RUIN AND BEAUTY

DEENA METZGER'S BLOG

Monthly Archives: September 2019

MORNING THOUGHTS TO REVERSE EXTINCTION

[This was written and not posted on April 1 2019.  Today is September 20, 2019.  The Climate Strike is gathering millions across the globe.  I am preparing for ReVersing Extinction that will convene here in Topanga in a few hours.  It feels right to post this now as an offering for the future. After it is posted, I will go out to the ancestor altar again]

Good morning.  At the site of the Ancestors.  Listening.

Spring is truly here. April 1st, I have lived on this land for 38 years.  I chose that date because I knew that I was entering the unknown and the unexpected and that my life would no longer be in my hands.  I was giving myself over to the spirits.

Accordingly, I went to the ancestors this morning whose bones we buried in what we hope was an appropriate and respectful ceremony at 8 am on February 18, 2018 in the presence and with the participation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. These bones which could well belong to Native people had most probably been robbed from their graves to be used in anatomy classes or for research. Our intention in burying them was to undo this too familiar violation of the sacred. Cheryl Potts, an Alutiiq elder created a prayer stick to mark the place where many of us now pray and make offerings. It faces south, for us, the place of the heart.  It is easy to stand here and hear the words I first heard in Canyon de Chelly: This Beauty comes from the Great Heart.”

Cheryl Potts is now (9/20/2019 on Kodiak Island making contact on behalf of returning her ancestors and sacred relics to the land of their origin.  And today is the global climate strike that the young have initiated, millions gathering on behalf of the Earth.)  And in a few hours, ReVersing Extinction will convene here for the second time.)

We do not know the origins of these ancestors so we do not know their homeland but we consider that it may have been the East coast, USA. A physician in our community rescued them. They had been abandoned in a plastic bag on the bottom of a closet after being used to teach anatomy by her grandfather who was a physician and medical lecturer himself. The best we could is return them to the ultimate sacred home, Earth.

I spent time with the ancestors looking at the astonishing green covering the hills and praying for guidance on how we can meet and even ReVerse Extinction and Climate Collapse. For this purpose, a small group of spiritual and environmental activists had gathered in Topanga on March 22, 2019 from various countries to hold Council, our process for gathering wisdom, admit our not knowing and listen deeply together.  We understood that it is unlikely that any one person or group or tribe will find a single answer but that it is our task is to form a vessel from our diversity to hold what might be offered from the wisdom and vision of the spirits, the beings of the natural world and Indigenous teachings. On our knees before everything we have separated from, disdained tried to conquer, killed.  ReVersing. I see no other way that we will survive.

When traveling in 2017 with a Rain of Night Birds, attempting to introduce a new conversation in regard to Anthropocene Climate Disruption, I regularly asked people to find the edge beyond the edge they were already walking on behalf of the Earth. Now when I am with those whose thinking and projects are already far beyond conventional approaches, I still ask them, what I am asking of myself:  Listen to the voices beyond the human and then leap!  Leap far beyond what you know so we might find ways to end the threat to all Life. 

Those of you who know the Fool’s card in the Waite Tarot recognize that instruction – the Fool, a dog nipping at his heels, steps over the cliff into the unknown.  What will become of him?  What will become of us? And so, I write this on April Fools, willing and prepared to leap when the possibility presents itself.

The wind has come up suddenly and powerfully; I pause to consider what this might mean.  One of the participants at our Council placed prayer ties in the trees surrounding the patio, augmenting the energy of the Tibetan prayer flags.  Such weather calls forth the prayers.  May the natural world and all beings, all beings, survive and thrive.  The sudden gusts are at least 24 mph.  I learned to estimate from living for several years with the two climatologists, one Native and one non-Native and a Native elder who are the characters in the novel, A Rain…. They are fictional characters but still they taught me about weather when I was writing the book.  I shiver in wonder.  Terrence Green, the Native climatologist studied wind as had his grandfather but in different ways.  And now the wind surrounds me.

Spring reconstitutes the world.  One participant said it is difficult to accept the horrific global situation we are in when the land is very beautiful and there is much joy from our being together.  We look at the Earth and remember how it was before technology, urbanization, commercial interests and colonization became so dominant. Memory is critical to ReVersing Extinction and we walked the land so we would witness and remember Earth’s beauty and presence  Memory is a seed.  We are the seed banks of what must be remembered.  How do we protect the seeds? How shall we pass them on for safe keeping?  When and how shall they be planted again?  Will we remember the difference between Restoration and Invention? 

Even as I am writing to you, I am listening.  I am listening for what might be communicated and what can be remembered.  There is no need to say anything new. The old stories are told again and again. When a story is true, it is inscribed on the heart more and more deeply with every retelling from the past and maybe even the future.

Surely, it will take time for us, for anyone of us or anyone else on the planet to receive such guidance as is needed to meet this grave catastrophe for which no one has any answers that are sufficient to the need.  We will have to show ourselves trustworthy which means cultivating, if one has not done so already, a true and reliable relationship to the spirits, that is, we need to be vetted by the spirits themselves.  Such a relationship takes years to develop, each of us may be called to it differently through our traditions and through our own practices and activities. Then we may be able to hear what is beyond us and may be so different from what we assume and believe. And isn’t that one way of recognizing spirit’s guidance – it is so often nothing we would have thought of ourselves. 

If/when the Spirits guide us, their communications will not necessarily be, will unlikely be, in words and so it is equally unlikely their directions will be clear.  We have, each of us, to expect, that we will make false starts or go in the wrong direction or not understand why we are on the new path we seemed to be called to walk.  We can’t expect certainty.  And, always, there are no guarantees.  But if we risk the smaller failures, we may avoid the larger failure – extinction and collapse of all systems. 

Looking out on the land, I was again filled with gratitude. It is sacred land.  It sits at the border of a rural area and a wild state park.  There are so many reasons to call it sacred, but one reason is that it is storied land which has hosted rituals and ceremonies.  Many of our dead are buried here.  There have been many occasions of quests and seeking vision.  And recently we withdrew from occupying it at night, giving it over to the mountain lions who are seeking refuge after the Woolsey fire.  We call this land a village sanctuary for all beings and try to live accordingly.  And again, it is sacred because it holds so many stories.

Story is the way meaning enters the world.  Story makes meaning of the world.  The two-dimensional image, the flatness  of linear thinking and event can come alive and multidimensional through story. I sent a group of photographs I took of Elephants in Botswana and Namibia to a colleague.  These are not merely images.  Each photograph is a story that evokes a complex event, relationship and a world.  Each photograph chronicles the still incomprehensible but undeniable meetings and interactions with Elephants in the wild.  Events I/we could not have organized but which depended upon activities outside the ken of mere human beings and which occurred, so they would not be denied, again and again over a period of twenty years. 

The Great Elephant and His Spirit Light

[Notice the light on the ground.  It can only emanate from this Elephant himself.  We had been with him for several hours as  he led us, tested us.  This is our last moment with him.  Who is this spirit being?  How do we honor and live according to his manifestation?]

Yes, today, I was standing by the ancestors, looking out onto the green hills and meadows, the dark green of the oak groves and the brilliant yellow of the mustard rising, it seems, a foot a day after the recent rains. Listening.  Then I knew that there were no words or clear instructions coming to me to advise us regarding these desperate times.  But that I might learn the way I have always been guided through Story, through event, synchronicities, dreams, that is, in the languages that the non-human beings speak to articulate the ways of the sacred in the world.

“What is essential?” asked Gigi Coyle.  “Let us track synchronicities,” she advised.  Let’s listen deeply, I add.  Let us also follow the stories into which we are enfolded.

And so I stand with the ancestors.  I confess I do not know, we do not know how to avert the future that we seem to be calling forth, the compulsion we have for ecocide.  I praise the beauty and bless however and whatever I can.  We do not know how to prevent the disaster we are creating.  I go down on my knees.  My temple to the ground.  I yield.  The wind comes up.  Not hope but a slim possibility.  Butterflies are everywhere.  The wandering birds have returned.  Thrashers, blue birds, jays, gold finches, humming birds, orioles, mourning doves, hawks and golden eagles.  The first squawk of a baby owl heard tonight as I continue to write this.  Just a glance of a tawny haunch in the tall grasses – likely a bob cat but maybe the cougar.  For the moment, a glimpse of life as it once was, still is, and might continue if we drastically change our ways.

Good night.  Praising the dark. Listening.

I have just returned from the Ancestor’s altar, broken hearted and hopeful, today, as the youth declare their determination to meet the crises and rescue the Earth. My prayer,:May we do nothing to impede and everything to protect this Earth as a sanctuary for all beings.

Mitakuye Oyasin

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