After five weeks of traveling in South Africa, it’s so good to be back!
As good as it is to be back in the US, I have to say – wow – it’s pretty intense over here.
Don’t get me wrong. I feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet. It’s nice to be in a place where everything really works! I’m so grateful. The post office is reliable, roads are generally smooth and maintained, and grocery stores are filled to the brim with choices (well, you know, until COVID-19, but, fingers crossed things get better soon). It’s really nice to be driving on the right side of the road again, too!
You would think that Americans would be overflowing with gratitude about how good they have it over here! But, instead, the anxiety is off the charts.
People are worried about climate, pandemics, and economic collapse.
I get it. I really do.
When I came back, the news was all about the coronavirus and the falling stock market. At first, I also felt nervous and afraid.
My method for grounding and gaining clarity during troubled times is to visit the garden. I went outside to see what messages nature would have for me. The arugula was popping up. Tons of onion sprouts were reaching for sunlight. The chard had overwintered under its straw mulch. There was peace and hope right in front of me. The generous plants were still there, ready for another season.
That’s it, I thought. I could feel the gratitude for the return of spring and the generosity of the earth, offering us another season of growth. I had faith that our efforts are not in vain.
After I cleaned out the beds a little and turned the compost, breathing in the sweet scent of slow decay, I walked back to my office a little more hopeful, a little more calm.
Fighting climate change can be frustrating and frightening. Time for plan B: gratitude in motion.
Back at my desk from my garden hiatus, I read this great article by Barry Rueger about how he and his wife concluded the government hasn’t and isn’t going to do anything about global warming. We might as well keep doing what we can and still prepare for the worst.
The writer wasn’t completely hopeless, but, he pointed out something I think a lot of us have been feeling: all this recycling, re-using, and reducing is small, just the tip of the iceberg, when compared to what corporations can and haven’t done.
At first, I was disturbed by the headline: “It’s too late to fight climate change,” and I held bitter thoughts as I read on: It’s not too late! Do everything you can! But in the end, Rueger explained that the policies we tried to enact in the U.S. in the 60’s and 70’s to prevent the scenario we are in now failed to pass. We continued to pollute and fight for economic progress rather than prepare for generations ahead. We failed. Yes, so far the U.S. has failed.
So, yes, grief, loss, despair, rage, anxiety, depression are perfectly reasonable responses to the situation we are in.
Joy, wisdom, compassion, gratitude, and generosity are the antidotes to this uncomfortable, frightening reckoning with our choices regarding the environment.
Rueger and his wife plan on living their final days in as cool and safe a climate they can find, away from large cities, investing in being “off the grid” and opening their home to friends and families in need.
We don’t all have the resources to do what the Ruegers are planning to do, but, we do all have the resources to be kind to each other.
All of the priests, ministers, rabbis and spiritual teachers I have met throughout the years have had the best and deepest advice. It all boiled down to one thing: generosity soothes the soul. Nature has given me the same advice. When I go out into nature with a problem, I am overcome with gratitude for the growth of spring, for the generosity of nature that keeps giving and giving. As we are a part of nature, we have the opportunity to reflect its wonders.
Seems to me our best plan for thriving, not just surviving, is to be grateful for what we have, generous whenever we can, and kinder to each other.
We can give ourselves the gifts of faith, hope, and charity. Those blessings belong to all of us: South African, European, Australian, Chinese, Russian, Brazilian, Indian, and American. Even if we feel we have nothing, we have a smile or a genuine compliment to give.
However you are called to be generous in these times, I thank you on behalf of our children. I thank you on behalf of the animals and I thank you on behalf of the plant world.
I, myself, am going to keep building the soil, thanking the beautiful earth, and planting as many trees as I can.