At this time, it feels like the edge of the world has risen up to meet us and we are tipping and tilting on a precipice that is ever-shifting. Multiple crises surround us and the failure of our systems, governments and structures are visible, perhaps more visible than ever before. It is easy to stumble and fall off the edge, to feel overwhelmed by waves of despair and hopelessness. Our smallness and lack of control over our world is revealed and it is not comfortable.
What do we do when that overwhelm comes and the world tilts? Each of us will find different ways of coping and of dealing with those primal flight/fight instincts we all have. My instinct, after dealing with either fight or flee, is to turn to two sources of wisdom and solace; nature and story.
The natural world, particularly the sea and the sky remind me of the mutability of existence, of constant change. An hour spent watching the sea is a lesson in accepting change. No two waves break in the same way. The light shifts moment by moment. As you stand there gazing, you too shift and change, in small but important ways. The same with the sky. Watch a sunrise or a sunset, they are dynamic experiences, full of wonder and change.
This year, gardening has been more important to me than ever before. Tending a small urban garden through the lockdown, watching it grow, caring for it gave structure and order to the day, and a place to lose myself and my fear and anxiety over the chaos ‘out there.’ Putting the garden ‘to bed’ for the winter this year feels like a solemn responsibility and an act of thanks and gratitude for all the garden has given me this year.
Story has been my other place of refuge. I have been writing but also forging a path back to reading and to the stories and tales I love. I have found it hard to read this year and have done so in short bursts. I have made a commitment to myself to read over the winter; to read the books I know I need to read, to rediscover the stories and tales that I need to help me make sense of the world and to step back from the edge and into the mysterious embrace of myth.
This is where nature and story intersect for me. The stories I want and need are stories about the land – and the sea – and our connection to it. I want to root deep into story and deep into the earth, while reaching for the sky and tasting the salt of the sea. This is where I will find balance, strength and courage to navigate the coming tumult and play my part in the world.
I wish everyone solace, strength and solidarity.