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Dreams for Earth Day

Birch against the sky

As usual, I’d like to share a poem this Earth Day. I must admit I don’t actually like this poem that much. No, let me rephrase that. I don’t like the way the second stanza is composed. But in its way it has a conversation my heart wants to have. And in my way of thinking, that’s about the most you can ask of a poem.

The question of what the hell to do with myself in these times is one I have grappled with for years. I left my career in the environmental movement mainly because in my experience conventional activism is largely ineffective, and for me personally, not real great for my sanity.

I shamed myself for leaving that work. But gradually I came to see how giving myself a hard time about not doing this specific type of job was really a tremendous de-valuing of all the other types of contributions that are possible. It was a horrible de-valuing of the diverse and beautiful efforts that people are making every single day.

So I’m not doing that any more. Instead, I am trying to work out my own particular contribution, especially as it pertains to creating a new, life-affirming culture right here in the belly of the beast. That seems to be the most compelling music I can make.

But, yes. I still dream these other dreams too.


A Dream of Trees

There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.

I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?

–– Mary Oliver


  1. Maintaining a connection to the earth, even while working for conservation organizations, is very difficult. I’ve left two, developed my interests in community organizing, writing, and other aspects of myself since then.

    • It is, isn’t it? One of the problems with conventional activism is that it remains embedded in the system it is supposedly trying to change. I’m glad that you have found a way to give your gifts that works for you.

  2. Heart-breaking… I experienced something similar when I was involved with Greyhound Rescue. In the beginning, there were the exposes of the atrocities and the breeders, handlers and tracks were shamed into starting better practices *until* they found a way to manipulate the hearts of rescuers, the horrors were covered up better, and now “rescuers” are part of the problem by enabling the continuation of the system because they will, otherwise, be completely blocked out of any rescue. (((BIGHUG))) to you, Ruth.

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