I got better at seeing all of the commotion around me, the entire metropolis of activity. All that mattered was movement: a leaf bobbing from a drop of rain or a hanging spider; a mist or fog or an invisible plume of airplane pollutants dispersing through the canopy like a fine rain, filtering below; the waves of sound – the soft trills of a junco or the clear whistle of a cardinal or the scratches of a burrowing mole – or the disorienting buzz of electromagnetic radiation reverberating through the forest like the distortion of a cranked up bass guitar. Movement meant life, good and bad, food or foe. Squirrels scurried through the brush and trees as part of the tree or ground, instead of an isolated species. The same for all other creatures, the deer or dragonflies, the ants, bees, and beetles, the woodpeckers and sparrows and hawks, all part of one body, one system. At first I thought they lacked the freedom to leave it, then realized it was I who pretended I could.
The other night an ominous wind blew in off the lake, so I shut out the chill and tried to disregard it, like trying to ignore a scratchy throat, knowing the next morning will likely wake to the wintry onset of a full cold. All year I’ve sat at my desk writing dull reports with the enthusiasm of a depressed sloth on Valium, listening to the waves pummel the beach, except for that stretch of silence when the air sat over the land like a sauna-soaked towel. Eventually the stagnation of sitting at a desk becomes more than I can bear so I balance out the tedium with a walk or bicycle ride along the beach. But now the sun is settling in for the night earlier than desired, and further to the south, which I probably wouldn’t notice if part of the building I live in didn’t jut out and block my southern view. It won’t be long before a hat, coat and gloves are required, and the beauty and awe of a glistening winter is quickly replaced by the dank, dreary hunger for another change of seasons, winter ultimately balanced only by spring and summer.
Living on the lake – often falling asleep as the moon shines a light across the dark waters to my bedroom window, then waking to the sunrise – helps to keep nature’s cyclical movement in mind, but despite the small talk over daily weather, nature and the laws it adheres to usually get lost as we strive for more, hindered only momentarily by a major storm. No longer having to subsist in the harsh elements (and being disconnected from the planet under our feet), is it any wonder so many take comfort in beliefs that place us above nature, lofting us into a special position with dominion over all we see, free to exploit and blindly destroy?
Not that spiritual practices can’t be beautiful and valuable, but believing we’re above the system that supports us – that makes it possible for us to live – is clearly an unbalanced position. How could we be above what we depend on?
Somehow we need an awakening in this country, and on this planet, to who and what we are, before we continue further down the path towards an environmental humbling.
We need an awakening movement to nature; a positive movement focused on opening minds to a nature-based perspective and the importance of living harmoniously with the planet.
Not an angry movement, not a judgmental movement, not an us/them, left/right, rich/poor, ego-centric movement, but one that recognizes that balanced living leads to a better life, individually and collectively. We already instinctively know this. Even a drug addict is trying to find balance by overcoming the negative influences in his life by taking a drug to feel better and to escape whatever ugliness dominates his days. It’s a warped, temporary sense of balance that fails to deal with the root cause of his problems, but balance nonetheless.
The rest of us just use caffeine or beer or sex or the glorious taste of baked goods (been there, done that on all of the above, covering up unaddressed issues with unhealthy obsessions). I’m still a major work in progress and always will be. Fluctuating around balance means you’re alive, balance being a moving phenomenon, like the seasons, requiring constant adjustments from all the unending storms.
Movement means life; stagnation equals death. Imagine a movement towards better living for all, with a goal in this country to have every home and commercial building powered as much as possible by renewable energy (solar and wind power on every structure), so that the utility companies only had to pick up whatever slack was left over, which could be handled by their own renewable energy sources. Many will laugh at such a notion as naive and undoable, which is why it can’t be done. Attitude. Instead we spend trillions on wars and a military industrial complex while at the same time cutting taxes a few percentage points for the wealthy, but focusing on living in harmony with the laws of the land is naïve. Imagine if all that money would have been spent on retrofitting homes, putting millions of people to work, jobs that would last forever. It can’t be done simply because of politics and attitude, but both can be overcome by a sustained awakening movement. During the last four years, President Obama made positive steps with increased use of renewable energy, though he didn’t accomplish what many of us had hoped for. We wanted huge steps in the right direction. But President Obama wasn’t the one who failed us, we failed him. Presidents are limited or motivated by what the rest of us are inspired by. I read an article by Van Jones that woke me up to this. He said it much better than me, so I’m paraphrasing him here: President Nixon wasn’t an environmentalist, but he started the EPA because of movements sweeping the country (thanks in big part to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring). President Johnson didn’t lead the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr., and others did that. There are other similar examples throughout history. Politicians follow votes. Instead of supporting and motivating President Obama and demanding the country head towards a greener economy, which most reasonable people know we need, we sat back and watched, confident we finally had the right man in office, as the tea party movement took over and influenced the direction of the country. Their movement seemed to focus mostly on anger, and ultimately accomplished one thing: stagnation.