I am grieving for the loss of life in Buffalo, New York. I’m grieving for all who have ever been mistreated, ignored, abused, minimized, incarcerated, or killed because of their race or identity, and am grieving that these atrocities keep happening.
I knew waking up this morning that I needed somewhere to go with my grief. Thankfully, I sometimes attend Monday Morning Grounding, a virtual community that meets once a week to sing and pray. Charlotte led us in a reading of May Sarton’s poem Of Mulloscs, sharing that it is sometimes in nature that we can find solace. Just as a closed mollusk “opens a fraction/to the ocean’s food,” the poet encourages us to open ourselves to love:
You who have held yourselves closed hard
Against warm sun and wind, shelled up in fears
And hostile to a touch or tender word—
The ocean rises, salt as unshed tears.
Now you are floated on this gentle flood
That cannot force or be forced, welcome food
Salt as your tears, the rich ocean’s blood,
Eat, rest, be nourished on the tide of love.
I love that the tide of love in this poem cannot force or be forced, and that its rising is connected to our salty tears. There is no positive spin on what happened. There’s nothing consoling I can say, except remind myself that I will not give up on love, that I will let love keep nourishing me.
I remember hearing an interview with Bill McKibben, the climate activist. He was talking about 350.org, his global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. The interviewer was asking him about hope, and Bill didn’t give a chipper, optimistic answer. But he did say how much joy he gets from working with people all around the world on something they care about. And that he can’t not work for a better world—doing so is his calling.
I think of Winona LaDuke, internationally acclaimed environmental activist, and a member of the Mississippi Band of the Ashininaabeg. She said,
“Spirituality is the foundation of all my political work…What we need to do is find the well-spring that keeps us going, that gives us strength and patience to keep up this struggle for a long time.”
And then she says something really beautiful— “There is a kind of industrial mythology that indigenous peoples want to ‘go back.’ It is not about going back—it is about being on your path—staying on the path that the Creator gave you instead of going over here or going over there. It is not a going-back path. It is the path of following your instructions…Because we are human, we often stray. We hope that we can correct our mistakes through prayer or through our community.”
We are making such a mess of things as a species. My instructions tell me to stay on the path of love, to keep being in community, to keep being nourished on the tide of love.
P.S. I made up a little song based on the last line of the poem, and I sang it in front of Whatcom Falls this morning. You can listen to my 30-second voice memo here.