A Prayer for Hard Times

 

by Sherry Marr

PRAYER – for hard times
by Sherry Marr

When my heart has no words
when there is too much to pray for
and not enough hope
in the world
to right all the wrongs

When wildfires are burning
as the climate naysayers say nay
I walk my speechless heart
into the forest
to find my way

Each tree
a living prayer
offering balm and breath
to the soul-weary
Each birdcall a note of hope
in the planetary song
humankind has
gotten wrong

When my heart has
only tears,
and there is too much to pray for
and not enough hope
to find my way
I let the trees pray for me
Breathe their peacefulness
into my being
Listen to all
they have to say

Each tree
a living prayer,
each human adding either
dark or light
to our planetary plight

Well, poet friends, it has been a month. A year. A time. This is what is going on in my world. It is a lot, and I feel myself growing quieter in response, turning inward, trying to keep the boat of equilibrium steady in the waves that keep coming at me. Some updates from earlier events I have shared with you are as follows:

  • The policeman who shot and killed Chantel Moore (a young Tla-o-qui-aht woman from my village of Tofino) during a “wellness check” will not be charged.
     
  • Six months after her death, Chantel’s brother took his life. Not long after that a young man in a native village across the bay from Tofino was shot and killed by police, and just months after that, a young woman was shot by police in our sister village of Ucluelet. That is a lot of deaths at the hands of police for our small community of 2,000.
     
  • In late May, the remains of 215 indigenous children’s bodies were found on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., igniting pain and grief residential school survivors and their families have been suffering for decades. For certain, other missing children’s remains will be found outside other residential schools, where the abuses suffered are too grisly to contemplate. And yet we must.

[Update: As of June 23rd, the news is full of the discovery of hundreds of unmarked burial sites, estimated at 751, outside a residential school in Saskatchewan, that closed as recently as 1997. 104 unmarked graves have also been found in Brandon, Manitoba, where an RV site was developed on top of the gravesite. Professor Sinclair of the University of Manitoba predicts that, as investigations continue outside all former residential schools across Canada, numbers may climb as high as 25,000. (source: CTV News Channel, June 23rd). Professor Sinclair says he has hope, but that hope must be accompanied by action. Canada is having a very difficult conversation right now about this unspoken (until now) history of oppression and genocide. Now it is time for white people to listen, as the survivors tell their stories.]

  • It is being suggested we cancel Canada Day this year; it is hard to celebrate our supposed wonderfulness, in the face of so much racism, oppression, and colonialism. So much “otherness”, like a cancer across the land, when it should be only “us.” People, human beings, just trying to live.
     
  • There is also the ongoing question of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Children. The Truth and Reconciliation study that was done a few years ago, touted as a route towards reconciliation, seems to have been a wordy token gesture by government. Nothing has changed since the report. And many reserves across the north have not had clean drinking water for 25 years. They can build pipelines for oil, but not water, it seems.
     
  • In early June a white supremacist, 20 years old, drove his car into a family of Muslims out for an evening stroll, in London, Ontario, killing three generations, a grandmother, a husband and wife, and their daughter. The only survivor was their nine year old son. The trauma he will carry is beyond imagining.
     

Fairy Creek. What to say? Militarized police, press not allowed in the “exclusion zone” to hide arrests from the public, because they know it would inspire more people to join the fight to save the very last of the old growth left on the Island. (Right now we are at 2.7% remaining. ALL on the chopping block.

One day 95 senior citizens showed up. The police took one look and went away. They couldn’t arrest 95 seniors. Hundreds of people have been coming, as they did in 1993.  The population of B.C. values its old growth. Corporations value only money; the government has been remiss in managing the forests, selling off vast tracts to corporate interests for a pittance. Forest defenders say clearly, we are not opposed to logging; we are opposed to the unsustainable way it is being done (and has always been done).

Now that there is so little old growth left, so necessary as a carbon sink, (the biggest one we have left,) we want what is left to be protected. If they clearcut the last 2.7%, jobs will be gone in a couple of years anyway. Long past time to switch to second growth logging, stop sending raw lumber out of country, transition to processing lumber in B.C., develop value-added local industry. No jobs on a dead planet. But we feel we are talking into the wind. Talking louder are the dollar signs in corporate eyeballs, and the pressure on government by corporate interests.

Conflicting interests include divided feelings among the Pacheedaht tribe, whose territory includes Fairy Creek. The elected chiefs have requested Fairy Creek be left as is for the next two years so they can speak with government about going forward. Hereditary chiefs and some young indigenous activists speak more forcibly: they want all old-growth to be left untouched, for future generations.

To date, as of June 23rd, after 317 days of direct action (they huddled in tents and old vans and busses there all winter), 272 arrests have been made. Logging company Teal Jones has flattened tires of arrestee vehicles and had them removed by flat deck to a Teal Jones facility;  protesters have to pay $2500 to reclaim their vehicles.

Platform at Fairy Creek (photo: Joelle@joeysplate)

The land defenders are finding more inventive ways of slowing down logging access, cementing themselves with their arms underground, (the Sleeping Dragon manoeuvre), or erecting high platform structures they perch on. Horrifyingly, heavy equipment is being used within inches of the land defenders’ bodies, to extricate them, in complete violation of WorkSafe regulations. The land defenders are holding firm, even when placed in grave personal danger.

Heavy equipment at Fairy Creek / Rainforest Flying Squad

Meanwhile clearcutting continues all around Fairy Creek, with the usual displacement of wild creatures, warming temperatures, and a lose-lose proposition for everyone but a handful of corporate executives. Governmental lack of regulation and abdication of stewardship is criminal negligence, in my opinion. So frustrating. They will never get my vote.

The weight of it all is heavy. Almost silencing, except that, as poets and concerned citizens, we feel the need to bear witness, to spread awareness and, at the very least, to express our outrage and heartbreak.

In the wider world, bizarre reports of a plague of millions of rats in Australia; flooding in Nashville and Tennessee; wildfires in Norway, and some already burning in B.C.; and a huge ice shelf breaking off in Antarctica.

 

So we come to this question: when it all feels too much to bear, where do you turn for comfort and peace in your corner of the world? What part of the natural world do you visit for connection with the bigger picture, so much vaster than the human lens we have imposed on it? Is it a river? A lake? A forest? The mountains? The sea? Tell us about it.

Alternatively, you might want to tell us about how the climate crisis is impacting the area where you live. Show us a natural system whose degradation you have witnessed and are concerned about.

Or you might just want to write a poem about how you feel about all that is going on, and how you strive to hold onto hope in the face of it all. Let’s share our feelings, our grief, our hope – it helps just to know others understand what we’re talking about and share our concerns, when world leaders and local governments appear to be in denial. I remain so grateful to Brendan for this forum, and for all of you, who come so faithfully with your poems and good hearts. Write on, poet friends!

11 thoughts on “A Prayer for Hard Times

  1. Thank you for this challenge, Sherry. We look the other way at our peril. It’s heartbreaking and awful to read of these injustices, but they can only continue if we continue to look the other way.

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  2. Oops! That last photo is one I took of the Hanging Garden Tree across the bay from Tofino. I sent Brendan the wrong photo, so the title under it is totally wrong. Smiles. B.C. and the west coast of the U.S. is struggling under an unprecedented heat wave. Too bad we’ve cut down our forests. Twenty years ago, Tofino was warm in summer, never hot, with a lot of fog. That we are this hot, on the ocean, shows the acceleration of climate change. Over 300 have been arrested at Fairy Creek now. I long to be there, and cant. But my heart is there. Looking forward to reading whatever this info brings forth in you. My next one will be more hopeful.

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  3. One thing we can do as poets is bear witness and spread awareness. And write letters to legislators. It doesnt feel like enough, but what we share in this forum may help support us in carrying the load. I know it helps me.

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  4. It’s too much. I find it so hard to enjoy anything knowing that the world is suffering. It isn’t the billions of poor people who are the burden, it’s the affluent who are suffocating the planet. I feel your distress.

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  5. I agree, Jane, a handful of corporations and billionaires are strangling the planet. Governments should have been regulating things all this time, but seem to now be under control of the corporations. Money. Gah.

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  6. That would be wonderful, Lindi! Heaven knows, we have a ton of material. In B.C., right now, the town of Lytton, the hot spot of Canada at 50 degrees Celsius the other day, is burning up. It was evacuated on a moment’s notice. Horrible. Other small towns are threatened too by other wildfires.

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    • That is really distressing Sherry. I hope all the creatures and people find refuge.
      And I meant to say on my earlier comment I really love the poem you started this post with. Insofar resonate with “walking my speechless heart into the forest.”

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  7. And the forest receives us with open leafy arms……………so much cooler in there, I am not sure why they dont connect the dots that trees coming down is increasing the temperatures. Lytton is now gone. The entire province is on the edge of declaring a climate emergency. And summer is only beginning.

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