by Sherry Marr
“Gratitude is happiness
doubled by wonder.”
– G.K. Chesterton
Happy New Year, friends! May 2022 bring heightened awareness and action on the climate crisis to leaders and people of the world. Earthweal’s mantra is grief and hope. For some time, my frustration, angst and outrage has been dominating my thoughts and my poetry. But lately, I have been feeling an inner shift, towards gratitude for what is, while we still have it.
This year I have watched accelerating extreme weather events decimate several entire towns in B.C. We have had heat domes, wildfires that took down whole towns (and an untold number of wild creatures and their habitat), followed by catastrophic flooding which wiped out a few more towns, agricultural areas and animals both domestic and wild. We now have thousands of climate refugees close to home. It isn’t somewhere else that it is happening any longer.
Weird weather events have continued around the globe all year: cyclones, hurricanes, snow in Hawaii, typhoons, a December wildfire in Colorado. The other afternoon, in a sudden storm, the thunder was so loud and close it shook my windows. In Regina, where my older son lives, it is minus 40 and 50, too cold even for hardened prairie residents.
I recently watched Don’t Look Up, a Leonardo de Caprio film about two astronomers trying to warn the President of the USA (a trump-like character played to perfection by Meryl Streep) that an approaching comet was going to destroy the earth. They got the same reaction, scoffing and ridicule, that climate activists and scientists get, trying to wake people up to the fact that we have a “comet” of climate catastrophe heading our way (even as Mother Earth is using all her voices to warn us of her distress.)
It was amusing in its fictional portrayal of the crazy reality show we have been watching, complete with some trump-style rallies of denial and derision. It is devastating in its ending, especially the few scenes showing the impact on wild creatures – the part of this whole mess that hurts my heart the most.
We have clearly passed the tipping point. And yet there is still time, if governments and populations act, to slow the pace of this wild ride we’re on.
This summer, my son, age 50, suffered a stroke and in one moment lost the use of the left half of his body. Everything he had known of mobility, ease of function, and enjoyment of life, was transformed in one instant into difficulty.
The lesson, which I am learning in the very fibre of my soul, is to be grateful for the now, for this moment, for all we have, for being able to walk, to breathe, to look out our windows and watch the sun rise over the mountains, to walk wild beaches, to breathe in the scent of cedar and spruce, of seaweed and salal. To feel and express gratitude for our lives right now because, in an instant, everything can change, a reality of which we are increasingly becoming aware.
Towards the end of Don’t Look Up, one character who attempted to warn the government says “I’m grateful we tried,” and the other mused, “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” And we do. We just take it for granted, until or unless we lose it all.
So I have noticed the tone of my poems changing. I seem to have resigned myself to whatever comes, because there is not much I can do about capitalists and government officials being derelict in their responsibilities to their fellow man and other beings. But while I am still here, I want Mother Earth to know I love her. I deeply appreciate the beauty she showers on us so generously every day, even in the midst of her distress. Poems of angst are becoming poems of gratitude. (My inner voice whispers: perhaps also of farewell?)
So your challenge, my fine poetic friends, is to pen poems of gratitude: you can go small or big, or use the whole spectrum. Find something you are grateful for and bring it here to us. Here is a poem by Ellen Bass that expresses some of what I have been feeling about reciprocity between Earth and we her people … because what we love, we try to save, and Mother Earth needs us now. In saving her, we might manage to save ourselves, too.
THE WORLD HAS NEED OF YOU
by Ellen Bass
….everything here / seems to need us…-Rilke
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible tug
between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
It’s a hard time to be human. We know too much
and too little. Does the breeze need us?
The cliffs? The gulls?
If you’ve managed to do one good thing,
the ocean doesn’t care.
But when Newton’s apple fell toward the earth,
the earth, ever so slightly, fell
toward the apple as well.