This post is inspired by Grieve, Play, Love from Jem Bendell and Extinction Rebellion - available here.
My father’s steps resound on the ground, as his feet hit the pavement in rhythm with mine. Above our heads, the sunlight is running with us along the Baltic sea, piercing through the leafy cracks of birchs’ foliage. Carried by the wind, I run easily for the first time in years, listening to Amber Lily sing the Water Song with her acoustic guitar.
« I feel the magic
Living in my bones
And I have eyes to see
That I am whole again. »
Amber Lily - Water Song
How is it possible that I am feeling whole again, I wonder, running here on my ancestor's land in Suomi (Finland) amidst obvious signs of climate collapse ? How did I become whole again in the past 3 years on Ohlone Land, witnessing the increasingly aggressive seasonal fires turn cities and forests into ashes? How can I feel whole right now, as floods are destroying my grandmother's historical lands in Belgium and temperature rises killing Tahiti's coral reef, where I grew up?
« After we accept the full tragedy of climate change, what do we have left ? »
Jem Bendell - Grieve, Play, Love
What do I have left as I contemplate my 26th birthday coming up in two weeks?, I wonder.
Since I arrived in Suomi two weeks ago, I’ve walked amidst burned blueberry bushes and fallen pines, woken up to drastic temperature fluctuations, and swam in an unusually freezing sea. « This is not normal, I’ve never seen this before, » my Finnish mom keeps repeating, shaking her head over a land she has cared for since the earliest years of her existence.
A protective numbness grows colder in my chest as I clear the fallen trees’ acidic thorns away from the emerald moss on the forest floor. My mother and I work diligently amidst the trees next to our extended family’s house, wearing autumn clothes on an early day of August.
As I wish goodbye to the cut branches, my fingers gently caress their bark, and my soul prays that as long as I breath, I'll rise to the challenges of climate change. The consciousness that these trees and I share lives forever - and yet suffering must be soothed. My loving grief over Nature's out-breathing body - and my own body's readiness to feel and act are two of the things I have left to face the collapse.
« Talk of poems and prayers and promises and things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care. »
John Denver - Poems, Prayers, and Promises
My own body sometimes fails to act, though. Then, all I have left to do is to feel. Some mornings, I wake up with a debilitating emptiness in my body, which I know all too well - a signal that some life energy is stuck inside of me, unable to express itself, constricted by routines and tasks that feel urgent in the shadow of the climate collapse.
Energy stuck in my body… where I used to ignore its calls only to fall into depression later on, I now listen to this silent cry's echo and escape into the Wild. That is why I am whole again. Walking - often running - amidst the tall pines and birch, I survive my own human condition amidst chaos by grieving, playing, loving, and raging in the safety of the forest's heart.
Another thing I have left is the more-than-human world as a lover, sibling, parent, friend, and confidant - all of these, yes. As wounded as the forest's arms can be, they never fail to be wide and open to me, welcoming my songs, my dancing, my tears and most importantly, my anger - every bit of my being.
Within the forest's heart, I am myself and release my sense of self, too. Feeling protected, I melt into the trees’ branches waving in the wind. As if cradled in the Pacific Ocean's waves, my body relaxes and cries and smiles and listens deeply to the Suomi forest’s ageless heartbeat that faithfully perseveres - just like mine does.
In the wild, I let my inner music shape my limbs as they wish; I let my vocal chords transform this music and other sounds into vibrations dissipating in the cool air; I remove my clothes and let the wind caress my hungry skin; I untie my shoes and let the ground wet my dancing feet ; and I unleash my rage by confronting the palm of my hands and the dry bark of dead sticks with the hard surface of bald rocks. The energy that was stuck inside of me moves through.
« Before grief, there was love. After grief, love.
Our essence is never in danger.
When all else falls away,
Our essence can shine. »
Interestingly, in the past months, the forest has started mirroring back to me that rage is one of the wildest parts of my feminine essence and the most debilitating energy to keep stuck inside of my body. The rage that is owned protects, gives clarity, and enlivens - but the rage that is possessive can deeply hurt... which is why I hated anger for so long. I used to be terrified of rage - mine and others’. So, a victim of my genuine yet inexperienced dedication to nonviolence and Buddhist meditation, I repressed anger. Actually, I did it so well that I was convinced it did not exist. I even told a friend last year « I don’t really feel anger, you know. »
That was incorrect. Like everyone else, I had and still have a lot of anger - my wildest inner soul was just waiting for a safe haven to release the disavowed energy that was corroding my soma. This is the forest's greatest gift to my young body - the unconditional love necessary for me to be born again to my own rage.
Interestingly, befriending anger in the arms of the forest stimulated my love for the anger of other bodies who were assigned female at birth. Disavowing my own rage, I used to fear and resent theirs. Now, I feel a wave of pleasure rise up in me when the familiar spark of anger lights up in another body assigned female at birth. I feel their vitality and rejoice innerly that Nature is talking to their spirit and soul. Perhaps, Rage is Nature's call for Freedom.
So, in the face of the climate collapse, what do I have left? An awareness of how to feel more alive as I contemplate death, for sure. The offering of this aliveness to the work of soothing Nature's suffering, too. Clearly, as I grieve and play and love in the face of catastrophe, I must rage in the forest, too - to keep moving and feeling - and let the song of my soul freely sing that I am and belong with Nature now and forever - beyond the collapse.
« I hear the music
Playing in my soul
And we will sing until
We come home again.»
Amber Lily - Water Song
[Art Credit: Rabbia, by Alessandro Rinaldi]