I woke up in a bad mood a few Fridays ago, ready to go Tasmanian Devil on the first troll I came across on social media. Saturday wasn’t much better, cluttered with little tech problems that felt like assaults on my dignity. The predictable speed bumps with my Work in Progress became insurmountable rock walls, so I did what I usually do in such situations and started a new manuscript. So there, Sycamore Dorning.
Even that didn’t help.
Then I came across an opinion piece by a guy who’s living in NorCal and watching–again–while climate change devastates the wilderness and communities he loves. He mentioned that Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve is “wiped out,” and I had to stop what I was doing and fetch a tissue.
Armstrong Woods was a bucket list destination that I actually got to see. The biggest, oldest, most wonderful trees I have ever met live there. I am a rabid fan of big trees generally, and to me, that was a holy day spent in a holy place. That place is lost forever, along with some trees more than a thousand years old. The whole woods is gone, and the word for what I am feeling–about the trees, about the planet, about faith in democracy, about human life–is grief.
In the midst of successive overlapping crises, I have failed to notice all the loss. That failure to notice is normal, a coping mechanism that allows us to function while battles rage. This is part of the reason why soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder just want to get back to their units. We hurt less inside when we have an external threat to focus on.
But the hurting must be dealt with. That came home to me when I saw all the 9-11 memorial posts on social media. We lost thousands of lives that day, lost our innocence about the price of making enemies, lost a little faith in humanity, and much more. This year has been like 9-11 twenty times over in terms of unanticipated loss of life, and that’s without politics gone nasty, wild fires, global warming, and 10 percent unemployment.
We have lost loved ones, faith in hallowed institutions, and tremendous swathes of natural resources. Individually, we’ve lost income, businesses, property, and for many who have survived the virus, lifelong health. We are awash in reasons to grieve–and in reasons to support one another and look for common ground.
Putting the grief label on my irritability and sadness helps a little, but I suspect focusing my sorrow and anger on action that restores the light will help more. I will plant more trees, I will get on my federal representatives about passing a carbon tax, I will support organizations getting out the vote. I will stop and visit with my neighbors when I’m perambulating, and ask those living near me how they’re doing.
And isn’t it interesting that I just published a story about a hero struggling with episodes of the mulligrubs? What are you grieving, and how do you honor that grief or use it to motivate you to action? To three commenters, I’ll send signed print copies of My Heart’s True Delight.