On September 18, the New York Times Daily podcast featured Terry Tempest Williams reading her “Obituary for the Land.” In it she implores all of us to realize that our American dream of “freedom” and getting to do what we want is over. She begs us to take time to smell the ash, the burnt fur of animals and the feathers of birds and mourn their passing, which is our human culpability. She shows us how, through grief, to find love.

A short excerpt is below. To listen to the entire piece or to read a transcript, click the link above.

“We have been living a myth. We have constructed a dream. We have cajoled and seduced ourselves into believing we are the center of all things; with plants and other sentient beings from ants to lizards to coyotes and grizzly bears, remaining subservient to our whims, desires, and needs. This is a lethal lie that will be seen by future generations as a grave, a grave moral sin committed and buried in the name of ignorance and arrogance.

“It is time to grieve and mourn the dead and believe in the power of renewal. If we do not embrace our grief, our sadness will come out sideways in unexpected forms of depression and violence. We must dare to find a proper ceremony to collectively honor the dead from the coronavirus as we approach 200,000 citizens lost. We must honor the lives engulfed in these western fires and the lives we will continue to lose from the climate crisis at hand—Only then can we begin the work of restoration, respecting the generations to come as we clear a path toward cooling a warming planet.

“This will be our joy.

“Let this be a humble tribute, an exaltation, an homage, and an open-hearted eulogy to all we are losing to fire to floods to hurricanes and tornadoes and the invisible virus that has called us all home and brought us to our knees—We are not the only species that lives and loves and breathes on this miraculous planet called Earth—May we remember this—and raise a fist full of ash to all the lives lost that it holds.”

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

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