Archive for September, 2012
a guest post from Caroline Fairless:
excerpts from her website and blog at “Restoring the Waters“
I’d like to introduce you to my friend Carol Kortsch, and her own commitment to stay put. This particular effort – the particulars of creating a land held in commons – had to do with the rebuilding of a falling down (ancient) stone wall. During the process of dismantling what had become a fairly hazardous obstacle course, Carol handled each rock, wondering about the hands that had placed it with such care, wondering about the history and geology of the rock itself. She called it her soul work. At the time of this rebuilding, Carol was tired, even exhausted. She was bogged down by the editing of her book, by the physical work required to work her land, and, in particular, by the seeming enormity of the task of rebuilding the wall. Still, she kept on going, engaging in conversation with the rocks of the wall, kept on going until she was utterly confounded by a single rock – where was it to go, how was it to get in place and stay in place? It was clearly quitting time.
Time to sit down, pay attention, and try to learn what there was to learn about her lack of energy, her own fatigue, and her frustration with the project. “what do you have to teach me,” she asked, sitting on the broken down wall, staring at the large rocks in piles at her feet, particularly the one, and suddenly she knew what to do.
That rock was to be the back of a bench, built into the middle of the wall. A place to sit and rest, a place to renew heart and spirit.
I love this story. It speaks to the deep connection and engagement possible when one knows and loves a place. There might have been a time when the notion of being in conversation with a pile of rocks would seem fanciful, bizarre, maybe even alarming. But more and more of us are finding our places. More and more of us are staying put, coming into relationship with the land, water, and air. We can’t love a place until we know it, and it’s from that knowing and love that a new ethic has the chance to emerge.
Scott Russell Sanders, in his book Earth Works, raises the question, “What does it mean to be alive in an era when Earth is being devoured, and in a country which has set the pattern for that devouring?”
Clearly we the humans are the pillagers, and even those of us not taking active part in the removal of mountains, for example, or the drilling in the Arctic or the Gulf, or the bombing of lands far removed from us, or the leaks in the Tar Sands pipelines, or the water contamination from fracking, still benefit from these things. We still use fossil fuels, still pave over animal habitat, still protect our right to drive the cars of our choice.
What are we to do? I think all of us know that we’re called into the work of healing our planet. Some of us are coming to realize that there is no human health and well-being possible without the healing of Earth. Although the United Nations organization, in its Millennium Development goals, does not yet understand that environment justice is not separate and distinct from social justice, poverty, maternal and newborn health, but rather, the ground of all of it, some of us are coming to understand that the first work is that of healing the planet; when we are in right relationship with earth, we will be in right relationship with the denizens of earth, including each other.
Sanders writes, “We are called to the work of healing, both inner and outer: healing of the mind through a change in consciousness, healing of earth through a change in our lives. We can begin that work by learning how to abide in a place.”
We can begin that work by learning how to abide in a place. We can learn to stay put, to know our place, and to fall in love.”
A meditation with Thomas Merton:
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your name.
to the living walls.
Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not think of what you are
still less of what you may one day be.
Rather be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.
O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you
speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.
“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”
from The Strange Islands: Poems by Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton