Half the Earth's wildlife has vanished in the last forty years.
This seems to have coincided with our widespread and exuberant adoption of fossil fueled consumerism.
I participate in efforts to persuade the rich and greedy to change course, but I am also painfully aware that some might, and perhaps do, regard me as the rich and greedy, with good cause.
Am I not still driving a car?
I could argue that I am embedded in an infrastructure that requires it of me, but I know some do without.
I bicycled to work for eight years, but that was thirty years ago.
I don't have much to show for my decades of activism.
As a retired person, I'm able to eliminate some trips.
Actually, a lot of trips.
Like Thoreau, who "did a lot of traveling in Concord," my routines have never been writ large, and now I'm down to, mostly, tending the kitchen, the house, the garden, the walk to the river.
One of the exceptions I allow myself is to travel to the zendo, fifty minutes away by infernal machine, once a month, for an all-day retreat.
It keeps me sane.
Another is to go to visit my parents' ashes once a year while I can.
They are in the mountains, by a prominent rock beside a trail.
It's an all-day thing, with a long drive and a two-mile hike-in.
Grief, whether for the earth or for one's family, is a slow burn.
I don't know that it ever goes out, though we can cover it over.
But should we?
I hear advice about "letting go," as though grief were one of the desires with which we cling to illusion.
But I'm inclined to think grief is simply a condition, and that bearing up under it is what one does, as when bearing up under the loss of eyesight or an arm or leg.
So, even as it appears we will not be able to save the earth as we have known it, or ourselves, we may indulge ourselves in fear, anger, or sorrow, and that is self-indulgent, but we may know grief as a condition, for the loss is real enough for us and not illusion.
Yet Nagarjuna tells us
Whatever is dependently co-arisen / That is explained to be emptiness.It seems a hard lesson to let grief slip into emptiness, yet the solution for giving up that which is both a part of us and destined never to go away may be expressed in the phrase "hold lightly."
That, being a dependent designation, / Is itself the middle way.
It is not that we must turn away from grief, as if it were a thing somewhere in the house that can be taken out and binned.
It is that we can visit our parents' graves and, while aching like one who has a wound (for it is that), take in the beauty of the surroundings.
That which is nameless in me beholds that which is nameless in the trees, mountains and sky.
I place two tiny twigs of blue huckleberry, their leaves red with impending dissolution, upon the stone, bow, and turn my feet toward home.
The leaves will blow away.
I will blow away.
Hold all things, but hold them lightly.