Whatever the weather: Choosing joy over dismay
“Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily, and I must return the gift.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants”
There are so many reasons to despair. Climate change is rearing its head with every passing season, some worse than others. Last fall, fires burned later into the season than I have ever seen. This winter left our mountains short of snow. Spring came and went too fast, without the rains and cool mornings. This summer came in like a lion, with hot, dry days and fear for our rivers.
I have been feeling the despair. I look at the forecast for signs of rain. I watch the river gauge with a knot in my throat. I watched my grass die off sooner than last year, which was sooner than the year before. I worry for the old trees that circle my house bringing shade and a reprieve from the southern exposure.
But I have also had so many moments of joy. The sweet smell of the hay meadows across the road wafts into my windows every evening. My feeders are full of hummingbirds that I have come to recognize. And these all happen without leaving the yard.
I listened to the audio version of “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, this past week. In all honesty (since that’s what this column is about), I wept many times. I felt myself feeling despair and pain. I was worried about my carbon footprint, worried about the plastic I use. I found myself falling into stress and anxiety in my free moments.
What Wall Kimmerer helped me see is that despair isn’t the solution. There are so many things that bring me joy, whether sharing my favorite outdoor spaces with friends and family or seeking solace along a creek. This planet nourishes my soul. I crave being outside. I crave being connected.
The best way to connect with nature is to give back. I am already a micro-trash (and macro) hunter, but how can I push myself further? How can I be a better steward for this wounded earth? I plan to sit down and really look at the best way to make a difference with the skills and time I have.
I know sadness and despair will creep back in, but I have the tools to focus on what brings me joy and, in turn, do my part. Joy fuels us. Sadness can only carry me so far. I need the joy of picking up trash with my friends to keep me going. I need my gratitude list of every wildflower to carry me forward.
It is easy to focus on the pain and grief of climate change when it’s knocking at the door to our favorite trails and stretches of river, but don’t forget about the good that is out there. Healing Mother Nature is possible, and it starts with us. And it starts with joy.
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Flows in the Yampa River dropped to near 40 cubic feet per second on Sunday afternoon — just a quarter of the amount of water flowing the same day last year.