by Sherry Marr
Move over. Let them come in.
They are there, clamouring at the edge of the light –
whispering their lives. Listen.
Move over. Let them touch you, their cold fingers
on your heart, their paws, their claws,
the soft brush of a feather. Let their leaves
fall on your face again.
There are not enough tears to put out these fires.
There are not enough tears to carry these boats
down the river to the sea. There are not enough tears.
All Souls, and the priests bless the graves
with smoke and words and water. This is far
from plastic webs and monster masks and eyeball candy.
We are somewhere else now, a place where grief
is love and love is grief and there are not enough tears
to wash away the mess we’ve made. There are not enough tears
to clean our hands. But here, in this place, for a moment,
there are only tears. What else can we give?
Let them in. Let them sit with you, guests at your table.
Let them eat your love. Let them drink your tears.
Let them feed you with their pale hands. Let them remind you
to love the world. To love the world enough, to seek out
beauty, to stand amazed. Let them love through you.
Here, we balance past and future. We are transient,
slipping through time, trailing dreams and memories.
We bury our seeds deep in the winter soil. We hope they will grow,
that the trees we plant will feed some future child,
that a blackbird will peck the topmost apple,
that the soil will take back the ones that fall,
that someone will wonder who planted this tree,
here, in this place. That someone will be touched
by our pale shadow, by the warm breeze of our lost breath.
This poem, written by our own Sarah Connor, who blogs at Sarah Writes Poems, resonates with where my thoughts are taking me in these days of love and consternation.
I have been thinking about our wild hearts, so attuned to the natural world we love, how they ache observing the accelerating climate crisis. We are only too well aware of this progression, and where it leads. We have all the information. The conundrum is that those in control continue to put profit (and their political careers) before the planet, short term wealth and power being more important to them than the long-term survival of all of earth’s living beings – even their own descendants.
It hurts, how wrong we have gotten it, how far humans have taken the biblical tale of man having dominion over the earth, “so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Those words were written according to the beliefs of those times of limited understanding. Had the story been that we were to be careful stewards of the earth and its creatures, perhaps other species would have fared better. Indigenous people have always understood that we are all interconnected, and that resources are finite. They have strict protocols for living with respect to Mother Earth and the beyond-human realm.
However, I remind myself I can’t afford to give in to hopelessness or heartbreak. The world matters too much, and she needs us. She is crying out to us in all of her many voices. Some of us can hear her; we respond as best we can in the places where we are.
Having known considerable heartbreak in my life, like most humans, I know pain helps our hearts grow strong – resilient enough to withstand almost anything. I have always been moved by stories of people who transcend difficult circumstances: like Jean-Dominique Bauby, who, felled by a stroke, returning to consciousness able to blink only one eyelid, dictated with that eyelid and the help of an alphabet board, one letter at a time, the amazing book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. My hat is off to the humans who step forward to help in a crisis: during tsunamis, floods, wildfires, holding their hands out to rescue other humans and animals. Front line staff at hospitals and providers of essential services, selflessly working through a pandemic. Humble heroes are everywhere.
Wild Hearts. Strong Hearts. Hopeful-in-spite-of-everything against-all-reason hearts.
Which reminds me of the title of a movie I saw in 1991, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, based on the memoir A Girl and Five Brave Horses, written by Sonora Webster Carver.
Sonora joined the Wild West Show in Atlantic City after running away from home during the Great Depression. She performed with diving horses, that leaped off a high tower into a tub of water far below. Loving horses as I do, I believe it is horribly cruel to make animals perform fearful stunts for human enjoyment. But the crux of the story, in book and film, is about meeting seemingly impossible obstacles and overcoming them.
During a dive, an understandably jittery horse launched badly. Sonora hit the water with her eyes open. By next morning she was blind. Her heart remained undefeated and, after a time of adjustment and re-training, she began to dive again, sightless, and continued for eleven years. Her wild heart refused to give up.
It feels, sometimes, as if we are on that high tower, being asked to make an impossible leap into a future we’re uncertain of. Blind. An unseeing act of faith that there will be something there to catch us on the other side.
Our own wild hearts beat with such resonance in the poems we share at earthweal. We refuse to give up hoping that this earth can heal, though we are understandably uncertain about humanity’s ability to evolve and awaken in time. In February, we all watched some wild and unruly bad behaviour happening in Canada’s capital.
For three weeks the so-called “Freedom” Convoy, backed by right-wing U.S. interests, held Ottawa hostage in what was an occupation, not a protest. Their stated aim was to take down the government and install their own people. The firm belief in things that are not true is the common theme. Sound familiar?
Political analysts tracked organizing and financing to southern U.S. right wing extremist groups, conspiracy theorists and Qanon. trump, Cruz and other prominent Republicans came out in open support.
The rise of the far right in such numbers is disheartening and worrisome. Rights and freedoms that were hard won are at risk of being lost if they regain power. Social commentators tell us democracy itself is at risk. We need to hold on to our core values in both countries and vote like democracy depends on it. Because it does. And now, in the midst of so much instability, Russia is poised to invade the Ukraine.
My poor heart. It can’t believe I have lived to see a Nazi flag on the streets of Ottawa, the rise of white supremacy, the threat of fascism. Again, and still: racism, white privilege, white arrogance. Plenty of Confederate and trump 2024 flags too.
With so much noise and division going on, it keeps everyone distracted. Year after year passes without the climate crisis being addressed. (Trudeau just made a statement that the ridiculous TMX pipeline, now projected to cost $21 BILLION instead of the projected $4 billion, is “investing in a greener economy.” Sigh.
I grow world-weary, knowing there will be heat domes again this summer, and every summer; that we will soon, only months after winter floods, fight wildfires again. And nothing changes because we are so out of our minds with crisis after crisis, who can focus on a climate in distress?
Scientists now tell us we have FIVE years left to lower emissions. Trudeau has set a ten year target. Scientific American recently published an article stating the world has 60 years left of arable soil that can grow crops to feed people if soil degradation continues. Terrifying information. My Inner Greta Thunberg is now looking more like a crazed Phyllis Diller.
What does the wild heart do? It finds itself wild places to steep its soul in, green places to walk through, mountains to climb. It listens to riversong, babbling brooks, lake ripples. It tunes out cacophony and chaos, tunes in birdsong, wind whispers, the gravelly squawk of a heron overhead. If it is lucky, it heads to the shore and sees a whale spouting: one, two, three, and then the long, slow dive, the arched back, the upright fluke as it plunges deep.
Falling old growth, rising seas, storms, and the wild ones losing habitat and food, all because humans are too many and think they always come first. Luckily, my heart has learned, through many times of pain and loss, to be rubbery, to stretch enough to encompass the pain, to bear witness, and to find solace in the beauty of the green, wild world that still remains.
Since childhood, my wild heart has led me out of town into the hills to find its peace. As a pre-teen in Kelowna, I would ride my bike far into the countryside, lay it in a ditch, and climb up through the brown dry hills, breathing in the scent of sage and Ponderosa pine. I would get a drink and wet my shirt, for coolness, in the irrigation trestles built to water the vineyards down below. I can still almost smell the pine cones, feel the soft dry needles underfoot.
As a young mother, I took my children hiking on Knox Mountain, where we flew kites on grassy hillsides looking down on Okanagan Lake. A love of nature has stayed with my children through adulthood. I gave the same gift to my grandchildren, and the small voyagers who passed through my life in foster care. It is a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Loving Mother Earth so much, it is painful watching how thoughtlessly and selfishly humankind has used her, laying waste trees, turning vast areas into oilsands, filling the ocean with garbage, and warming the climate with carbon emissions. Our wild hearts seek out the forest and the shore to find comfort, peace and hope – and to renew our determination to help her heal in any way we can.
We bear witness; we call for change. We write poems from our wild hearts. Like this one, again by Sarah:
THE GENEROSITY OF BIRDS
By which I mean
The way the robin throws his song
out to the world
The way the herring gull
carves the sky
The way the starlings
The way the wren
calls from the hedge
The way the pigeons
swagger across the city square
The way the goldfinch
embroiders a line
between tree and sky
The way the blackbird
melts the world into music
The way the cormorant
opens its wings its arms its heart
to the wind
The way the lark
sings only of summer
The way the buzzard
reminds us to trust the sky
As poets, we strive to add light, to counter the cacophony, disconnection and division that is making so much noise all around us. I take my cue from the trees, and the birds, from dogs who are masters at living in the Now. I find a forest trail, breathe in the silence. And then return to tap the keys, try to inspire some hope, some motivation to continue to stand fast for Mother Earth, to do what we can where we are.
Because we love the wild, we have to keep our hearts open to this planet we love so much, even when it hurts. Our hearts feel all the pain, all the sorrow. But if we keep them wild, they bend, but do not break. For wild hearts can’t be broken, they tell me, and I have to believe it’s true.
Wild spirits, wild minds, the wild dark – we have explored them all. Let’s look into our wild hearts and share poems from that heart-space. Where does your wild heart take you? Follow it, and bring us back your poem.