Why do we feel embarrassed about crying over damaged and disappearing nature? Here Kimberly K. Silva explores her own relationship with this important question. Kimberly lives in Rhode Island with her musician husband and their dog.
I grew up in a small town in rural Louisiana. Our homelife was fractured by divorce and mental illness. But the pastures and woods loomed out beyond the backyard barbed-wire fence. Cows, horses, crawfish, minnows awaited me as I entered their world, for an afternoon at least, free to roam, to forgo cares.
Three years ago I sat in my backyard, looking at the tall water trees, again right beyond our fence. An eerie stillness. No butterflies or bees, no insects really of any kind. When I lifted a large rock, there were no roly-polys or writhing earth worms, only smooth gray soil, blank as a sheet of typing paper.
I searched for answers. The answers I found validated my fears and raised new ones. Not long ago, I attended a RadJoy zoom gathering. A casual discussion on beauty in wounded places. When it came my turn to speak, tears poised at the high dive of my eyes, ready to fall. I froze. Oh no, I don’t want to cry. But it didn’t matter what I wanted. I was so saddened about the animals, collateral damage caught in the crossfire of the war against Nature. Sobs like claws-and-beaks rattled from my mouth instead.
Afterward, I felt embarrassed over the tears. Why? As a girl, I had cried this way over animals. My family members understood. They sympathized! My embarrassment had more to do with carrying remnants of patriarchal conditioning. A belief system that most if not all of us have soaked up like gravy on soft bread. The patriarchy is about control, order. Objectifying. The feminine is about inclusion, creation, honoring; caring for nature, feeling her as if she wears our skin. For the sacred feminine, Nature is not something remote, something “out there somewhere.” It’s not something to be built upon, bulldozed and chopped down. The patriarchy says crying over the plight of animals is for bleeding hearts, for snowflakes. The world is tough, the voices say, grow up.
My conscious self says all feelings are to be honored. But, apparently, there’s still a smidgen of a worn-out paradigm in a small dark pocket in my throat. It wants to catch the rising tears like a goalkeeper at a hockey game. What’s wrong with me? I thought afterwards. Why can’t I just accept things? But even so, there was a new calm. Nothing had changed. I had cried a few times by myself before over the climate crisis. That helped, too. But this time, the presence and calm of others made it different. The baby of sorrow is birthed, it breathes. It’s rejuvenated. The baby is fresh and soft and good. Breathing, it becomes a bird. A bird that carries our collective hearts in its breast, and soars.