RUIN AND BEAUTY

DEENA METZGER'S BLOG

Category Archives: Reversing Extinction, Climate Collapse and Social and Politcal Dissolution

Now That We Know

Now that we are sequestered,
an entire globe aware
we are sharing a common fate,
which has always been the case,
now that we, so frightened
without our things,
know we are all mortal,
while grabbing our last meals
from the emptying shelves,
imagining our last suppers,
how we will spend
the final weeks of our lives,
Now that we are aware
that the gift of breath
we have always received from the trees
may not serve us --
Is it because we 
relentlessly cut them down?

Now that Water,
who is one of the Immortals,
is dying at our hands,
but without planning
for Her last waves and tides,
is remaining Water
for whoever swims within her,
And now that Air,
another threatened Deity
is still holding whatever birds yet fly,
and Earth, Great Mother,
is continuing despite
all her open wounds,
is remaining Earth,
and Fire, Oh! 
He will burn and burn
until every tree,
or the very sun, goes out,

Now that we have succumbed
to each other's downfall,
no difference,no differences,
and we, the ones who have done
such great harm, who tried
to rival the Gods
with all our weapons,
are taken down
by the most invisible and minute,
the very littlest one,
such is our common jeopardy,
our fate,

Now that we know we are mortal,
might we, for this just moment,
hold a broken prayer,
that our hearts open wide
and with such wisdom
that Life will pity us,
will restore the thousand beings,
and give us another
humbler round.

AN OPEN LETTER TO RIGHT A WRONG AND SAVE OLD GROWTH FORESTS

In May 2019, the College of Forestry at Oregon State University clear cut a15.6 acres of predominantly old growth Douglas Fir with trees ranging from 80 to 260 years old with an origin date of 1759 and one tree dating back to 1599.  A memorial was held on October 20th sponsored by the Spring Creek Project and the Friends of OSU Old Growth, https://friendsofosuoldgrowth.org/ which is how I learned of the travesty. I posted the notice of the memorial on FaceBook.  120 people responded and one suggested we write to the University, which I did, indicating that I would make his answer public.   The interim dean, Anthony S Davis wrote back, “I’ve just concluded a second listening session and am working on responses to questions and comments that came up; this is invaluable in crafting a pathway forward. I’ve attached this email two letters on the issue that may be of interest to you. Going forward, I am certain our actions will properly reflect our values.”

I am sure you can receive both letters, dated July 12 and July 26 which are referenced below from the College of Forestry if you inquire.

It is both terrifying and encouraging to see how much has changed in terms of our environmental situation and consciousness in such a short time, in just six months. The climate is declining at lightning speed and our understanding while also rapid is insufficient.  Changes of mind and action such as we have never conceived are required and we are all reeling.  Dr. Davis proposes a three-year process to institute a new program which at some point in our history would have been reasonable, but no longer. Three weeks, given what we are in, is too long and also at the same time we must be careful and thoughtful.  He also proposes, reflexively, consulting with all the “stakeholders” so that their various interests would be considered.  This is, equally, no longer a judicious and tenable approach except to focus the different perspectives and skill sets on the goal we must all accept: reversing extinction and restoring the climate and natural world. 

In 1972 I was invited to a living room reading of Christopher Stone’s argument in the California Law Review aloud: Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. We were electrified. We knew that an original and revolutionary way of thinking had entered the public discourse, and everything could change to meet our insipient awareness of environmental devastation as a result of what was rapidly becoming a global lifestyle.  And though legal rights have recently been granted to rivers and mountains, this conceptualization has not been established fast enough or broadly enough to save our planet from impending climate dissolution and extinction.

I have been sitting with Andrew Davis’ reply for a month.  Something more seemed to be required than argument, disagreement or criticism.  These approaches would not likely lead to the changes that are mandated by these times. In the 19 Ways, http://deenametzger.net/19-ways/ which were transmitted to me and which I teach, the No Enemy Way and Alliance are core principles.  How might they serve us here?

The coincidence of two events this week called me to begin the open letter which follows that I had committed to write to Andrew Davis and the College of Forestry at Oregon State University.  As I began writing, I understood that we are all in this together and we must find the ways to make this clear and undeniable.

Although this letter is written, ostensibly, to Andrew Davis and the College of Forestry, it is written to all of us.  We are each called to attend the issues identified below.  And more.  Unsure of what to say, I wrote this essay under the spreading branches of an oak tree I watched spring up from a seedling that had planted itself and the line of Eucalyptus trees at the border of the house and Topanga State Park which have sustained me for thirty-eight years.  If there is any merit to what is said here, I attribute it to the intelligence they transmitted and, of course, any foolishness is entirely mine.

            ***

Dr. Anthony S. Davis, Interim Dean, College of Forestry, Oregon State University

Dear Anthony:

Thank you for responding as quickly as you did and appending the two letters of July 2019 in regard to College of Forestry having harvested a 15.6-acre unit within the McDonald Forest including many old growth trees, one dating back to 1599.  I have been contemplating your note of October 9th in light of the growing planetary crisis, of our rapidly growing awareness of the crises which threaten all life and so all of us equally.  Your letters reveal the perhaps inevitable differences between most institutions’ slow responses and the necessary agility of individuals. The opening concern in your letter of July 12 is with management and timber revenue, albeit to sustain a university and the community it serves.  Quite differently, your letter of July 24, begins with a sojourn in the forest with your family, hiking and biking that leads you to ask fundamental, even daring questions about global responsibility which conventional forestry policies have not recognized as essential considerations.

I am moved by your instinct to go to the forest to contemplate the grievous and thoughtless action of cutting down the old grove. In the same way I take note of your signature, Anthony, on your email, as it confirms that we are each, personally, intimately involved in the current tragedy and need to meet it together. Because the global situation is drastically different than we have understood, because the times are critical, I am hoping to change the conversation between us, not only you and I, but between all of us, including between institutions and living beings, human and non-human, whose very lives and futures are at great risk.

Actually, going to the forest is exactly the suggestion I offered in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue who is directing the Forestry service to remove protections from the Tongass and Chugach National Forests in Alaska threatening the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America.  http://bit.ly/SaveAKRoadless As the son of a farmer who must cut down trees for farmland, he may not know trees and forests for themselves and so may not intuitively understand that they are as necessary to our lives as breath, that they are our breath, that we are kin.  But in the forest, one can learn this.

Kindergarten knowledge teaches us that trees absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale and provide the oxygen we need to live and that this evolutionary step provided for the emergence of mammals and humans.  We are not accustomed in western culture, to thinking systemically, interdependently, interconnectedly, and in terms of seven future generations as are Indigenous peoples; we do not fathom what this means nor understand how we must live accordingly. 

The following paragraph from botanist Barbara Beresford-Kroeger’s acclaimed new book, To Speak for the Trees , makes this simple and essential point:

“Earth’s atmosphere at the time of change from the ferns to the evergreens had concentrations of carbon dioxide too high to sustain human life. …Trees don’t simply maintain the conditions necessary for human and most animal life on Earth, trees created these conditions through the community of forests.

“…The truth was right there, so simple a child could grasp it.  Trees were responsible for the most basic necessity of life, the air we breathe.  Forests were being cut down across the globe at breathtaking rates – quite literally breathtaking.  In destroying them we were destroying our own life-support system.  Cutting down trees was a suicidal act.”

Institutions, universities, academic departments may not be able to grasp immediately what individuals must that our current circumstances require radical and rapid rethinking of everything.  Within a few years, perhaps even a few months, concerns about multi-value management, various stakeholders, revenue concerns and needs for timber products have become irrelevant before the urgent need confronting all institutions and people to preserve the basic condition of life.   —  oxygen, (air) water, earth, climate – and, therefore, forests and species diversity essential to life.  Ironically, the Forestry Departments which once ‘managed’ and harvested timber are now charged, contrarily, with preserving and extending all our forests as the single most important activity on the planet. 

Two events called me to write to you today.  The first is this the statement signed by 11,000 scientists in the Journal of BioScience:  ““We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/05/climate-crisis-11000-scientists-warn-of-untold-suffering

I was not aware until I copied it for this letter that the lead author is Prof William Ripple of Oregon State University, your colleague.  In my mind, this synchronicity underlines the understanding that we are called to meet this moment in new and radical ways. As I write this, Australia is burning and the Amazon is burning still.  I appreciated your understanding that everything is connected and that our values and actions have consequences elsewhere, as you write: “What role do North American values play in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon…?” Or. Anthony, in the fires that are currently raging, or in the increasing inability of people  (and animals) to breathe in India?  And how might the overriding concern for timber revenue which dominates your letter of July 12 be a factor in these fire storms or, more locally, the Kincaid fire, or even the Getty fire, which caused me and so many others to evacuate last week, noting that the wild do not have evacuation routes or centers to protect them.

The second reason for writing to you today was Secretary Purdue’s intention to cut down the Tongass and Chugach National Forests for lumber.  When I wrote to you in October, I requested that the College of Forestry make substantial and appropriate amends for the felling of the ancient trees, though we realize they will not be replaced before 2439. Now, I see an action that would go far beyond making amends for a singular thoughtless transgression against nature but would in fact begin a process of setting things right while preserving the ancient ones. 

It would be most appropriate if you would intervene with Agriculture Secretary Purdue to protect the millions of acres of old-growth forests which are threatened in Alaska. It would be an act of contrition and alliance on behalf of all breathing beings.  In addition, it would be appropriate for the College of Forestry to intervene and to gather other Forestry Departments in North America and globally to do so as well.  It could be the equivalent of the 11,000 scientists who are sounding the alarm.   

You can see, I am sure, the beauty and rightness of such an intervention. 

Desperate times require extreme measures and in this case, swift actions.

I hope you will consider this and act and behalf of all life and the future.

Sincerely,

Deena

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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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