Listening to the land

In the future when I talk to Ellie about feeling the onset of climate change, I think I will start with the winds. The winds are so strong and fierce. More than anything I remember from when I was growing up. I feel like the winds are harbingers of more harshness to come.

I am not optimistic about climate change. I feel like we have passed the point of no return. I don’t see people changing their habits. I don’t see any desire to change our habits. I think that Ellie is going to face many struggles.

Last week I read Pastoral Song by James Rebanks. I read it in a couple of days, set it down for a day, and then picked it up to read it again. This time with a pencil and notepad beside me.

So much of what he wrote connected with me. But this passage hit hard, and I want to share it as I look ahead to Earth Day this week.

What will our descendants say of us, years from now? How will we be judged? Will they stand in the dust of a scorched and hostile world, surrounded by the ruins of all that exists today, and think that we, who could have saved the earth, were thoughtless vandals, too selfish or too stupid to turn back?

Will the future know us as the generation that pushed everything too far, on whose watch the world began to fall apart, who had so little courage and wisdom that we turned away from our responsibilities?

Or will our descendants lie in the cool green light of the oak trees we planted and be proud of us, the generation that pulled things back from the abyss, the generation that was brave enough to face up to our own flaws, big enough to overlook our differences and work together, and wise enough to see that life was about more than shop-bought things, a generation that rose above itself to build a better and more just world?

This is our choice.

I’ve been reading a lot recently. Thinking about farming and food and our world. Trying to learn about our land and figure out what is best for it.

A consolation for me when I think about Ellie’s future and climate change is this farm. She will be able to grow her own food if she needs to. The farm will hopefully be a safe place if she needs one. We will protect this small section of the world as best we can.

I often think of the farm as a refuge from the rest of the world, but Pastoral Song reminded me that we are part of the world, especially ecologically. Climate change doesn’t stop at the farm’s border. What happens in the fields across the road affects us, as does what happens in the Arctic, the Amazon and the English fells.

I am learning. I am trying to change. I am trying to do my best on this piece of earth that I am responsible for–and realizing I have a responsibility to the rest of the earth as well. I am trying not to despair.

The winds roared through the farm on Friday. Their sound fills my ears and blocks out everything else. I can’t hear Ellie. I can’t hear my thoughts. All I feel are the winds. They consume me.

Then, on Saturday morning, the air calmed. Ellie and I walked down the driveway to open the gate–the gate that connects us to the rest of the world. We heard a crow call as it flew over and Ellie cawed back. The sun beamed into the pines, beckoning the bloodroot that is rising from the forest floor. We stepped carefully as we discovered worms crawling all along the lane.

Nature was waking and our girl was listening. I’m trying to hear too.

4 thoughts on “Listening to the land

  1. Trying here on our piece of land in the city to do the right thing, grow plants that attract butterflies and grow a small amount of our own food. We compost and have very little garbage. Good for you, Julia. You’re doing it on a larger piece of land. Perhaps it’s my farm life as a child and young girl that stays with me. Farmers were the first conservationists, first recyclers.

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