Both sides now: the grief and the potential

By Pamela Noel

Special to Plumas News


Earth Day feels like “grief day” to me.  That was my first thought as I opened my eyes and remembered the date—on the morning of April 22.  My most present awareness concerns the “mess” we have made, and continue to make of this planet.  Yes, there are many who are doing their part to sustain our lives, but there is so much, to which, we don’t really commit, as a world culture.

For example, recycling seems to be palaver or idle talk in many places.  Do we really?  How much of what could be recycled ends up buried in our transfer sites or threatening sea life? How much compost is taking up land fill space, when it could be growing our summer vegetables?  Why aren’t there more committed communities like Boise, Idaho, where they recycle their plastic, turning it into fuel?  So many questions….Why not?  Why aren’t we?  What will it take to turn around the cumulative effects of our entitled desires? Why isn’t everyone outraged?


Add to this the ongoing pandemic and all the accompanied sadness, isolation, financial implications, and still-remaining questions around vaccination complications. Together with our growing awareness of social, racial, and political issues that continue to divide us, there is more than enough to confuse and frustrate us.

All this thrusts me into my own interior to consider my values, self-worth, and my ever-shortening time on earth. A certain perspective comes into focus, after many trips around the sun.  Some call it “increasing consciousness” or even wisdom.  Attributed to George Bernard Shaw, the question of why youth is wasted on the young, comes to mind.  I might ask why couldn’t we have some of this wisdom earlier, when we had more energy to manifest it… when we were young?  At this point I don’t always have the energy to put this slowly acquired wisdom to good use.

 So where does all this leave me?  Recognizing that there is a lot about which to grieve…acknowledging the sadness this awareness brings…is a good starting point.  We do need to feel whatever feelings we are having, rather than stuffing them inside some dark inner corner of ourselves.  Just allowing these to be felt, brings a certain relief and “clearing out of internal space”.

Thus, new things can develop and flower.  Maybe a smile and an appreciation for the intense yellow a daffodil brings to my morning can emerge.  Perhaps adding some action to our local sustainability effort feels right. Taking advantage of indigenous practices of keeping our forests healthy by working with fire can be empowering.  Merely petting the stray cat, that seems to be looking for a home, can be rewarding. These things take nothing away from our lives, and add to the fullness of our experience.


On this recent Earth Day, knowing that our sense of entitlement to the earth’s resources has created ongoing mass extinction and destruction is one side of the coin.  The other side contains all the possibilities that these challenges present.  Both sides seem to be true; and holding both of these aspects in our consciousness, can benefit our path forward.

So now that I have felt my Earth Day grief, my answer (for today only), is to walk into the back yard. Here I can plunge my hands into last year’s compost, smell the rich scent, and see our worker worms continue their work.  Engaging in this simple act I can marvel at the miracle of life that continues to smile upon us.