begin with culture. Through transforming culture (cultural activism), Elizabeth believes societies can affect deep, holistic change for humans and the natural world. Poetry is one way Elizabeth expresses her cultural activism. She also loves to read, cook, have adventures, and spend time with the natural world.
History can burst into your little life
I am the child of Holocaust survivors. I know History can burst into your little life and hurl you across the world. I know we can survive. History is full of turning points. Is this the beginning of an even more brutal capitalism, or of some kind of Green New Deal, some future that recognizes we are all entitled to health care, food, shelter, clean water?..
When I walk with my beloved spouse, we are regarded with suspicion for walking too close together. We are not read as a married couple…
Some of us are remembering what our parents told us about the Holocaust and World War II, and now understand why they cut away the part of the apple that was not yet rotten, and ate it, why they didn’t want to talk about what happened to them, shrugged their shoulders and said, “It was all a long time ago,” then changed the subject.
Irene Reti is the author of The Keeper of Memory: A Memoir that delves into the emotional territory of a child of Holocaust survivors growing up in a house filled with secrets and silence. She is also an oral historian, small press feminist publisher, and landscape photographer.
Taking refuge in the present
I think it is becoming clear to some of us that the virus is changing the way people can relate to one another, and that this change is not temporary. Yet I rarely hear anyone mention that if we had paid attention to Nature, respecting her needs instead of mindlessly using her as a disposable resource, we would not be in this position today. Humans unleashed this virus by our actions, and now we are beginning to bear the consequences.
The future has become uncertain. The artificial cultural reality that people call “the real world” is an illusion that is breaking down as Nature claims sovereignty. I am struck by the relationship between my house problems, worsening health issues, and the breakdown of the culture under the threat of this pandemic and those that will follow.
I am quite certain I am not the only person experiencing collapse on both a personal and collective level.
My strategy is to take refuge in the present as always. Fortunately, my love for Nature provides me with a seemingly endless resource… the next unfurling leaves and flowers – bloodroot and wild violets, the songs of birds – the drumming of the grouse, the bittern’s guttural call – the orioles whose luminescent coats are brighter than the oranges they sip nectar from – emerald green mosses, tufts of lime green grasses, peepers singing at twilight all remind me that each day is a gift – and that it’s up to me to be open to receiving what is offered.
Sara Wright writes to save her own life during these perilous times, and to invite people to see nature through the eyes of a person who is wed to her through every creature tree and root.
Dropping everything I own
I am driving westward with my husband from the Midwest to California in a trailer or van filled with possessions. It has been a rather desolate trek on the superhighways that cross Nebraska and Colorado, and the journey has been filled with obstacles. One of the obstacles is a canyon-size declivity that is brown and barren, shorn of any flora or fauna. West of the Rockies we come to a wide river flowing from south to north and brimming with clear fast-moving water. There is no bridge for crossing to the other side; remaining in place is not an option. I realize that the only thing to do is to leave possessions and clothing behind, jump in, and begin swimming north. I run towards the river, dropping everything I own along the way, eager to begin swimming in that clear, cool water, free of the heavy possessions we’ve been lugging around. Although my husband is still deciding whether to jump in, I know that I must.
The dreary trek from Midwest to West is the life I have lived conventionally, often cut off from nature and from a knowledge of who I am deep inside. The deep declivity is the path I have followed up until now. I’ve checked all the boxes (degrees, honors, profession, husband, family, home, and even secure retirement) that signal my subscription to the culture’s norms of high achievement and I’ve survived the trek, but it’s been long, effortful, and always missing something.
The river is a beckoning. I am being called to dive in, to make a leap into the quantum field, to accede to other dimensions. Because I am swimming north, the current carries me along, so that every movement is light and effortless. I cast aside the attachments that entangle me so strongly in this limited world. In leaving my clothing behind I am putting an end to hiding, especially to hiding the facets of myself I think will intimidate others.
We are at a flashpoint where we must abandon our old ways and step into a way of being that honors life in all its manifestations. The dream tells me that I must do this even if it means leaving behind a life partner who chooses to remain closed to these possibilities–a daunting prospect.
I awake feeling exhilarated, open to anything, but also conscious of the courage it will take to step into this new life. All of us are confronted with a choice now between growth or stagnation, shedding or schlepping baggage, transformation or rot. Writing from Southern California in late August, I am aware that the image of leaving clothing and possessions behind is playing out in real time for our fire-stricken neighbors to the north and northeast. Finally…there is nothing but to dive into the river, body and soul.
Jane Wilson Barboza is a musician, artist, and educator, gardener, mother of two, and grandmother of four. She lives in Long Beach, California, in a falling apart house crowded with musical instruments, books, and art supplies.
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