No, I’m not writing this post from the perspective of outing myself as an extraterrestrial, although, to quote the character of Harry (marvelously played by Alan Tudyk) on the hit SYFY Channel series Resident Alien, “I hear they’re pretty cool!” 🙂
Earth Day: Cause for Optimism, Cause for Despair
Every Earth Day brings up a whole host of emotions for me: on the one hand, I feel gloriously optimistic and tremendously inspired by the passion of climate change activists, especially galvanized young voices on the vanguard of the movement such as 18-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and her peers. There’s no denying that in the past decade or so here in the US, environmental, climate change, and habitat/resource conservation issues have definitely risen to the forefront of the collective consciousness, economically (feeling greater degrees of empowerment as consumers to align our shopping choices with our personal values) and politically (where these issues are, unfortunately, vehemently debated across party lines, of course). From the social justice angle voiced by BIPOC activists denouncing the overt, systemic racism behind decades-old policies of polluting communities of color and the sacred lands of First Nations Peoples to the more personal economic and health angles of looking to maximize energy efficiency and reduce waste in the home while opting for organic foods on our plates (and even growing our own produce), more and more people are, thankfully, thinking about and acting upon a desire to promote sustainability. (Today’s Google doodle, screenshot below, made me applaud and cry tears of joy!)
On the other hand, since I aspire to live every day as Earth Day with my conscious choices, I also feel a world of despair weighing on my heart. The plain facts of the case are that we’re all crowding ourselves on an increasingly fragile planet with drastically shrinking resources. Our late-stage global capitalism exudes a rapacious appetite for destruction, laying waste to swathes of Amazonian rain forest with illegal logging (China can’t get enough timber) and drying up entire rivers in Chilean villages so life-giving water can be rerouted to corporate-owned avocado orchards (watch the Netflix documentary Rotten if you haven’t already; it’s a disturbing eye-opener of the ugliness in global food production). I seethe with rage. I feel sick to my stomach. I often cry in states of deep despair when I watch the YouTube videos of my favorite evolutionary biologist, Dr. Guy McPherson. In his ocean of data pertaining to mass extinction events and what he terms “near-term human extinction,” he soberly tells us that our efforts to save the planet, while stemming from noble intentions, amount to “too little, too late.”
That’s despair and tidal waves of hopelessness stemming from the macro level. At the micro level, to give but one example, when I see how my neighbors repeatedly throw litter around in my neighborhood (in front of one park in particular), often from their cars as they careen down my street at outrageously high speeds, I feel the heaviness in my chest and tightness in my throat that is the same visceral response I have to grief. Since the pandemic began last year, it’s routine for me to have latex-free disposable gloves in my purse or in my pockets, so I invariably make a beeline for the garbage I see strewn about and take the time to dispose of it in the closest public trash can I can find. But I can assure you I am grumbling very misanthropic thoughts under my breath as I do so! I think a part of me wants the human race to die off because we in Western societies have been, since the advent of the Industrial Revolution at least, such ungracious guests in our Earth Mother’s house! Like the brilliantly visionary Tool song “Aenima” informs us, “The only way to fix it is to flush it all away.”
We live in very challenging times and it seems like we’re on the fast-track, collectively, to devolution, not the vaunted “progress” that our misplaced faith in technology as the ultimate savior tricks us into believing.
What’s a Witch to do?
Doomed Efforts Are Still Worth Making
If you’re reading this blog post, chances are your personal spirituality aligns with some type of 21st century postmodern religiosity found under the expansive dome of what some like to call “The Big Pagan Umbrella.” Witch. Sorcerer. Spirit-Worker. Magician. Priest(ess). Root-Worker. Walker Between the Worlds. Conjure-Person. Shamanic Practitioner. You’re kissed by the Fae. You know what it means, neck craned to the high heavens, to have your breath stopped in awe as you observe the brilliant moon emerging from iron-clad clouds late at night. You choose to walk barefoot on grass, on sand, because it feels good and you know it energizes you. You deliberately seek out wild places and forge covenants with spirits and Deities. You invite the counsel of your ancestors, Holy Powers, and guides. You feel a kinship with every living thing, from your contentedly purring cats to the sturdy oak trees in your backyard to the smiling babies in their strollers you walk past on the bus, their tiny fingers outstretched to grasp at invisible realities.
You know the earth thrumming beneath your feet is sacred. And yes, by the Gods, you do intend to live every day while you’re here with the rest of us as an Earth Day. Conscious, sustainable choices. Every day. The only way to be. To think. To act. Because this planet fucking matters: we have no “planet B” to scuffle off to, people!
Perhaps Earth Day is a day that you intentionally weave into your Year-Wheel of Sacred Days: a day celebrated alone or with others in ritual observance, from tree-planting ceremonies to ritual drama reenactments of Spring/Vegetation/Fertility Deities emerging from the Underworld? How about a coven or kindred clean-up of your local park, or perhaps you’ve taken an extra step and adopted a stretch of highway in your group’s name? Maybe you’re more inclined to join forces with larger, secular nonprofit groups (there are hundreds to choose from on EarthDay.org) to have more of a civic impact?
Whatever you’re doing, keep on keeping on, even if Dr. McPherson is right and the die is inevitably cast towards irredeemable planetary destruction. As long as we live, we should strive to make our corner of the world better, for all beings. Let this prayer by the amazing Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary (a credit to the human race if ever there was one in the last half-century!) guide your heart and your hands.
As for me and my house, we shall serve our Gods and spirits of place: garden plot, river, expanses of meadow, forest preserves, and Lake Michigan’s beautiful and bounteous waves. We clean the debris of winter’s leaves and fallen branches from the burial plots of our beloved dead. We run our fingers through layers of mulch as we carefully pat the seedlings of varieties of tomatoes and peppers into their new growing zones of our goodly gardens. We salute the cheerful daffodils as they crane their necks to the sun-kissed sky of this day. We plant purple pollinators and welcome the bees.
And all the while, we sing a song I first learned from my MoonBeats days all the way back to 1999:
“We have come here
For Sacred Work
To work our Will.
We have come here
For Sacred Work
Our hearts to fill.
We’ve Earth Work to do.
We bind ourselves to You.”
May the fruits of our labors be blessed by the Gods and the spirits of our gloriously green lands!