In the winter, even as the natural world looks so lifeless, there is also the reality that creative things are going on which we cannot see. Sap is rising in the trees which look dead, and bulbs and seeds are swelling under the ground which looks barren. We, too, are invited to seek, in the words of Matthew Fox, "the fertile moments in our lives when we find creative expression, and put words to our joy and suffering of our existence. Freeing creativity helps us to move beyond our sorrow or stagnation." In this moment, the climate crisis certainly looks bleak — the damage which has been done is “baked in” to the future — this is true. And yet, there is an extraordinary amount of creativity, and life force, alive and working to save what can be saved, and to mitigate the effects of rising temperatures, sea level rise, massive migrations, and other profound effects of the climate crisis.
Considering the element of earth, we are reminded this element is both something which contributes to climate change — because of the way it has been treated, in extractive and exploitative ways — and yet also holds great potential to be a factor in addressing climate change, when understood and treated with respect.
Together, we hold the space for both mourning and discovery, sorrow and inspiration.
The shattered water made a misty din.
Great waves looked over others coming in,
And thought of doing something to the shore
That water never did to land before.
— Robert Frost, Once by the Pacific
Spring in the northern hemisphere is filled with holidays that draw us into the forces of transformation: the resurrection of Easter, the liberation of Passover, and Beltane, the ancient springtime festival of optimism and fertility. In Matthew Fox's words, "these are the prophetic moments in our lives when we are called to use our talents and gifts with the hurting, fractured, dysfunctional aspects of our society." What better element to guide us through the themes of transformation than water, itself a shape-shifter? Water, in all its varied forms, stirs our imaginations even as it gives — and takes away — life. Water is intimately connected to our climate-changed world — as storm and drought, as acidification of the ocean and rain, as sea level rise and rising saline levels of fresh water sources. And, water moves turbines, grows food hydroponically, cools desert-like air, and bears life into the future.
Together, we lament, and celebrate, the transformative power of water, holding space for mourning and discovery, sorrow and inspiration.
“In a healthy environment, our first spiritual moments are moments of awe and wonder, and delight. The mystics call this the Via Positiva. When we allow these gifts to penetrate our souls the organic response includes: gratitude, reverence, and joy.”
— Matthew Fox
As days lengthen and temperatures warm, many of us are drawn outside to first-hand experiences of awe and wonder, and delight — the characteristics of creation spirituality's via positiva. Our creatureliness awakens and is enlivened by the blooming, burgeoning, bountiful world. Yet the more we are aware and alive, the more keenly we feel the threats to our fellow beings — the extinction of species, their loss of habitat, and the despoiling of dwelling places by powerful forces which threaten the extraordinarily diverse and resplendent world which we share with all that lives and breathes along with us. We welcome you to join us as we celebrate and mourn, awaken and grieve, love and despair. Coming to be together, to share these feelings, thoughts, and sadnesses is the key to moving towards life.
In the Fall, as the natural world becomes more still, and stark, we, too are invited to let go — to, in the words of Matthew Fox, "embrace the lonely, quiet moments in our lives when we are asked to sink into nothingness, to let pain be pain, and accept the mysteries of life." When the trees lose their leaves, spaces open up — and we can see things differently. We see the world starkly, as it really can be, absent the robust greenery that hides the structures of the trees’ branches and trunks — and, in the cities, can also hide the angularity of the built environment.
In the same way, when we are stripped of our illusions — the false sense that the climate isn’t really changing, it was just a particularly hot, or wet, fiery, or dry summer this year — we can see things differently. We need to have our illusions peeled away, to face the hard truths of our times. It is better to live in the truth. But we need to have real, loving company in order to do that...otherwise, in our isolation, we are far more subject to despair.
“The holidays…invite us not so much to dispel the darkness with light, but to enter the darkness with whatever light our consciousness brings. It is there in the darkness, as frightening as that might be, where we truly meet our spiritual selves. It is within the darkness, the unknown, that our creativity and our hope and our promise take root and have their home.”
— Charles Blustein Ortman
Festivals are times of miracles. Both the Christian story of the birth of Jesus and the Hanukkah story of the oil for the lamp point to unanticipated, and unplanned, miracles. And so many of the festivals involve candles or lights of some kind. How might we, even in our lament, make room for the inbreaking of the miraculous? What is illuminated differently by the candles of the advent wreath, or menorahs, or by solstice bonfires?