I live in the land of hurricanes and floods in the lush, green Lowcountry of South Carolina barrier islands. My sister lives on the other side of the country in the land of earthquakes, droughts and wildfires near the majestic hills and dramatic seascapes of California.
In 1989 one of the strongest hurricanes plowed through my little city on the sea, leaving us with an apocalyptic version of Charleston and its surrounding lands. My husband and I were young and naive and casually bunkered down to ride out the category 5 Hurricane Hugo in our small townhouse in North Charleston. We had a tie-dye business at the time, which we operated in the open-air market downtown. We had all our handmade inventory packed in our car, which we unloaded daily to set up in the market. We did not even bother unloading it for Hugo’s arrival. We had no idea what we were in for as Hugo was raging out at sea with its eye on us!
The experience was surreal. The pressure in the apartment was so intense that shampoo bottles were imploding, squirting the creamy gel out of closed tops. A tree fell on the roof and sprung a leak in my art studio, water pouring into a light socket in a big closet where I had my paintings stored. Fortunately we had grabbed a garbage can that was blowing around wildly in our front yard earlier as the storm began to ramp up and we were able to collect the water in the empty can. Since we had foolishly not filled the bathtub up with water, as they suggested on the news, that leak was our blessing in disguise. The water we collected served as our only source of water to flush toilets and bathe with for quite some time. While our neighbor’s car parked right next to ours was crushed by another fallen tree, our car was spared and our inventory was miraculously saved.
While the devastation of property was disturbingly extensive, the demolition of nature was mind blowing and heart breaking. As we surveyed the damage for days to come, we were struck by how fortunate we were to be relatively unscathed, and yet horrified by what this storm had done to this beautiful part of the world we had come to love. I was devastated by the loss of trees more than anything. It looked like a war zone. We were without running water or electricity for at least a month I believe it was, perhaps more. After a couple weeks of primitive living, we packed up and drove to visit family up North.
While in Canada we heard the harrowing news that there was a massive earthquake in the Bay Area of California, which is where my sister Sarah lived! Two natural disasters in the family within weeks of each other on the opposites sides of the country. How ironic. While it was traumatic and the destruction in the Bay was massive, Sarah was safe and so were her people.
Our family was shook.
In the last few years there has been a considerable increase in ‘natural’ disasters and we have braced for hurricanes every season without a break for the past four years. It is hurricane season right now, and so far we have not had a scare for my town yet, but it has been a very active season. We still have about a month or so and I am praying we will get a break. However, as I write, my sister and her world are experiencing wildfires that are raging all along west coast of the U.S. which is profoundly effecting the air quality in the Bay Area where she and her wife live. They cannot go outside to breathe the air. This is happening all in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a disease that impacts the airways and the ability to breathe.
Wildfires have been a problem across the globe, threatening life, land, livelihoods, and most poignantly, the air we breathe. Could it be poetic justice. As humanity has clumsily, thoughtlessly, greedily, and recklessly plundered, pillaged and poisoned the earth, the air and the water, we are really feeling the consequences of our actions. Some still deny our part in tipping the balance of a complex and brilliant ecosystem that has sustained life for eons, yet most of us, dare I say, are waking up to the errors of our ways. One may wonder if Mama Earth might decide to shake us off like little pests before we do too much more damage. The truth is it will not take long for the ecosystem to recalibrate after removing us from the equation. The extinction of humanity would be a boon to the planet and the life forms that are in resonance with the natural flow of this planet. We had a glimpse of this during the global shutdown of the majority of human activity initiated as an attempt to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Pollution dropped extensively, air clearing in areas that smog was so normal that wearing masks was commonplace. Within just days waters cleared. One of my favorite demonstrations of the effects of halting human activity was when over 100,000 flamingos descended on the big city of Mumbai, India during their annual migration!
So there are two main things I want to address in this writing: the resilience of nature and the resilience of humanity. After Hurricane Hugo demolished my beloved city and countryside I lamented as to whether I wanted to move. For what I loved most about Charleston, that feed my Soul deeply, was the land. My heart broke for the broken trees and I had no idea how long it would take to resurrect its innate beauty from the death I saw everywhere in the barren land. Miraculously nature mended itself gradually and steadily. While we lost a lot, there were still many members of the tree family left standing including ancient oaks who have lived through more than we can begin to imagine.
As nature mended itself and the lushness of the Lowcountry returned, the human communities banned together to support each other to rebuild homes and businesses. After tears, grief and gratitude, we rebuilt our world around us. Life is resilient! All of life. And we are a part of Life. We belong here and when we are at our best we love Life and we are generous stewards of it. When we are at our best we create beauty and honor beauty. When we are at our best we give freely and we love fully. When we are our best we add value, beauty and life to this precious world and earth we live in.
As we mature from what seems like a brutal phase of teenage recklessness and our collective frontal lobe finally develops enough to be able to distinguish right from wrong with the wisdom of natural consequences as a guide, our parents will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. The Divine parents of Life know better than to interfere with the powerful learning process that comes from natural consequences. For unlike us human parents who try to control and protect rather than allow for the natural consequences to unfold, Divine Love knows the power of our resilience. It knows there is no loss in the grand scheme of things. Love knows we must learn from our mistakes, and that this is the way we evolve and expand. Our Divine Parents Love unconditionally. This Love transforms, creates and heals.
No matter how surly and unlikeable our teenager gets, somehow some way, even in our conditionally-loving humanness we love them just the same. Fiercely. Could we expect any less from the Infinite Source of Love from which we all came? Could we consider that no matter how bad our behavior has been at times, no mater how unforgivable we may feel our actions, that we are still welcome in this place we call home. Mama Earth, Divine Love, Source, Allah, Yahweh, Vishnu, Mother/Father God love us all the same, in spite of our wayward ways.
The real challenge we face is whether we can love ourselves and each other. This daunting task of changing our behaviors must begin with self love. The truth is that the homicidal tendencies seemingly rampant in human behavior is really a disguise for our suicidal wish. For how else could we continue on doing what we do to the earth making it more and more likely to be uninhabitable for human life if we did not have a subconscious death wish.
In 8th grade I wrote a speech on suicide and the only line I remember is the opening sentence. “Suicide is a call for help.” Is humanity calling out for help? In the midst of this chaos of emotion reflected in the world around us, is it possible for us to forgive ourselves, and truly love ourselves and do the same for others? It is our only hope. If we continue this erroneous path of self-loathing expressed in all forms of violence, abuse, and recklessness, we may inadvertently, and perhaps even innocently commit mass suicide. For when we remember the truth of our interconnectedness, a genocide is suicide. Literally. When we kill another we indeed are killing a part of ourselves, on all levels: biologically, energetically, morally, spiritually.
So if you won’t forgive and love yourself for you, do it for me, for your beloveds and the ones to come. For all of humanity, for the sake of us all, please find it in your heart to love yourself. We do not have time to waste, wallowing in our self-critical nihilism. We have much too much loving and living and healing and creating and growing to do. For when the collective of humanity chooses to live, LIVE we shall! As we develop self love then not only will we demonstrate this love to ourselves but it will be natural to do the same with others and the planet. The outer word will become the reflection of the inner world vibrating with Love. We will allow ourselves to be nourished again by the Mother Earth and receive the natural bounty of her gifts with reverence and gratitude. We have learned from our mistakes and understand so much that we did not understand before.
The lush, green land of South Carolina restored itself after ravaged by Hugo, cities crumbled by earthquakes have been rebuilt, rain falls on once cracked earth, soil regenerates when left untouched, families resurrect after centuries of slavery, a woman finds her voice after decades of abuse. We are fucking resilient! We can do this y’all. We can love each other. We can love ourselves. We can love and honor this beautiful blue planet we live on. We belong here. We belong here. We belong.