I could smell an ending,
like rain seeding the horizon,
but from here it didn’t go
how you’d think it might go.
Endings are a liner construct
and this story is a spiral.
Two runaway horses
came up out of the river
and my breath filled with giant wings,
I could blow holes in the rain
and the rain also blew inside of me,
it washed out the poverty and sorrow
that had accumulated from so much hope.
I was not the only one that this happened to,
it was happening to all of us.
We built fires in the shadow spaces where ice had been,
called back by roses,
we planted trees into the uncertainty and loss,
we healed through our capacity to cooperate.
A dear friend of mine described how they kept searching in bookstore after bookstore for a specific book.
They looked and looked, never finding what they were searching for. Finally they realized that the book they were seeking had not been written yet and that they had to write the book themselves.
For a significant amount of time I have been on a similar search, though not for a book. I have searched and searched for conversations and opportunities to engage with other humans about ecological loss, transformation and what for a time was being referred to as “climate grief.”
I could not find the questions and conversation I was seeking in the media, through mainstream resources, or in public space. All I found were numbers, fetishizations of apocalypse, zombies, despair or chimeras, restaged stories of the predominant extractive narrative disguised as “new.”
What I wanted was a place to dwell and plummet into these emotions collectively, to share the loss and imagine with others what could follow. The potential to do this felt obscure, feared and banished, as low and remote as the Mariana Trench.
Much like water, driven by a persisting demand to fill, not only by own spirit, but of others around me, I found the container that needed filling and moved to fill it. In other words, I decided to “write the book myself,” instead of waiting for someone else.
I approached Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, with whom I had already done some work around climate transformation and grief. I shared my intuition with them about what I wanted to offer the community.
Together we created a series of workshops that would use music, poetry, writing and outdoor community space.
Our objective was to call people in and to manifest a fracture, a moment of deviation from the present systems of thought, and then to pass an offering through this rupture. An offering that would invite them to re-mingle with grief in a restorative and healing way.
As we unbound ourselves from hope
our wills became feral and regrew tails.
The two birds turned around
and flew back and forth crossing in the sky
above where the horses stood,
their hooves dripping
the edge of the river
back into the river.
Our first workshop was held at Tamales y Bicicletas, a community garden located in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.
In addition to Jothsna Harris and Kira Liu of Climate Generation, I asked my friend Strong Buffalo, Dakota elder and poet, to join me in the facilitation of this event. A group of about 15 community members gathered in the fading light of an early fall evening. People came willingly, after work, gladly diverging from their daily routines in order to attend.
With great ease the group shared thoughts, stories and experiences about their unique processes with grief and climate loss. Strong Buffalo and I offered moments of song and poetry, where in the midst of the growing gardens and passing evening, people were given the opportunity to respond through listening rather than talking. These pauses felt essential, honoring the inward component of the process.
About halfway through our time together the discussion turned toward how to move beyond the actual grief and loss we had all come to share. The sky went black. A wind lifted straight up out of the dirt seeming to carry all their darkness and unseen energetic potential skyward. Feeling the electricity of an oncoming downpour we sought shelter in the greenhouse.
As the rain and their millions of invisible fingertips drummed the plastic greenhouse roof our conversation transformed.
We had to raise our voices to communicate over the sound. We had to pause and listen because sometimes the storm had more to say than any of us did. Everything smelled like lightning and falling leaves. Then the storm passed.
As we emerged back into the garden from the greenhouse it was time for the workshop to close. A sense of joy ran among us. The growing stillness that hung in the tomatoes and green beans ran down our faces and out our eyes. There were unspoken feelings of rootedness, togetherness and connection emanating outward. Our invisibilities had been seen. We had shifted from narratives of separation and limitation to ones of fluid expansivity and relationality.
By welcoming grief into our circle, we expanded our potential to open towards the low places, the unseen, the invisible. In the low places we transformed in the company of each other. We twisted in all directions like water, carrying each other’s sediment, darknesses and light. With our imaginations enlivened we passed through the storm. On the other side of our climate grief we found waiting, with rain, newly birthed in the late evening, our climate joy.
Though this is as far into the spiral as I am able to write,
the inherent wisdom of the surrounding land
stands strongly in their truth
and will speak, as much as one is willing to listen.
When I have placed my ear to their heart, I have heard them say,
“Lead with curiosity, the stories support the systems
and in turn the systems support the stories,
be aware which system and which story you support.
It is a trick of capitalism to shift shape
because its extractive nature
is happy to appear as a different form of energy
enabling itself to remain in control
managing the pace and direction of change
ensuring that nothing actually changes,
if in doubt return to your breath
it serves as a constant reminder of cooperation
if you give too much you die
if you take too much you die,
endings are a linear construct,
this story is a spiral.”