“It’s not really a cheerful topic,” my friend ventured as she zeroed in on my book title.
“No,” I thought to myself. “It’s not intended to be.”
In fact, I wrote Earth and Soul: Reconnecting amid Climate Chaos because I am deeply concerned about devastating losses that we seem intent on ignoring. I liken it to walking along the edge of a steep cliff. Waves are crashing on the rocks below and part of the cliffside has been eaten away and crumbled into the sea. Choosing to ignore our precarious position, we sing loudly and turn our eyes from the dark storm clouds moving our way.
Perhaps 2023 will be remembered as the year when climate scientists pulled out a host of superlatives to describe the hottest period in recorded human history. Climatologists around the globe wrote of blistering surface temperatures, torrid ocean conditions, nightmare hurricanes, unprecedented ice melts, unprecedented water in the atmosphere, overall anomalies, historic heat, and widespread destruction. Those terms were taken from just three articles in the Washington Post over one month’s time.
As I walk among the trees adorned in golden morning shadows, much of the ground is still hidden from sight. The sky has caught the first threads of sun and is transforming the darkness into an array of pinks and reds that I do not know how to name. The air is crisp and jacket-worthy, but not so cold as to prevent lingering. I feel drawn to stay in this world, removed from harsh and troubling headlines of the morning news.
Yet again, I am moving too quickly. My mind occupied by the list of things that need to be accomplished today, I am walking briskly and almost miss the tiny wildflowers along the path.
Now I pause to explore their delicate white petals, and I’m taken in by the amazing array of new spring greens the trees are wearing. A spirited chorus of call and response is offered by Carolina wrens, cardinals, and robins. In the distance, pileated woodpeckers drum their search for insects. I’ve come so close to missing this display of beauty, once again failing to connect with the world around me. Following my own default drumbeat of getting stuff done, I am out of sync with the rhythm of the natural world.
We walk slowly along the trail, our heads bent, eyes focused on the ground beside us. My husband and I have returned to Yankauer Nature Preserve in West Virginia to search for spring ephemerals, those exquisitely tiny and fleeting blossoms that signify spring’s awakening. We call out to each other as we spot the first Star Chickweed: 10 petals in perfect symmetry around a soft lemon center. No, not 10; 5 petals, deeply clefted to deceive the quick eye. We linger, draw closer. The slender stamens and anthers tipped with tiny dark dots stand as an occasional freckle against the white petals.