Certain Futures

Can we talk for a minute?

I’ve been quiet on this blog for the past few weeks, mostly because I have been out of town, without internet. But there’s also a subterranean reason, one that feels almost too big to talk about, a subject hard to approach. For the first time, in a very, very long time, I am attempting to navigate hopelessness, and it’s companion, despair.

This time however, these feelings do not stem from inner contraction, but rather from my perspective which has been expanding, and facing the raw truth, the facts….looking at our environmental issues square in the eye and coming to the conclusion, as many others have, that we are totally, undeniably, screwed.

I have written frequently on this blog about HOPE. My own personal buoy for many years has been faith in human kind and ingenuity, belief in the inevitability of consciousness change, and the plain rational sense of pursuing a sustainable future. But as each milestone chance to “turn it all around” has been passed, as damage to the earth and climate is carried on as business as usual, and as the voices between the right and the left become more polarized, and as more people become disengaged and distracted, I have acquired a sinking feeling that is now carrying me down to the bottom of our acidic oceans. We as a species may still survive the changes to come…but at such a price that is terrifying to think about and a future that I can’t imagine wanting to inherit.

What a downer and you may not want to hear about this, I know. However, if I am to continue to write honestly on this blog, this is a conversation that needs to begin. Because I have decided how to respond and my response is this: I will meet our global situation head on (and heart on). I commit myself to rising to the challenge of staying present, incorporating some kind of steely and yet soft resolve. I love this earth, and I will bear witness to her changes, wounds, illness. And, if I may say so with a gulp and a lump in my throat, I also am committing myself to joy…to finding a way…somehow…to source joy in the midst of the greatest fear of my life…the irreparable destruction of our natural world.

The point is this…the loss of hope may not be such a bad thing. Recently, as I sat with a heart so broken I didn’t think I could stand it, I noticed what hope does, primarily because in that moment I wasn’t utilizing it. Hope can be a relief, and a panacea, it is true…but it also allows us to totally bypass the here and now. “I don’t have to feel this fear, I don’t have to face these truths, these situations, because MAYBE at SOME POINT everything will be BETTER.”. Without using hope to catapult myself over how awful I feel in the moment, this is what happens…I feel TERRIBLE. The experience feels eternal, the sorrow vast and deep. And then….another moment comes….and maybe the pain is still acute, and maybe it is my daughter bringing me a pretty leaf, or maybe it is time to make dinner.

Truly, as those of you familiar with buddhist dharma know, experience and emotions are like clouds in the sky…they are there, often dark and threatening, and the rain and storms may come. The next moment, they are gone, or changed, and it is a different sky. The work here is to not turn away from the weather, nor to lasso the clouds by trying to think them away…the work, whether it be in grief or anxiety or even happiness, is to be present to it all, the intensity in the moment and the natural passing on to the next.

If this was some earlier era, I would probably be packing my bags and heading for a hermitage in the hills.  Somedays I feel so dire that I just wish for the option to rocket myself away from it all and live on some space station, like Columbus sailing for the New World. But there is no where to run and no where to hide.

Besides, I owe it to my daughter to set an example. She deserves a fully embodied, engaged, spirited Mom. A mom who can put her action where her mouth is, and teach, by example, how ALL of human experience can be embraced.

She also deserves popsicles and Yo Gabba Gabba, circuses, playdates and swim lessons. Life’s gotta be lived. Love’s gotta be given. And received.


14 thoughts on “Certain Futures

  1. oh sister friend, you and i are quiet for the same exact reasons… i’ve had this draft post since i got back from my time at sea a month ago, and it’s still not coming easily. i think you are so right about remaining present to all of this being key. i keep hacking away at the post, and trudging through the processing of what my recent experiences all mean to me and consciously avoiding the apathy/ambivalence/complacency/paralysis of all of the heavy heavy weight of it. i’m just so on the same page. we’ve got to face this, we’ve got to commit to finding joy on the way, and we’ve got to keep going.

    1. mb, it is of the biggest relief to my heart to know that you are going through the same thing. i thought writing this post would take me a long time too, and then it just started coming ( i had intended to write about something else) and i decided to turn off my inner editor and just write. i really look forward to hearing your thoughts on this, and hope that we can inspire each other in the journey of learning how to face it all, and also how to source joy.

  2. I’m so glad you’re writing about this. Thank you for speaking troof and pleas continue to speak it. I love you.

    I can’t remember if i pulled this up on your computer, but here it is again in case (and for anyone else reading this).


    The only thing I disagree with in the article, you state: that hope can be a momentary relief from despair that allows us a step toward action. I wouldn’t call it a panacea, but perhaps a step, if we also recognize that it is ultimately not an answer. I don’t want to throw out hope completely. I want to trash my dependence on it, though.

    I love this from the article: “When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to “hope” at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.”

    1. thanks shaners. it means the world to me that we have been in conversation about this.

      i love that quote too. what comes up for me though, is self doubt about whether i can do the work. i don’t know that “whatever it takes” will be something i can do. xoxoxoxo

  3. Mary, I hear you. When you posted your blog about our ocean’s dire problem — and if we don’t fix that we won’t be able to breathe – and soon…I didn’t respond but I truly meant to. Forgive me for whatever reasons that was. You really knocked hard on my door with this post, tho…so come on in for a cup of tea and heartfelt sympathy, will you?…:)

    I attended a talk by a top NASA scientist(Dr. James Hanssen) on either that very issue or a similar one… and nearly left in tears as he told his audience that the oceans would soon no longer be able to act as our carbon-sink because they’re already reaching near critical levels. And I was thinking, “look at this small audience”. How many more people out there need to hear this message and aren’t???

    And then even those that hear, how will go and push the change as hard as possible? Al Gore pushed the ball hard a few years ago (Environmentalism and the green movement was big in the arly 70’s) but “stuff” happened to dim that crusade. Only this time, we don’t have another 20 years, to turn our heads away. We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and fight hard on a lot of grounds.

    I sent my senator an email protesting building a new nuclear plant (to which he basically says “thanks for your email but nuclear is cheaper and cleaner these days than we think” (this was a couple years before Fukoshima. Nonetheless they’re still going to build the plant. I recycle, compost, try to conserve water, turn off the a/c when possible, don’t fertilize my yard with chemicals, but know it’s not near enough. I wish I already had enough knowledge to show everyone how to make their own solar panels to live off grid at least to some extent. Or how to grow a yard of organic herbs and veggies.

    Solar electricity is kind of guy thing, but it’s not rocket science. I’m willing to learn: it’s basically panels, an “inverter”, batteries to store the energy, some mounting devices, some wires…and uh, yes, money. Guess who makes it such a big output to switch over to solar in the first place? Oh, yes, you can switch, but the initial monetary output is not affordable to many, if you go their route. So the renegades are out there trying to find cheaper but just as good ways. Yay, renegades!

    We should encourage mass transit, bike -share, park and rides, magnetic highways where our cars run on tracks and lessen the chances of us killing someone in a high speed car drive (that is if we even need the size cars we have now)… There are resources & people willing to share free knowledge how to’s out there. Change and answers exist, but we need to find out why they don’t get the massive pushes they need for ALL of us to utilize.

    As to why our measures haven’t been enough, YET: Too many turn a blind eye (be it greed, “what’s the point of fighting city hall”, scratching for daily bread = little time/energy — & never mind the scoffers who try to kill or dampen the good vibes)… So we feel there ain’t enough good folks to turn it around, and start to feel that loss of hope. Don’t lose it, tho, Mary. Fight the good fight!

    Then you start to find the resistance forces – the pockets of hope – the bands of bros and sisters. You find out there’s already a guy who made a car which runs on water (salinated or non). You hear that windfarms are increasing, yearly. The good news: Solutions are out there and coming by the droves The harder news: We gotta wave our protest flags for them more and get the corporate greedmongers to stay away. Same thing with Big Pharma. THAT industry needs a complete overhaul, but that’s another ball of wax.

    Your beloved children are what are making this an even bigger weight pressing on your heart from all sides. That little tyke with her blond hair blowin’ in the breeze, trundling down that path is a picture you look at and wonder about where she will walk in the future. Will those wild and clean places be there for her to explore? You only want good for her and all the world’s children to come. Who in their right mind, would not???!! I want it for my 20 year old baby… (350.org is a site you might want to also look at for people trying to egg that change on — I have some youtube videos that are on the subject and of hopeful nature I can share also).

    I didn’t go to Woodstock — was a little too young at that time, but one good part of the hippie message of love for the planet is one that has never left this heart. There’s gobs of blame to go around on why this happened — but the important thing to do now is change our paradigm and get a move on! (or if I can interject a little smile, here, like James Brown sings, “get up offa that thing –HUUH!”)

    I’m sorry this is so long a post, but then again, I feel as strongly as you, and these topics require a lot of thought, love, and energy. Loved your post and sharing your heart as you do.

    Deep Breaths! Peace. 🙂

    1. oh mary ann, thank you for such a heartfelt response. i need that cup of tea!

      i completely hear you on all counts, and, until very recently, felt similarly around the reasons for hope…the pockets of others doing the work, the solutions that already exist and just need funding, etc. what has changed for me is that i have taken a hard look around (amplified by recent visits to places outside of the SF progressive bubble) and have realized that not only is destruction rapidly increasing, but that apathy is as well. derek jensen, who writes about this very subject, asks us to look at what all civilizations have done before us, when it comes to protecting and saving resources. we haven’t.

      i think eventually we will make a choice towards saving what is left…but i think most will not make that choice until they are forced to, and by then it will be “too late”.

  4. I feel like this often, Mary. The future is dark and scary, and I don’t know what it’s going to look like. But because we have no other choice, we have to weather whatever is to come the best we can, with as much determination as we can. Why? Because we love this Earth. You stick with those you love, right?


  5. Dear Mary,
    Sometimes I wonder, reading your posts if ideas/thought-patterns/epiphanies aren’t just out there in the ephemeral mycelium of spirits ready to catch a soul that’s open to them. So close to my own they sometimes feel. Reading this felt like having my own thoughts of many late nights in the past weeks put to paper by someone else’s beautiful, articulate hand.

    It’s been a crazy year so far, crazy enough to start believing in all the cosmic-shift of consciousness-Mayan-calendar-predictions. In the last six months have been really crucial for crystallizing my own world-view and understanding, and I feel like I’ve come to the SAME EXACT conclusion you have so beautifully articulated here; both in terms of our actual reality and the need to face it squarely, without the artificial edifice of false hope. And yet, as you write, I’ve felt that my willingness to do so, set me free. In stead of utter desperation I’ve gained a new empowerment. Especially in the last few months.

    As a practicing Zen Buddhist I’ve always intellectually understood such concepts as trying to remain in the moment, not deceiving oneself with the constructs of emotions, but I feel that considering the environmental destruction of our earth, the shocking willingness of our species to commit matricide in search of material wealth, has truly made these ideas concrete for me.

    And odd as it, I feel that excepting the inevitable change for the worst, has made me feel happier than I have been in years. For years (I first learned about global warming as a teenager and was actually part of a series of youth workshops that took place in different countries where young people got to have their input on the Kyoto Protocols before the actual summit) the massive scale of changes humanity would need to make, the work and the toil of trying make people understand the seriousness of this issue made me all but paralyzed with fear and anger.

    Anger at people who didn’t listen, anger and politicians who ignored the environmental and humanitarian impact of the endless growth policies. Fear for the changes that might render my own future and the future of those I cared for unbearable. The futility of knowing that I could never do enough. The strange, schizophrenic feeling that most everyone else seemed to live as though this problems didn’t exist, as though we could just go to school and work and run marathons and live our lives and buy our happiness.

    I feel that facing the massive changes that our world and we as a species face, whether they be imminent or a 100 years away, has freed me from the pressure of fearing for the world as we know it. A change is coming. It is inevitable and the best we can do is to prepare for it in our own way, pick our battles and most importantly be as happy and passionate as we can in the moment.

    This to me doesn’t mean just giving up on bio-diversity, fighting climate change, or feeding the developing world, but rather picking one’s battles, deciding what to fight for and to fight for it with all our hearts. It means taking the battle closer to home, caring for your own piece of this earth and your community, working towards sustainability on a small scale with those who are willing to make the changes our wider world cannot and it also means what you’ve just done; opening the communication, starting an honest conversation, enlightening others so that they too can make their peace and join work.

    Gary Snyder once said something to the effect that we don’t try to save the Earth, the environment and by proxy ourselves, because we have the power and ability to do so. We probably don’t, and with our limited understanding, we might not know yet all the ways this earth can take care of herself. His thesis was that we should try to save the world because it’s the right thing to do, because it is elegant to try to do the right thing in the face of unbearable odds. That we should do it for our souls, for our children. So that we could say we did something, did our best.

    I’m sorry for the novel of a comment, and how incohesive it seems (my dyslexia always comes out when I get really emotional), but I’m so so grateful for your post and it’s beauty.

    I would love to have this be an ongoing conversation, I think a lot of people would like to hear it.

    Oh and you’ve seen “The Collapse” right?

    1. dearest milla, please don’t apologize for leaving a lengthy comment…i cannot emphasize enough how much i am given through conversation between two like minds and hearts. how i’ve been feeling would be utterly unbearable if it weren’t for connecting with others who feel the same. like the schizophrenia that is experienced when you can see the reality so clearly and the rest of the world insanely turns a blind eye and keeps watching “the bachelorette”. being able to talk to you and others keeps me from going stark raving mad.

      i have noticed the mycelium/ collective conscious aspect to this issue (and others) too. i have even noticed the theme on public radio programs, in journalism, etc. 2012 mayan hoopdedoo or not…the topic is UP.

      your journey through the process is beautiful to read about. (and how amazing are you to have been in that kyoto protocol youth group? very.). i am a practicing shambhala buddhist (with a hefty dose of animism thrown in there) so i see many parallels with the way zen has guided you. i have yet to be completely transformed, to have made it all the way through the mire, so i am given hope by your now empowered and joyful sense of being…i am still alternating between riding the waves and feeling like i am drowning….i am relearning how to swim in rising waters.

      i feel so much resonance with what you have said, that i just want you to know i am nodding my head, hand on heart, saying “YES. yes…”. Ditto to picking one’s battles…when i went home to shasta country recently, i realized the mountains that watched over me as a child, whose forests paint the landscape for my own personal iconography, are being clear cut. there are so many issues i feel passionately about, but i cannot commit to them all. like the cliche bumper sticker…think globally, act locally. i cannot go home yet, but every morning in my mind’s eye i see the logging trucks coming down the highway. what i am working with is facing my own sense of powerlessness, of helplessness….this comes up whether it is local or global…and i am trying to not give in to panic…to give myself enough space to work through these feelings, and to hopefully, sooner rather than later, come out empowered on the other side.

      trying to save the earth is the right thing we can do. i stand in solidarity beside you, and i hope we can all keep talking…these connections will be our north star in harder time to come. xo

  6. Hallo Mary 🙂

    Thank you for posting this song. I’ve been listening to it over and over again, letting it sink to my heart – quite literary, it gives me a sensation in the chest and the spine. It is some sort of healing, you say?

    Also, you ask about delightful summer synchronicites. Well, one would be stumbling upon your blog. It is in sync with a business I have a growing passion to start. A huge mountain to climb, and perhaps the time is ripe to take the first step.

    You say that you are interested in your readers. Well, if one morning you want to find out what’s up in Poland, here is where you can find me


    Best wishes,


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