Sunrise

Sunrise or Sunset?

It is the kind of clear morning that doesn’t offer a spectacular sunrise, yellow and pale blue sky announcing the coming day without the fanfare of purples, pinks, or oranges.  Rolling over, I see sunlight on the western mountains–the desert floor around me still shaded by their height.  I pull myself from sleeping bag and the sleeping forms of my tent mates, tying shoe laces and zipping jackets, my nose buried in my scarf. 

I walk straight out onto the desert floor and it is flat, ridges made by water and wind so faint that I can walk with my eyes closed without hitting anything.  Two ravens hop along with me for several minutes, cocking their heads and making gentle croaking noises as they watch me move.  I cross the line where dark volcanic igeneous gravel meets pale fine sand, imagining the lava that once stopped at this exact point, slowing its gradual crawl to leave this distinct line of black and white. 

As I walk I glance repeatedly over my shoulder, watching the eastern horizon of tall mountains for the sun. I finally decide to sit down, my original destination farther than I’m willing to walk due to the ways the desert makes distance deceiving.  I settle onto the sand, cold in the morning air, wanting and waiting for the sun to rise.  I watch the mountains for several minutes, admiring shafts of light that break through lower passes and ridges, before closing my eyes and breathing into my body.  Opening my eyes I glance up at the mountains and in these precious seconds the sun crests the mountains and fiercely strikes the desert floor.  Although I know it irrational, I half expect triumphant music to burst through the air, signalling the coming of the day to all senses.  I am met instead with deafening desert quiet, my ears ringing with my own heart beat and the pounding whooosh of silence.  The desert floor around me is instantly transformed.  The temperature rises several degrees, song birds dart out into the light, the day begins. 

It happens in a second and had I looked away I would have missed it.  We wait for the sun, praying and hoping to be touched by it’s warmth.  The sky is light for minutes, even hours, before the sun slips over the horizon but when he finally reaches up to pull himself over the horizon it happens so fast we often miss it.  Every time I see the sunrise I feel as if I have witnessed a small miracle. 

Sunrise. 

 

Aside

it is important

I sit here in the morning knowing that just over two weeks ago feet were stomped and hands were shaken and that with every quiver of the ground the beast shifted and something shook.  I sit here and I don’t know what to say.  Over 40,000 people in Washington DC.  Thousands more gathered in cities all across the United States.  My mother was in DC on that day when all the people came together.  When she called me Sunday morning her voice was open and raw,

“Maya, there are so many people here.  Listen–can you hear them cheering?  Listen to how many people there are.”

She held up the phone and in the distance I could hear the faint cry of the beast, the sound of the world shifting, the noise that we make when waking up.

It is important to know that you are not alone.

As people walked and sang in DC I marched through the streets of Los Angeles with a thousand of people because I needed to feel I was not alone.  They carried signs with words that I recognized, their voices rose up to demand change I understood–it was good to know I was not alone.

When we reached the front of city hall an indigenous leader stood to offer prayer and blessing for this gathering.  She said that she had been unable to march but that as she had waited at city hall she had observed something special.  She said that as we rounded the corner towards city hall the wind picked up and blew gusts down the street.

“In my culture the wind represents your ancestors and today our ancestors are here with us.  All this cement here,”  She pointed at the ground with forceful intention, “it doesn’t matter to me.  I know what was and is here–the earth.”

It is good to know we are not alone.

Standing in the sun in LA I listened to speaker after speaker demand that President Obama reject the construction of the KXL pipeline and I was glad to hear them request this.  I was also sad, however, because as they talked about what the construction of this pipeline would do to human, animal, and plant communities I could only picture what has already been done to the community that raised me.  Listening to cries that called for change I thought of the land that has been scraped clean, the long curving snake, the pipe where light shines through, the men, women, and children who I know who were not given a choice about this new neighbor on their land, in their community, next to their school.

As the afternoon wore on my throat became tight–it is true that the northern sections of the KXL pipeline should not be built but what of the indigenous communities already being ravaged by Tar Sands extraction?  What of the Texan communities where pipe has already been buried?  What about my people?  My place?  What about our world?

“There are people in Texas who have been working to stop the southern arm of the pipeline that has already been constructed.  They have chained themselves to machinery, sat in trees, interrupted conferences, spoken up, organized.  It is time that we all take notice of the work being done by Tar Sands Blockade.  It is not enough to only care–we must act.”

Listening to these words spoken after hours of hearing them beat in my own head I wanted to shout,

“Hey!  I know those people!  They have sat next to me in church, I have listened to their stories, hugged their necks, allowed them to change my life.”

It was a small statement, a small part of the speeches but it helped.  It felt like an acknowledgment of the ongoing work there is to be done. I felt less alone.

Our voices are small separately.  We must act and speak together in order to feel we are not alone.  This is important.  There is pipe in the ground in Texas, there are gaping wounds in the Canadian soil where Tar Sands extraction is already ripping indigenous communities apart.  But… under the all this cement that we have wrapped like ribbons we know that the earth is still there and every time the wind blows our ancestors remind us that we are not alone.  Two weeks ago 40,000 people came together and as I walk to work today I will wait for the wind to touch my cheeks and, when it does, I will be grateful because I will feel a little less alone.  And this is important.

 

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Aside

letters

Thanksgiving day, the table littered with plates still warm from hands and hot food a debate began about the worth of letter writing in a modern world.

“It’s outdated and overrated.”  One man exclaimed, “Send me an email.  It’s quicker and easier–doesn’t waste paper.”

“I never check my mail.  Only junk.  Bills, correspondence–I do it all online.  There isn’t ever anything good in my mail box so why would I bother checking it?”  Another chimed in.

I love letters.  For many reasons, but mostly because they are a way of sharing an experience with someone whom you are not with physically.  The act of writing and receiving a letter is sensual.  You hold it in your hands, paper that has been touched, and your skin absorbs the words.  When you tear open the envelope there is often a waft of smell, paper, ink, grease from the food they were eating as they wrote, sometimes–if you are very lucky–your nose will even pick up the special smell that identifies your loved one, the unnamed scent that reminds you of them.  And then there are the words, the press against paper, ink that bleeds through, ballpoint pen that leaves bumpy imprints on both sides of the page, pencil that smears when you accidentally touch it with wet hands.  In the moment that you open and read a letter you hold something that has been held, created, sent to you alone.

Letters are slow, they are a measured way of sharing your thoughts and feelings.  Over the phone or in an email it is easy to blurt things out, to quickly say or send what you do not mean.  A letter however, for which you must find a pen, paper, envelope, and stamp, that you must write, address, stamp, and place in a mailbox is a declaration of truth and commitment in many ways.   These words are sent with care and intention, an output of time was required to get them to you.  A letter is a tangible sign of commitment and caring.  It takes work to send a letter, it takes work to hold a friend, it takes work to tend a relationship, it takes work to save a space for distant love in your heart– and a letter?  A letter is one of the surest ways I know of demonstrating the willingness to do this work, the work of loving, living, and sharing life another person.

The mythology of my existence is in part built around letters.  Shortly after my parents met my mother boarded an airplane bound for distance.  Once she told that me that she sang Peter Paul and Mary’s ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ to my father before she left.  This was the first song I learned to play on the guitar and whenever I play or hear it I think of the love and life my parents have built together.  During that year that my mother studied abroad my parents wrote and sent letters from Spain to Texas.  The mythology that I carry is that this is how they fell in love, how they began the work of becoming partners, that the letters that sailed like ships across the ocean had wings covered in the words that would eventually lead to my life.  The mythology of my life is that letters are important, that they allow us to speak when we might otherwise be silent.

Under my bed in Texas there is a box full of letters.  They are in zip lock bags, dated and grouped by the time when I received them:  Summer 2010, Hendrix College: Fall/Spring 2011, Outward Bound Summer 2012.  From the dusty recesses under the bed pages whisper with feelings, confessions, secrets, prayers, and laughter.  They remind me of the people who have loved me, who have worked and written and been a part of my journey.  Sometimes I like to imagine where my letters end up, tucked into a book, stained with the ring of a coffee cup on a kitchen table, postcards tucked into windows, pages read once or twice or sent to the wrong address, stories thrown away or treasured or forgotten.  All across the world my words have been read.  They are birds I send out to tell my story, far flung and flying they are a moving, breathing act of prayer.

Last week I received a heavy stack of letters.  Falling asleep they whispered from my bedside table, words weaving their way into my sleep.

…maybe, just maybe, if we put enough love, good works, and positive energy out there we can take two steps forward while our petroleum addiction takes one step back.  I’ve got to see it that way, anyway.  Because I have this little baby and I have to believe we can help her Mama earth out of this mess. 

I am currently laying in a golden wash of sunshine streaming through my window.  I love the sun’s warmth and greeting on this day. 

It is good to realize you are our teacher in many ways.

Above another thunder clap tears at the sky’s fabric wringing out the excess water from heavy denim clouds onto East Texas February as if to say… YES!

I want to plant a garden this spring with my roommate.

As I fell asleep the pieces of these letters buzzed like a lullaby.  These words bear weight in my hands.  I can hold them.  They might disappear in a blaze of fire or be pressed between pages for a century.  Letters may be outdated by I will continue to send them, because I don’t know how else to demonstrate my dedication to the work of relationship and because in the mythology of my life letters are important. 

Aside

the beast

I am from this place.  Grew up with feet stained orange from walking barefoot through red mud, have snuck up on armadillos to watch them jump, laid on my back in a bed of needles to watch the tallest tops of pine trees sway.  I am from this place.

I have heard Texas called the belly of the beast.  The pine trees, well pads, the curving snake of the KXL pipeline, the refineries along the gulf, freedom fries, Bar-B-Q.  I have heard it called the belly of the beast.  At times it seems to house, to hold many of things that need to change.  There have been times that I have felt this way.  Times I have been proud of my ability to meld the traces of my Texas accent with the speech of the locale around me, glad to tell stories of trips to far away places with exotic languages and juicy fruit, relieved that, although I am from the buckle of the bible belt, my parents raised me in a way that I never felt I fully ‘fit in’ with steak dinners, 4-wheelers, or pasture parties.  I intentionally went away for college, found work in northern states, settled my feet in places that felt far away–I intentionally did not look back.

Today 48 activists were arrested in Washington DC for protesting the KXL pipeline and Tar Sands it will carry and I am looking back.  And I am proud to be from Texas.  Among those arrested were prominent members of the Sierra Club–individuals who today chose to participate in direct action as members of the Sierra Club for the first time in the organizations 120 year history.  They were arrested alongside members of groups such as 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Tar Sands Blockade, and others.  They were also joined farmers, concerned citizens, students, people of faith, educators, conservationists, and Texans–all are visionaries.

I am looking back and I am proud to be from Texas because almost nine months ago a group of people came to Texas.  They came ready to fight, to lock themselves to machines, climb trees, raise and reach out hands and voices–they came to say ‘no, no actually oil cannot flow through this pipeline.’  They came to Texas and this has made all the difference.  They have shown that a group of people who are sometimes disorganized, always passionate, frequently in need a shower, and constantly willing to step out into the fray with hands raised to speak their piece can inspire action, discussion, and change.  They came to Texas and that has made all the difference.  Because when they came to Texas, Tar Sands Blockade shook their hands, stomped the feet, and when their voices were raised they began to wake the beast.  I am proud to be from Texas because the stirring that have happened here over the last nine months are of significance.

I have heard Texas called the belly of the beast but I think this is wrong.  I think that we are the beast.  Each one of us that finds a voice, reaches out a hand, rises to our feet ready to walk and climb and dance–we are the beast.  Raised on fairy tales, Tolkien, and my own imagination I know that at some point every beast wakes and that when it does everything changes.  We are taught by the powers that be to fear the beast.  Those who hold privilege know that beasts are unknown, that they spout fire, anger, and change the world and so we are taught to fear them.  It seems foolish, however, to fear yourself–especially since it seems that waking the beast in each of us is necessary.

On Sunday the beast will storm the White House, demanding audience, requesting voice, shaking the ground in what promises to be a major mass action.  Watch out.  We’re awake.

I no longer think that Texas is the belly of the beast.  I do think, however, that this is one important place where the beast began to stir.  I am from that place.  I was asked last week why the soles of my feet are orange.  I replied it is from years of walking barefoot through red mud, from dodging snakes, and slapping mosquitoes.  I said that my feet are orange because I am from a place where pine trees scrape the sky and rivers crawl through thickets.  I am from this place.  I am part of the beast and I am awake.

Watch out.

For more information on the 48 activists arrested in DC today (Feb 13th, 2013) please visit http://www.tarsandsaction.org/participants/.  For more information or to join the Forward on Climate Rally go to http://action.sierraclub.org/site/PageServer?pagename=forwardonclimate.  And finally–as ever–to learn more about the work of Tar Sands Blockade visit http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/

This is your life

‘This is your life’ is a phrase that has defined the past three years of my life.  The first time I thought of it was during my junior year of college when, biking home, peering into the windows of nighttime house, these words floated into my mind.  I remember saying this phrase over and over to myself as I pumped faster and faster, the pavement humming as fall air rushed past me.  Images of cooking dinner with friends, settling down to study in my tiny bedroom, feeling happy and sad and full as I wondered in and out of classrooms filled my head.  This was my life, this bike ride home, this house, this story, this life.

Since then this phrase has been a means of measuring and evaluating myself.  This is your life, in moments that I am happy it is a celebration.  This is your life, in moments that I am unhappy it is a kick in the pants that tells me to make a change and take charge of creating what I want.

This is your life.

This is my life.

Today my life was eating blood oranges with red centers that stained my hands, Lee mandarin oranges so sweet they tasted sugar coated, and pink oranges whose flavor reminded me of pink lemonade.

Yesterday my life was walking through the hills of Malibu, scrambling over rocks to a waterfall where delicate strings of algae and moss hung like hair.

Last week my life was learning the names and favorite colors of five pure, sweet sixth grade girls, giggling at their jokes, braiding their hair, telling stories, and passing out hugs at night.

Two weeks ago my life was a long hike down hill to a natural hot spring and then a long hike back up, my body tight and hot from the climb, scrubbed clean by the sand and the water.

My life is also a restless feeling of dissatisfaction, a frustration with the lack of personal time available to me, a wonder of where I should be devoting my time.

This is your life.

This is my life.

I think that as long as I remember this phrase, as long as I celebrate the good and kick myself in the pants to change the not so good, that I’ll be ok.

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Aside

why

I think about the earth every hour I am awake.  She is like a lover whose face creeps into the corners of my thoughts, poking her head out around the people and places that make up my moments.

When I left Texas my heart hurt.  I’d been thinking about the Tar Sands pipeline and what it would do to my community, our world, and I had been thinking about the feeling that I often call ‘God’, a word that seems wildly inadequate at expressing my experience with a higher power.  The natural world is the surest place that I have experienced this feeling of ‘God’ and there is therefore something foundationally unnerving about the damage being done to the earth.  This damage prevents me from thinking of God as immutable and requires care and relationship instead of thoughtless worship and surrender.  Watching wells dug, pipelines trenched, and factories constructed on my sacred earth is like watching a McDonald’s being constructed in Mecca or Rome or Jerusalem.  These events are surely happening today but that does not prevent a feeling of sacrilege.  The way that I understand and experience something bigger than myself is being chipped at with the same carelessness in which a woman scrapes away nail polish in line at the grocery store.  For these reasons and more, when I left Texas my heart was heavy, heavy, hurting.

It was a grey rainy winter day, the sky the color of slate.  As I neared a place where the Keystone pipeline crosses the highway I pulled the car over and got out.  Pipelines are visually jarring in East Texas because the ground is red like flesh when the skin is scraped away.  And when it rains, which is was, the water flows red too.  Carved into by machine and the print of boot the earth stretched before me with a long, lean red wound.  A couple of hundred yards away a bulldozer hummed, clearing a pile of trees from one side of the pipeline to the other.

“Hey.”  I said, planting my feet wide apart underneath me and gazing out along the pipeline.  “I see you.  I see this and I am sorry.  I’m heading out to California for a while but I will not forget this.  I will see this.  Every day I will see this.  I will see you.”

And I have.  Every morning since leaving Texas I have consciously thought of that long lean scar, of the water flowing like blood onto the road as I stood in the East Texas rain and made a promise.  The earth is the surest way I understand and experience something bigger than me.  There are days that I go to church and days I choose instead to dance but regardless of my where I choose to notice, the feeling of God persists.  I am unnerved that we would chip away at this feeling without thought of consequence.

There are many reasons I am opposed to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline but I think we’ve all mostly heard those reasons and truthfully they aren’t the most important ones for me.  The most true reason I oppose this pipeline is that I believe in something bigger than me and I experience this feeling most completely in the natural world and I will not stand by and watch my ‘God’ be chipped away.  This is the reason I cannot forget, the reason I write, the reason I’ll go back to Texas eventually.  This is the reason I cannot be silent.

I think about the earth every hour I am awake.  I’m believing in a miracle.

For information on resistance against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline visit http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/ and http://gptarsandsresistance.org/

the desert

The desert is silent in a way that deafens the ears and heightens the senses.  Sky so big you taste blue on your tongue, a landscape that from a distance appears solid grey and brown breaks apart into a million different hues.  I go to the desert to feel small.  It is a place where I am profoundly aware of my own insignificance, of my smallness in the face of the vastness. 

I am from the desert, deep parts of my identity and story blend into the washes and rises of this open landscape.  Raised on the story of my mother finding my father, finding my foster brother, finding family, finding themselves, finding escape, finding detox, finding space, finding water, finding the a way out—a way in—to the stillness, the desert mythology of place and people coming together will be passed down.  I have spent most of my life living in places rich with trees and water but depend on time spent in the desert to remind me of rooted origins.

Pollution hangs heavy in many of the United States’ most beautiful deserts, yellow and thick it fades vistas and dulls the horizon.  Like the ocean, which sloshes with remembered waste, the desert cups and cradles refuse we have created but cannot dispose.  As it’s inverse the desert mirrors the ocean in opposites—dry, quiet, still, and steady.  Yet the vastness of both these places invokes a similar feeling being in the presence of age and wisdom.  Both bear the brunt of our carelessness, colors which once shone bright are now faded, micro trash, city smog, and the hum of generators and boat motors break the silence. 

I go to the desert and the ocean to feel small.  I do not love these places any less for the ways that they are weathered.  Instead I love them enough to acknowledge their need.  I love them enough to notice, to note, to bare witness to the ways that human impact extends fingers into deep wild desert and ocean.

The desert is the inverse of the ocean and it is a place I am from.  I recognize it as home by the smell of creosote on my fingers and the hum of wide-open silence in my ears.   I recognize it as in need of care.  I go there to feel small.

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getting paid to be politcal

Today I  got paid to stand on top of a mountain as wind whipped around me, feet planted wide apart in the snow, head tilted back, belaying children as they scaled a 30 foot ropes course element.

Today I got paid to check harnesses, tie knots, and grip rope until I could barely make a fist my hands were so cold.

Today I got paid to encourage and cajole.

Today I when I glanced up the mountains were stained brilliant red and pink by the sunset.

Today was good.  Today I shoveled snow and learned children’s names.

Today I got paid to be outside with young people.

Writer Terry Tempest Williams says that a shared love of nature is the most political act of all (Williams 80).  Walking back from the ropes course, our legs stiff from standing and climbing in the cold I glanced back to see the sky bright and clear with sunset.

“Stop!”  I yelled.  “Turn around and say ‘hey that’s beautiful.'”

“Hey!  That’s beautiful!”  Fourteen 6th graders from the Inland Empire of Southern California chorused, voices clear in the evening light, faces scrubbed clean by wind and snow, eyes bright with laughter and sunlight.

Today I shared challenge and a love of nature–I didn’t need to say much today but when I did say was political.

Works Cited

Tempest Williams, Terry. When Women Were Birds: Fifty Four Variations on Voice. New York: Sarah Critchton, 2012. Print.

Aside

alternatives

Arms leaning against the lunch table he asks me about the pin on my backpack that says ‘No Toxic Tar Sands.’  I tell him that I am involved in activism geared towards halting the construction and operation of the South Arm of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project that if completed will pump toxic tar sands oils from the boreal forests of Alberta Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  Between bites of food he questions and I explain.  He is curious, sympathetic, and slightly disappointed when I say that, although I know many who have, I have yet to lock myself to the machinery that is driving this project.

“This project is wrong.  It doesn’t make sense economically, socially, or environmentally.”  I say.

“Ok.”  He says.  “Then why is it happening?”

Stumbling over my words I try to convey that companies like TransCanada own big parts of the economic world, that global politics are driven by a culture of extraction that asks for more, more, more.  There is a lump in my throat as I push my words out, a worry that I will be unable to explain this most critical idea.

“Yeah, yeah, I understand that.”  He says.  “But why is it happening if it doesn’t make sense?  What is the alternative?”

“I don’t know.”  I say.  “But I know this project is wrong.  I know that tar sands are wrong.”

I have been asked this question many times–what is the alternative.  It is meant different ways.  Sometimes  it is an attack, a way of proving that I am ‘wrong’, idealistic, unrealistic.  Sometimes it is said with puzzled confusion, a way of expressing the complications of our culture.  Sometimes it is asked as an intellectual query, a way of inciting a pragmatic conversation about the moral implications of activism, environmentalism, and the ‘reality’ of living in a modern world.

I do not particularly like this question but I have been thinking a lot about its answer and have come to this–there are times in life to simply stand up for what you feel is wrong.  Balanced intellectual discussion and consideration of the benefits of exploitation, extraction, and oppression has a place but it is not a reason to shy away from taking a stand.  This kind of discussion can be dangerously debilitating–all of the shades of grey, costs and benefits can prevent action and stifle voice.  There are many systems of oppression from which I benefit.  The ‘alternative’ might not be easy, it might not always feel good but it might offer justice where justice is not currently found.

Our world is getting hotter.  The very blood of our earth is being sucked dry, water and oil, earth and ice and ocean pulled roughly from her body.  Perhaps we do not have an easy one-size-fits-all alternative but perhaps it’s time to stop what we’re doing and see what rises out of the ashes.

A friend recently told me that she had had enough.

“What if this is it?”  She said.  “What if this is the time where we say–actually no, no you cannot do that.  Oil cannot flow through that pipeline.”

I don’t know why the pipeline is being built.  It doesn’t make sense to me economically, socially, or environmentally.  But I know it is wrong.  And I know that even without clear answers about alternatives, even in a world where I fly in planes and drive cars and write this on a computer, I feel it is important to say,

Actually no, no you cannot do that.  Oil cannot flow through that pipeline.

 

For more information on the work being done to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline visit http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/.

a place for anger

When I was fifteen my dad was diagnosed with leukemia. In three or so years that followed I did everything I could to not pay attention to the fact that he was really sick.  Even more than pretending he wasn’t sick I did everything I could to ignore the other realities linked to his cancer: the link between leukemia and natural gas production, the very real possibility that all of our family had been exposed to petroleum products that would eventually make us sick, the terror of waking up to smell chemical smells when near by wells were fracked, the fact during the same years that I watched my father’s body become lean, tired, scabbed, and sore that the very earth around me was cracked open, split apart, scraped clean in the pursuit of energy extraction.

Last year for Christmas I collected many of the letters and cards that were sent to my dad during the years that cancer was roughly shaking his body and our lives and made these words and images into an art piece that I presented to him in a celebration of life and survival and the experience we’d gained.  At her permission I included the following words from my mother’s journal:

I need a place to put my sadness.

My freshman year of college, depression was the place that I put my sadness.  For weeks I poured my sadness out in the form of tears.  I remember lying in my bed crying and imagining that my sadness was a heavy black cloud that I would wrap around me so that I could stay there forever.  Being depressed was a cathartic, painful, and ultimately illuminating experience for me.  It forced me to begin to see and in that process to consider what implications the things I saw carried.  The summer after my freshman year three months leading wilderness trips for girls in the north Maine woods saved me from being stuck in the place where I put my sadness.  Time spent watching the moon, paddling wide lakes, singing until my throat was hoarse, and swimming in water that chased away my breath helped me to find my way out of the place where I had put my sadness.  That summer the woods, the moon, and many powerful women pulled at my arms, legs, and heart–reminding me of all the journeys I had yet to take.  From them I realized that the natural world was the place to put my sadness.  My small body was not always capable of holding all the pain I felt but the earth?  She could take it.  I could yell and cry and laugh and shake my fists and she could take it.  And so I came out of the woods that summer, knowing I needed to go outside–to find joy and to find a place to put my sadness.

I recently told a friend that I was scared of becoming too involved in environmental activism and engagement because I had a lot of anger about what is happening in the world.  I explained that I felt unable to engage in this kind of work because I had no outlet or means to disengage–the Keystone pipeline is connected petroleum, which is connected to natural gas, which is connected to my father’s cancer, which is connected to my depression, which is connected to the natural world, which is the place where I put my sadness and find my joy.  I did not want to be involved because it was painful and because I was pissed.  My friend didn’t push.  He simply said that he hoped I would look at my anger sometime because there might be a lot of power in it.

I need a place to put my anger.

At fifteen I was not ready to be angry.  I was too busy surviving and ignoring.  At eighteen I was not able to be angry.  I was too busy realizing that I was sad, wrapping myself in this and allowing the pain to catch up with me.  But now?  Now I am angry.  I am angry that my story is not unique, that we live in a world where many feel powerless to the whims of the energy industry and the bone jarring, gene altering impacts of cancer.  I am angry that as a culture we have become careless with life, with wild spaces, deep forests, children’s hands, and dark skies.

I need a place to put my anger.

It is not enough to give the earth my anger–although I know she could take it.  My anger is something to share, to give, to burn for light.  My anger is a story to tell.  My anger is not something to ‘do to’ someone.  It is not a weapon or a threat, not an unkind word or careless act.  My anger is more fierce than that, it will not be silent or put out.  My anger is word and action, it is resistance and solidarity.  I am realizing that instead of preventing engagement and environmental activism, my anger makes it necessary.  It is necessary because it is an outlet.  Through both my work as an outdoor educator and the words I write here I chose to engage, to speak up, and to allow my anger to have a voice.  It is necessary because it is a place to put my anger.

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I was given an image of a duck on a lake, floating calmly.  Suddenly a gust of wind blows and throws a branch from a nearby tree, causing a terrific smash and crash.  The duck ruffles her feathers, all anger and fear and business.  She quacks noisily, speaking her indignation in sound and feather.  And then.  Then she settles back down, allowing her anger to move out of her.  She again becomes part of the calm and quiet.  I want to be like that duck.  To be angry and loud, able to speak fully my fear and disgust and then to settle back into the calm.  In the calm I will return to the place where I put my sadness and found my joy and I will see the stars.