Letting Go of Hope

Letting Go of Hope

It’s a relief to give up hope. Then I can focus on the here and now. I think Catherine Ingram wrote this in her article, Facing Extinction. Or maybe that’s what I thought while reading it. Or perhaps it was Dahr Jamail in his book, The End of Ice. It felt as if I was finally letting go of something very heavy and when I gave myself permission, it was freeing.

Nearly ten years ago, after documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon for a year, I was emotionally spent, exhausted and had no ability to allow joy or pleasure into my life…how could I while Nature was suffering so? I spent a week with Joanna Macy which helped me heal the deep wounds generated by what I witnessed.

While my eyes and throat burned with the smell of hot diesel fumes erupting from the Gulf of Mexico, people living only a few blocks off the beaches refused to believe the beaches were heavily oiled. That taught me how denial works in the human psyche. Something so unimaginable and painful is perhaps simply unacceptable in the human mind. As soon as the well was sealed, the attention of the masses was off to the next media circus leaving me angry and in disbelief. How did this not wake up the entire world, I fretted.

Since that time of photographing, writing and videoing seven areas along the Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast for a year, I have struggled with trying to maintain hope…that people will wake up and care and do something!

One of my mentors told me during the year I worked at the Gulf that there was a reason I was being asked to witness such devastation. I knew then I had never witnessed anything so traumatic. Watching sea creatures die on a daily basis, birds suffering, beaches heavily oiled while humans walked in bathing suits or frolicked in oiled waters was a living nightmare where reality was warped. Two worlds collided every day as cleanup workers dodged beach-goers and families let their children run and play in the toxic water.

So yes, I know crazy. I know denial. I know grief.

After working on the oil spill I decided to start documenting beauty and began writing about encounters with humpback whales, dolphins, manatees, sea lions…the Ocean itself and other sacred places. Surely, I reasoned, this will help people see the preciousness of our planet and maybe it will encourage them to action as protectors and champions. “This is what we risk losing!!!” I seemed to shout through my prose about my whale friends or the dolphin who seemed to adopt me into her pod or the adorable sea lion pup who played hide and seek with me.

I was still in a place of hope.

In the last decade, the reality of just how bad the climate crisis is has escalated. I thought the grief I felt over the oil spill was intense. Now, every day the grief deepens and yet, thanks to Joanna, I refuse to turn away from that which saddens me. As Dahr Jamail wrote in his new book, “I am committed in my bones to being with the Earth, no matter what, to the end.”

And the grief many of us are experiencing is anticipatory grief. We know what we are losing every day and we know the outlook is very grim. Catherine Ingram wrote, “For those of us who cannot look away, we carry the anticipatory grief for those who cannot bear to look.”

Why am I here? Why did I come to the planet at this time? I suspect, if we have a choice, it was intentional. The deep love I feel for this water planet and all life here is worth being here as a witness to the beauty and kindness and compassion….the capacity of humans for greatness. And yet with that capacity comes the other side of human behaviors that are selfish and plow through life with the profit-at-any-cost mindset.

I suspect that many of us who came here at this time did so to offer our love and compassion in a time where that is greatly needed. As empaths it’s not easy to do because we feel it all….not only human grief but that of all life. I don’t think we would have come if we didn’t have something to offer.

Over the past couple of years a major shift in my work has been taking place. I have had clear guidance that one phase is ending and another is beginning. It feels like a bell is ringing in my soul, calling me to step forward and begin. It’s like the first 59 years of my life was about laying the foundation and now, the deeper work begins.

I know that I can’t be in a passive role any longer. I cannot ignore the sound of the bell calling me to work and gradually the vision is getting clearer.

My own inner work has taken me into deeper relationship with Nature. Without a doubt, the healthy way forward is to expand our individual and collective connection with Nature. As part of my work I will be offering opportunities for individuals and groups. There will be multiple opportunities for Deepening with Nature…a regular, outdoor circle to build community; day retreats; weekend retreats; sacred travels and individual consultations. This will be enhanced by my move back to the mountains of North Carolina.

We must re-learn how to listen to Nature and slow down to fine-tune our ability to hear our own heart’s voice. Dahr Jamail wrote it perfectly, “Grief is something I move through, to territory on the other side. This means falling in love with the Earth in a way I never thought possible. it also means opening to the innate intelligence of the heart. I am grieving and yet I have never felt more alive.”

I am releasing the dark visions of the future so I can remain present and be of service to this planet and those wishing to deepen their relationship to Her. I will use every talent I have to be present with all life here, whether it is connecting with a whale in the ocean or holding space for someone to feel their grief.

Dahr poses this question that I pass along: “How shall I use this precious time?”

 

 

 

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