By Sherry Marr
I have been in love with Mother Earth all my life. As a child, I bicycled for many miles along country roads, seeking the wild places. I would leave my bike in the ditch, and climb hillsides redolent of sage and Ponderosa pine, taking drinks from miles of the elevated troughs that irrigated the local vineyards.
The most euphoric moments of my life were all wrapped up in wilderness: at the blockades in Clayoquot Sound in the Summer of ’93, where thousands came to protect the local forests from being clearcut, and 900 were arrested in what was, at that time, the single greatest incidence of civil disobedience in Canada. My heart nearly burst with passion, purpose and fulfilment as I stood on the road, singing, for the trees.
The night my rented moving truck rounded the corner at the top of the hill, and I saw Long Beach stretched out below, waves rolling in, and a huge, scarlet sun ready to slip down behind the mountains, my joy was indescribable, the more so when I pulled the truck into the driveway of my rented cabin, stepped onto the beach, and discovered a small whale swimming in the bay. In that moment, the seeking, questing thing inside me, that had drawn me forward for so many years, finally quieted. I was home.
In the worst moments of my life, it has always been to the forest or the beach that I went for comfort. The night my son, at seventeen, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I went to the shore. My heart was aching; the familiar, resigned stoicism with which I had weathered so many crises was creeping over me again. I was bracing myself for certain heartbreak, clinging with all my strength to the comfort I found in wave after endless wave breaking upon the shore.
I was gathering my strength. I would take it to the city; I would see him through. I would find my comfort in the beauty of the shore. Here, I would replenish my stores of peace by letting the susurration of the waves rush through my ears, my brain, my being, until I was as calm as the lull between waves, as strong and silent as the smooth stones scattered along the ocean’s shore, as patient as the sand dollar that spins its house from the sand and grit around it and carries it within.
Since mid-life, I have loved Tofino so fiercely, in the years that I lived here and in the years away. My fierce love has been accompanied by earth grief, as I have watched the Old Growth forests disappear; have seen whales and bears and wolves starving for lack of salmon, have watched wild salmon disappearing because of pollution and disease from the salmon farms placed along their migratory routes. Fierce sorrow as carbon emissions don’t go down, and the planet heats. Fierce love, at the heartbreaking beauty of Mother Earth, trying so hard to live in spite of it all. In spite of humankind – how generous she is! How forgiving.
Mother Earth is all about abundance, about life and growth and healing and repair. All of earth’s systems work together in an intricate interconnected web of life. Did you know that salmon are forest creatures that help the forest grow? Bears and wolves eat salmon; their scat in the forest adds needed nitrogen to the soil. Salmon feed both land and sea creatures, and humans who have depended on them for thousands of years. I watch all of this magnificence being destroyed by industry so that a handful of corporations can grow obscenely rich and it hurts my heart. The governments that turn a blind eye, because of corporate support for their re-election, are as criminally responsible as the corporations, in my opinion. Humans were meant to live on earth as in an abundant garden. Every gardener knows that when you take out, you put back.
The indigenous people of the earth have always known this. “Mother Nature has enough for our need, but not our greed,” my friend Joe, a Nuu-chah-nulth knowledge carrier, likes to say.
The dominant society talks a lot about “rights.” My indigenous friends talk about “responsibilities and obligations.” They have strict protocols around living with Nature in a way that ensures that their descendants to the seventh generation may also live. Yet now we are worrying that our great-great-grandchildren, in this land of ancient forests, may never see an old growth tree.
Mother Earth inspires such awe with her breathtaking beauty. She fills me with gratitude as she showers us with her gifts. She inspires fierce love in my heart, that often brings me to tears, given the state of our planet at this moment in history, and in Her story.
Alexandra Morton, my long-time hero, has lived with whales in the Broughton archipelago up the coast for thirty years. She has been fighting hard to save the dwindling wild salmon, who are dying out because of pollution and disease from fish farms placed along the salmon’s migratory routes.
Alex recently wrote, in her recent book Not On My Watch:
“It’s love that makes people stand up and react. The only places that are going to survive are the places we love so fiercely that giving up is not an option, at whatever the cost.”
I agree. It is time for fierce love, for standing up, for speaking out. So write your poems, dear people, with all the fierce love you can muster.
For your challenge: Think of what you love most: the beloved, a child, a fur companion. Then take that fierce love out into the world; introduce us to something in the natural world that you feel fiercely passionate about. Bring your poem of fierce love back to us. Far-flung across the world as we are, we await your offerings with delight.