I came home from a meeting, put on my robe, got into bed, put my headphones in, put a somewhat emotional song on repeat, and sobbed. We have a president who denies climate change. We’re nearly starting a war in Iran. Australia is on fire. The list goes on. I’m grieving it all.
There’s been some distance between myself and my connection to nature. In college, I would go to a sit spot in White Clay Creek nearly every week. I worked at the library’s film center, devouring environmental documentaries. After college, I biked much of the U.S. and spent every single day outside for 6 months. I worked as a garden educator at a public school, not only outside every day but connecting kiddos to the wonder of the natural world! I lived and worked on a large-scale herbal medicine farm for 10 weeks in exchange for education. Now, I am in Philadelphia working full time as a doula. Instead of being built into my life, it is all on me to get outside.
The other day, I was locked out of my house for 15 minutes and out of a moment of absolute desperation. I sat on a bench in our backyard under a Walnut tree without checking my freaking smart phone. Seriously those things are Addicting. The next day, I visited our old Walnut tree again and guess who stopped by! An American Goshawk. Me and the Goshawk go wayyyy back to my days as a wildlife biology intern in Colorado. It was comforting to see an old friend and also a bit of a wakeup call. I keep thinking nature is less accessible, less beautiful in Philly, but let me tell you that’s some B.S. I have a giant elder Walnut tree in my backyard.
This is my reminder to myself that although the earth is hurting big time, nature can still be a major source of renewal and inspiration. Terry Tempest Williams is reminding me in her new book Erosion that it is okay and necessary to deeply grieve injustices. She interviews Tim DeChristopher who went to jail for trying to mess up bidding wars for oil and gas companies for public land in the west that was taken out of protection by Trump. On grieving environmental injustice he says, "If you can go into that darkest place, you can emerge with a sense of empathy and empowerment."
And then I learned that wombats in Australia are sharing their burrows as a refuge from the bushfires. Some people say they are shepherding other animals to said burrows. Apparently the “shepherding” behavior is disputable but makes for some very cute and inspiring news. I also learned that wombats are much larger than I had imagined, so hey that’s even more space for the fellow animals! If this isn’t the medicine needed for the times, I don’t know what is. Let us look to nature for examples of what community care look likes among disaster.
The energetic medicine of the Walnut tree is to ease life transitions of all sorts. It helps us to simplify and balance our lives by tuning into what is relevant right now and what needs to be cleared out. Among the endless new year/new decade resolutions, I believe taking some time to sit outside is a very noble and needed one. Thank you for calling me in, Walnut, and forcing me to slow down and go outside.