The times we are living in are so big and often hard to hold. There are the obvious things: catastrophic climate change and exploding pressures on our earth, rampant racial injustice that continues to simmer, and, of course, the ubiquitous global pandemic. Top that off with all of the little things that each of us is navigating personally and it’s an easy recipe for despair. Simply coasting along has not felt like a viable option lately. I have never felt such deep concern for our earth and all who inhabit it.
And yet there are many moments each day when I am reminded that there is more than this “full catastrophe,” to use a phrase coined by mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn. In fact, there are beautiful examples of harmony and synchrony all around us. With 24/7 access to news media and social media so prevalent and loud, I’m finding it harder and harder to really unplug and reconnect with this deeper intelligence. And yet it certainly is there, reminding us that we are part of something wise and vast.
Lately, I’ve been riveted to my favorite Netflix series: “Alone” (Season 7). In a recent episode, a participant on the show named Callie had just snared four rabbits. Now, if you are at all familiar with the series, you will understand just how critical it is for these survivalists to obtain food. Callie — wearing a huge smile on her face, a glimmer in her bright eyes — appears completely in awe that she snared four large Arctic hares. Yet, in some ways, I’m not at all surprised at her good fortune. Callie is deeply attuned to the land, and there is a felt sense of reciprocity.
While some participants in past seasons have had a “take all for yourself to survive” attitude, Callie is clearly comfortable, relaxed, and in harmony with her frigid surroundings. Moments before she found her snared bunny loot, she had the sweetest moment with a short-tailed weasel that entered her primitive shelter to lick food off of a rough-hewn board. She could have killed that ermine on the spot for food, but instead she allowed it to be a friend and enjoyed its company. She understood that this particular critter was not meant to be her dinner. Shortly after meeting the weasel, she had enough food for a few weeks in the form of some gorgeous fluffy hares.
This was my favorite scene so far in this series. The feeling was one of calm connection (in extremely harsh and life-threatening conditions) and interdependence. Rather than putting her head down and barreling through this wild place, she sensed her place in the landscape and honored the give-and-take. Each snared animal was a gift to her, met with reverence, wonder, and gratitude. Oh how I admire this way of being in the flow of things and in right relation with the land.
So, as I continue to feel bombarded, daily, with the bad news of this beautiful broken world, I am committed to keep foraging for signs that this world is still holding me and us all. I am inspired by stories of hope, moments of wonder, and the energy of beings such as Callie.
Just as it is for the participants on “Alone,” autumn is rapidly closing in on us. The light has moved around the house to set in a different place, birds are migrating, and darkness falls more quietly and quickly. The sun is still bright, but mornings are cool. When I shed technology for a few moments and step outside, I notice the sunflowers nodding heavily in the gardens and the first bright maple leaves suddenly catch my eye.
Last night, driving home in the gathering darkness along a familiar route from a friend’s house, I was met by a small porcupine along the dirt driveway. When I turned onto the winding main road, flanked by mountains on one side and a river on the other, I could feel myself held by this place I have called home through so many seasons.
Twilight was soft, stars sparkled above the tunnel of pines guarding the road, and I navigated the burgeoning darkness with a sense of comfort and peace. I felt held by the land, and in that moment, pondered how I could reciprocate the love and belonging that I felt offered up to me. Perhaps this is something we all can contemplate as we head into a new season, held tight by the places we love, the places we call home.