”however vast the darkness, we must supply our own light” stanley kubrick
Since the fires, my eco-anxiety has been acting up. Not just mine; never have I felt the collective sense of it, so strong, in Australia. Stories are emerging, from the clean up, as we count the losses, and put down mercifully, the injured wildlife (shooting them, when we run out of barbituates.) Rage overflows, the second stage of grieving. There is confusion, stalked by fear, that needs a culprit. Blame circles around viciously. Those still fighting and fleeing, are so weary; fear is palpable.
Loss of life is colossal, particularly non-human life. I billion native animals, and 6 million hectares of habitat/trees. Those figures as incomprehensible as infinity. We bury and mourn the firefighters; the army is brought in to dig holes for the animals. The unforgettable stench of them is talked about, and the stories circulate from those trapped on the beaches, hearing the screams of animals, they wish they could unhear. Trauma is fresh, and often underestimated. Post traumatic cracks appear, everywhere. This country needs healing.
Numbness is widespread. I have not been to see the black, ashen silence, because I am afraid the tears, stuck in my smoke thickened throat, will never stop . As I sit in contemplation of the enormity of it all, the helplessness of our humanity, and the crime of ignoring the precise warnings of this, we have been repeatedly, given. My own guilt at my contribution to the warming, sneaks in. Urgency to act on climate change, personally, almost swallowed by the fear that it may be too late. This is the very inertia, labelled “ecophobia” research tells us, sets in when statistics and reports about destruction, overwhelm.
As I sit longer, with the fire, in depth contemplation of it, I sense something else. I become aware of an impulse of radical surrender, that accepts our helplessness in the face of fire on this scale. We have all seen teams of skilled and brave firefighters, from all around the world come to help, fighting herocially, they save lives and houses, but cannot stop the fires. The intensity of heat making their own weather systems; we now have tornadoes generated by and made of, fire. Who am I to deny this grand-scale cycle of destruction, and renewal? My ego diminishes, what a releif…
Aside now, of my consuming grief, I can notice everyone scurrying to do some small act, to help; a friend is offering free massages to the weary fireies, ques of cars go for kilometers, to donate food to all the newly made homeless over Christmas, volunteers go into action to assist and nurse injured wildlife. Money comes in from all around the world to assist with this. My Buddhist friend, collects donations of toilet paper for the nuns that have had to evacuate their monastery in the bush. I am moved by the small impulse of compassion, that goes large scale so fast, from a collective sense of it, that seems to feed on itself, and grow. Rain has fallen, in my part of the world, and some fires, finally contained. The smoke has cleared from Sydney, after 5 months of choking on visibly thick air.
The poet Emily Dickensen said “hope is a thing with feathers”. Something like hope flutters and flaps awkwardly, trying to fly toward the greening; reports of the shoots have already reached me, from those who have visited the black aftermath.
I am an ecotherapist. and eco-art therapist. I need to be part in the healing, as it will be integral to my healing, and I am aware my work will change, post fires, in ways I am yet to name. It will have renewed urgency, tempered I hope, with some of this surrender, that I have had intimations of. It will be cognizant of and responsive to, the state of great loss, and the great compassion that we have newly found ourselves in. And the intimacy and relationality of that. It will hold individual stories of grieving and locate them in the collective grief, of a nation. It will work rebuilding trust, locating trauma in the larger context of the state of the environment, it will seek to foster creative moments of reflection and expression. It will seek ways to heal the land, collectively and ritualise our devastation. As nature based therapists, we will collectively need to be a part of the healing. By healing ourselves, we begin. By flipping her despair over into action, is how Claire Du Bois, UK founder of Tree Sisters, spoke recently of getting out of her despair, that would have her on the floor for weeks/months. Tree Sisters is rallying thousands of women, rapidly growing as a global online movement, and planting millions of trees across the globe.
They are planning and working toward declaring 2021, the year of the Tree. I hear the UN will soon declare this decade, one of restoring ecosystems. Australians will find our role, in healing together. We will plant trees like our hair is on fire, because it smolders still! The fires have deepened a sense of respect for Mother Earth, collectively, in small and large ways. In ways that have yet to become evident, as the clean up continues and the reality of what has happened, descends, over the shock. People are not waiting for politics to transcend their dualistic partisanship and lead; they are getting on with it. Going solar, (the fastest uptake in the world, in Australia, driving it through consumer demand.) Holding people’s tribunals along threatened rivers, demanding rights for nature, and justice for water, because we are largely made up of it. Tending gardens, without chemicals, and sharing them with fellow gardeners. We are marching in unprecedented numbers, for the home-planet we love, and increasingly understanding, we are an integral part of. Healing together, may well save us, from ourselves, our despair, cracking open our awareness of our opportunity to co-create our future.