The GRIEVING PLANET PROJECT is rooted in my understanding of Hospice Care, Deep Ecology, the power of grief awareness, and communal mourning.
The fires in California continue to rage, now erupting in Washington and Oregon. The planet’s state of “terminal agitation”1 resounds within my body, soul and psyche. Our planet is writhing in furor, screaming in pain, the sensitive balance of ecosystems shattered. What have we done? What have we done? What are we doing?
Fires rage in a frenzy consuming every living being in its path. Humans flee for their lives, animals wander in a delirium of displacement. All grieve in disorientation and collapse. Tears and fear mingle in smoldering ash. San Francisco Bay is smothered in brown-orange haze, a firmament of angst and sorrow. The morning fog can not quiet or calm, it is wrapped in its own sorrow. The inferno rages on. It mirrors what is raging within me. There is no relief in the salinity of the ocean, overwhelmed as it struggles with its own acidity. On the other side of the Continental Divide, in my mountain home at 9,000’, I wipe ash from my window sills and deck. Five fires are raging in Colorado. Devouring flames race across mountain passes as the roar of slurry bombers reverberate through early darkness. They are flying into the night, as the blood orange sun drops behind the mountains. The forest around my home is filled with brown smoke. I breath in gasps as I walk up my driveway. There is no blue sky, no billowing clouds, no green canopy of Fir and Aspen trees only the apocalyptic brown smoke of the planet’s agonized expirations. A death rattle we refuse to hear, we can’t bear to hear, so we leave the room, we deny and deny again and again. We continue living in a posture of apathy and overwhelm. I walk in the forest. My eyes streaming tears, my throat constricted from smoke and rage, an agitation that will not cease. The local moose lay low in the Aspen groves preserving their energy. A female and this year’s calf gaze deeply at me as I stand in the solitude of the forest, ‘my’ forest that echos only silence. The silence of the impending.
My heart breaks into shattering shards. I feel them flying everywhere like flames. I experience cavernous sorrow. It is so gaping that it pierces through my sleep.
I am an artist in wit(h)ness. A wit(h)ness so stark, I fear I may not survive the bottomless descent that seeds the clear focus of response. I fear I may spend the remainder of my days in terminal agitation. The only relief for terminal agitation is the release of death. What death am I being called to in these times? In this place? Where is the grounding of my Buddhist practice? Are my precepts of vast mind snd open heart lost in the smoke of this bardo, the watery state between death and re-birth? Will the shards of my broken heart ever be gathered into a space of understanding and clear, compassionate action or will I roam in the delirium of displacement and agitation forever?
1 A syndrome that may occur near the end of life with manifestations of physical, emotional and/or spiritual restlessness, as well as anxiety, agitation and cognitive decline in the days leading to death Organ failure results in metabolic alterations affecting brain function and decreased oxygen levels. These systemic effects exacerbate terminal agitation. It is often believed that this is the dying person’s existential response to death’s approach, a visceral way the body reacts to THE SHATTERING OF INERTIA.