I was reminded of this poem by David Whyte the other day, speaking with a friend. It was the words “secret water,” that came to mind, though I couldn’t place them at the time.
THE WELL OF GRIEF
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,
turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering,
the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.
We were speaking about our climate emergency and she was saying that, mostly, people didn’t want to know. That made her think we probably wouldn’t make it. It’s a huge thing to say and yet you too have probably heard it from friends. I have old friends, who I mainly talk to by email now, who’s refrain after our lengthy explorations is often “we’re so f**kd.” Another, a sage old fellow with Albert Einstein eyes, doesn’t think our society can pull through either; he hasn’t thought so for a while. Personally I align with Jem Bendell’s view that collapse is inevitable, catastrophe probable, and extinction possible.
It’s hard to get my mind around the scope of this or get it into my body. The enormity seems surreal from my small town apartment that looks out over the pool hall and the street the trucks use to pass through town. I’m not always sure of my motives bringing up the question of our existential situation either. Who am I serving? It feels rude and I like people to think well of me. Yet I’m drawn back to the question like I am to a ragged tooth and I’m sure I’m not the only one. How do we be with what’s happening? It’s a social question as well as an individual one.
If there’s some depth that’s needed in answering the question I’m sure I’m not all the way there. I’m aware of the loss of the natural world. I love birds and the wild and for a long time I’ve been aware personally that that the birds and the wild north will not be, are not there, as they were. Already, here in Canada, much of the wild has been bent to our will. A part of me sees it’s in decline, that the wild things buffeted by winds that change the context from which their strength comes. Yet another part of me knows that whatever we call the force that brought nature into being in the first place will remain, will still be trustworthy and good. Perhaps that’s part of the secret water. The feeling is like witnessing the decline of parents as they lean toward the ground. You may spend a long time concerned for their health and you don’t really cry and don’t feel the intensity until, suddenly it seems, it’s happened and it’s over.
If you’re not too young you may remember the line from the John Lennon song, “Nobody told me there’d be days like this”. Nobody told us about the depths of the climate trouble we’re in. We discover it by ourselves, one by one, digging down through layers of misinformation and denial. And it seems that there’s always more depth, more to let go of.
I like exploring these big questions with others. Almost always something always comes up that’s more than we could have imagined on our own.
To that end I’ll be holding Sunday online video conversations (in May 2019) for those holding these challenging questions, and perhaps wondering how others are too. There’ll be a little poetry to prompt the imagination, some speaking, mostly not by me, and some listening, which is a harder skill.
Warm thanks to the 12 who took the plunge and showed up May 5th! I’ll send out a link and reminder to May 19th call shortly.