Somebody gave me a deck of Earth Magic oracle cards, and I only kept them because I liked the art a lot. It was created by an assortment of artists, expressing a healthy variety of cultures and styles. Later I saw that Hay House was offering a free class in card reading, so I started watching that, and playing with the cards a bit more.
Thursday I did a lot of running around doing errands and things, and I got really down about how difficult they were. There were some things that went well, or without difficulty, but others just couldn’t happen, and they seemed to throw the whole day off. Later I was at home looking at Facebook and saw a picture of an emaciated polar bear struggling to stand. I’d seen the photo before, but this day it felt like a punch to the gut. I didn’t let it go.
I respectfully request that if you’re going to put distressing pictures in my feed, you give me (at least) one solid action I can take to change the situation.
Otherwise, you’re just asking me to suffer to no end, I replied.
Did I tell you I was lobbing this complaint at one of my favorite astrologers, Rob Brezsny? I’ve been reading his astrology reports since the 90s, and he has 116,000 followers. I may have slightly annoyed him, and he actually posted several replies. One of his replies included a quote from Julia Butterfly Hill: So often activism is based on what we are against, what we don’t like, what we don’t want. And yet we manifest what we focus on. And so we are manifesting yet ever more of what we don’t want, what we don’t like, what we want to change.
“So for me, activism is about a spiritual practice as a way of life. And I realized I didn’t climb the tree because I was angry at the corporations and the government; I climbed the tree because when I fell in love with the redwoods, I fell in love with the world. So it is my feeling of ‘connection’ that drives me, instead of my anger and feelings of being disconnected.
Wonderful idea, but, I thought, my hikes on the prairie and nature poetry are apparently doing fuckall for the polar bears.
Later he came back with this: How can we influence people to stop their extermination of nature? How can we motivate people to stop committing genocide against animal species?
Express smart love for the interconnected web of life.
Celebrate the fact that there are other forms of consciousness and intelligence besides just the human kind.
Embody the hypothesis that spending time in wild places enhances one’s mental hygiene and physical health.
Value the feminine as much as the masculine.
Cultivate the art of empathy, and demonstrate how to make it work in everything you do.
Show what it means to think with your heart and feel with your head.
Stay in close touch with the Mysterium, the other real world that is the root of the material world.
Vow to bring the I-Thou dynamic to bear on all your relationships.
Be as curious about intimacy as you are about power.
I’d been working on my attitude in the meantime, trying to remember how I deal with these kinds of things. It was something about supporting wholeness among the people and community around me, and having faith that the Divine is in control of the rest . . . and I heard a similar message in Brezsny’s advice. But still, if that makes a difference, why are bears still dying?
Finally it occurred to me to pull a card from the Earth Magic deck. What to do, how to live in this world. The card that came up was Wolf, keyword Instinct. When I looked at the card, I immediately thought of a story I’d seen in the news a couple days ago, about red wolves.
Some scientists were studying the DNA of coyotes in the southeast, and they found, to their astonishment, that the coyotes were carrying red wolf DNA, some forty years after the species had been declared extinct in the wild. We thought they were gone, but they were still here, in an unexpected way, transformed into a different kind of animal.
The second story I thought of when I saw the card was about how wolves had been reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park. They were exterminated in the 1930s and brought back some sixty years later. With their presence, the elk began behaving differently, not hanging around the water and meadows all the time, but moving around more, going into the forest for cover. Then the trees by the water grew back, which attracted beavers, which created habitat for fish. The trees also provided habitat for birds. The wolves reined in the coyote population, which made more space for rabbits, rodents, and foxes. Twenty years after wolves returned to Yellowstone, the park had greater diversity of plants, animals, and insects than it had seen in decades.
What I saw in the card, for me this day, was that the wolves didn’t do anything special to bring about this change. They didn’t see a problem and set out to fix it. They didn’t fly up to the North Pole with a thousand pounds of meat to feed the bears. They didn’t organize all the other species and try to get them to change. They didn’t write letters or protest or install solar panels. They didn’t fret over the fact that they left Oregon two years too early to sit in that tree with Julia Butterfly Hill. All they did was be wolves, following their instincts, behaving in the ways that wolves do. Their presence changed everything.
So this is my task, then: to be what I am, to be as honest and present as I am able. To follow my instincts in doing the work that is here for me to do now. To participate in my community. To hold faith that this is enough, that my presence is changing the world in ways that I will probably never know.