This morning, waiting in a café on College Avenue for the smog-test on my car to be completed, I looked up to see 7 wild turkeys calmly trotting down the sidewalk, just doing their thing. You’d think the cars and shops and people weren’t even there, as far as the turkeys were concerned. Minus the concrete, this was their turf, after all.
As they strutted I happened to be reading RIVERS OF WIND by Ben Kessler, one of those people who makes me glad to be alive in the world at the same time he is. He lives ‘in a little hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia’ and his little volume of essays was given to me by my friend Brenda Dunne, who published it.
This is one of those books in which every single word counts. I am dazzled. When I reach the final page I plan to start all over again from the beginning. His piece on Chernobyl may require a third reading because I was planning to write about not giving up in despair despite the outcome of the election, and what is occurring now in the Zone of Alienation around Chernobyl is totally relevant to my theme.
I love it when synchronicites like this happen – wild turkeys on a busy street in the morning just when I’m reading about wildlife returning in Russia? I mean, really…? He writes,
“Soil is where the miracle of Chernobyl lives… Wolves roam in packs through overgrown villages and down the vinestruck canyons of Pripyat’s apartment complexes. Their prey – wild boar, roe deer, European moose, red deer – abound in herds unseen for centuries. Lynx have been absent from this landscape for generations. They have returned, emerging from some bolthole in the agricultural countryside to track boar-runs while human eyes are elsewhere.”
Does that not excite you?
He goes on to say, “Biodiversity and steady populations are higher, the soil is deeper and richer, the air, ironically, is clearer…Pripyat began returning to nature as soon as the people left…”
Just when you think the worst possible scenario has happened, you learn that it might be just what was needed.
Talking about the metamorphosis of caterpillars, he asks,
“What advantages does a total anatomical overhaul confer to an individual, family or local ecosystem?...Taking the small as exemplar of the large, why are cyclical, paradoxical processes like metamorphosis a facet of life on earth?”
I am so heartened by this! It says that when we come to an end of one particular phase of existence, when we have no choice but to dissolve the old forms and find a new way of being – caterpillars literally melt in the process of becoming butterflies – we will be shaken to our core one way or another to get pulled out of our rut.
Have you ever walked a labyrinth, especially a 12-circuit Chartres-type labyrinth? The first time I walked one, I thought it would go on forever. The path spirals you back and forth in relatively close circuits around both sides of the center circle, never quite making it there and you get a little dizzy. But then, after lots of walking, just when you wonder if you’ve made a mistake, the path swings you out to the outermost ring, as far from the center as you can get, and shoots you straight back in to the center, and you are home.
Right now, outside my window, cars are honking in the streets in anticipation of the post-inaugural march that will be starting shortly, bearing witness and response. It takes guts to be on the front lines of this change, but we’re apparently ready because millions of people will be gathering to express our solidarity as we continue a process of metamorphosis that I believe has been underway for a long, preparatory time already.
This election of Frump has roundly shaken us out of our comfortable cocoons, forcing our melted states to re-form into muscle and mind. That’s what it’s all about, I would guess. It is playing an old pattern; it has happened before; it is as necessary as air, as soil, as grass.
We’re lucky that the change, for us, has not required anything as dire as a nuclear power plant explosion – only a democratically elected Frump.
Did you know that butterflies have to struggle to emerge from their cocoons, otherwise their wings will not be strong enough to fly? This was discovered when some kindly person made the mistake of trying to help them out.
The pattern is clear, a madman has been inaugurated and we are the people living in the world right now. No accident, I think.
So, when Mary Oliver asks, “what will you do with your one wild and precious life?” I ask myself, what is mine to do?
And the next question is,
What is ours to do?