Tree of Life: Dispatches from Survival

Thunder cracked, rain poured,  the rocking chair swayed forward and back, my mother’s arms encircled me, the big old live oak trees outside the window swayed with the wind. “You were born in a thunderstorm,” my mother said, not for the first time, one of many times that stretch back before her words formed into meaning for me. The rocking chair swayed on a braided rug, one braid circling, circling in a spiral made of many braided colors, braided and spiraling like the rings of growth in the trunks of the great old trees swaying outside, like past, and present, and future, repeating, repeating the rhythm of rocking and thunderstorms and trees swaying and my mother’s arms and my welcoming of the cracking light as the longtime reminder of my birth.

I know the world as we know it is dying. Millions of creatures, hundreds of species dead and gone across the globe, monster hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, fires. Our death-dealing, our mass suicide and murder advances across oceans, continents, atmosphere, biosphere. Thunderstorms still mean birth to me, birth pains, the growl and crack of new life tearing into the world, the pains of bearing, changing, growing, and the dying that make way for new beings. But now also I believe that the long-time cycle of birth, growth, death is coming to an end – at least for our species and most of the species we evolved with in this epoch of this earth. I do not feel the comfort of knowing the millennial rhythm, rocking, beating of hearts of new life will continue beyond, and beyond, and beyond my own small life.

Having no such comfort of certain continuance beyond myself, how can I weave together past, present, future to care for and affirm and mourn and celebrate what life we have left?

Today, as millions of young people across the globe strike against our collective human responsibility for climate change, as they march together to demand future life-sustaining responsibility, as they stand and speak out for all of our lives, human and non-human, I ask how can I best be part of living, not with hope or faith or comfort, but with love? I’ve believed that this moment is always eternity. We cannot know the future, how life might yet adapt to the terrible conditions we’ve created. My business, my life, my response must be to learn from my own past, the past of human and animal and plant lives, learn how to see my present and respond in the service of mutual adaptation, compassion, growth that braid together the swaying tree of life.

These are dispatches from survival.