The Clearest Way

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.-J. Muir


This Veterans Day, Fern and I met up with some friends at Muir Woods for the Free Entrance Day at the National Parks.



We braved the crowds, who were almost as numerous as the trees. The trees, which compose part of the 3% of coastal old growth redwoods left. Three percent.

I’ve been in a bad way lately. I’ll be transparent…my eco-anxiety has been through the roof. Fukushima, chinese industrialization, oil spills, fracking, all wrapped up in an 80 degree November day. I wake up at 4am and am terrified for my daughter’s future, sorrowful for the suffering of all beings, human and non-human.

(You know those highlighted words are links, right? I try my best to vet articles, so these are researched or reviewed pieces. However, if you are triggered by disturbing news, don’t click. I offer them to the less-informed and curious reader.)




If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll remember the process of navigating earth grief that surfaced for after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico catastrophe. That experience of grief truly began in childhood and it continues today. I’ve become quite adept at handling the tsunami of emotions that used to knock me off my feet. I keep my seat, as they say.

The craptastic part of being an ecotherapist, is that just as I find a point of equilibrium, I am challenged to find it again when the bad news gets worse. And what is really eating away at me lately, is a loss of hope and enough scientific understanding to know that however bad things like Climate Change seem now, in a couple of decades, our present environmental mess will seem like a cake-walk. These are the good old days.

Eating sorrel.


Sometimes the extreme bad news is balanced out by extreme hopeful news. It’s like that old Bugs Bunny cartoon, where Bugs and Sam are in dentist chairs, each one pumping the handle on the side to raise their chair up, in a race to the ceiling. On the brink. Neck and neck. Teetering. These are the words that play in the background of my mind as I go about my day.

But there is no ground, no point of refuge, no guarantee. How delightfully Buddhist. If I was more dedicated, perhaps I would consider free-falling good news.

I’m attached, I’ll admit it. I cherish being a human animal on planet Earth. I want to thwart unnecessary suffering for my daughter. For all sentient beings. Human and non-human. So I don’t quite know, in our current environmental crisis, how to source equanimity. Aside from returning to the very immediate present moment. The breath. My daughter’s eyes. My partner’s laugh. Good food. Birdsong. A privileged life.

Spot the urRu.

Winter Wren.

Buckeye before the fall.

Before we headed into the woods, I planted a prayer in my heart. An ongoing intention, an open invitation for deeper, intuitive understanding. Please help me find the way…as a mother, as an Ecopsychologist, as a Scorpio with, as Steven Forrest would say, a defective repressing mechanism.

I believe there’s an answer, even if it’s how to find balance without answers. I believe there is a course of action, and the first point of focus is on managing anxiety, not getting thrown by the horrendous news du jour. Managing my mind, my thoughts, nourishing my heart, my body.




I touch my bones and know that we are born to die. I vow to live my life with gratitude. I commit myself to visioning the best possible world for us all. I put my feet in the pile, the one on the brakes, joining in the (perhaps futile) attempt to avoid a collision course with an unviable planetary future.

I touch my heart and know tenderness. I touch my family and know love. I touch the ground, and know life.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.–J. Muir


6 thoughts on “The Clearest Way

  1. I still have hope Mary. Even if the as*holes that make all of the decisions that govern our planet don’t make real long lasting changes, until it IS too late. I have hope that one day there will be universal understanding that change has to happen. Am I being naive?? I get caught up in wanting everyone to know how essential it is that we make changes to our consumption (you’ve seen all of my facebook links and rants) and even though I know that I’m coming across like a fervent crazy person….I hope that at least one person is going to file a considerate thought away that might change some sh*tty idea of purchasing throwaway McDonalds toys or something. (btw I’m sorry I used some plastic to wrap up the last parcel I sent, I had to water proof them somehow – NZ post won’t cover water damage if the parcel isn’t protected, and I wanted to get more than one use out of the bags…i have felt TERRIBLY guilty about foisting them on you to use). Love you Mary, I’ll keep you in my thoughts today. xo

  2. You are such a good writer. This is exactly how I feel, have feel for so long, feel acutely right now and have not been able to put into words. In fact, still can’t, because I have to keep moving, hanging onto right now right now.

    I want to speak to the goodness of attachment, how it represents love, I want to (always) speak of Gary Snyder, I want to discuss the parallel paradigms I sometimes feel we all exist and how sometimes I want to visit a one where I know nothing of any of this, or care not for it. But I can’t. I just can’t.

    Thank you for writing this. I’m happy to have you be a voice in the world. Your words give me hope.

    Love to you and yours always.

  3. I have been disturbed/haunted by these preoccupations as well, for quite a while and particularly after the news from Fukushima – in 2011 and recently. I feel responsible for what humans are doing to the rest of the world, every day at a huge level and through accidents, most of the time for the sake of “profit”. Directly or indirectly. But who profits from a global crime?

    And I am afraid, too, that in a few decades we’ll have to look back at the present time as “the good old days”.

    I was not aware that ecotherapists existed, but you must be a wonderful one – and yes, it makes dealing with such happenings even more worrying.

    If some of the decision makers became fully aware of their own urgent responsibility in these matters, they would publicly and firmly start acting in favour of clean energy and ecoresponsible practices – now. And they would be rewarded by a much greater support, from all parts of society, than they would expect.

    Everybody’s anxiety regarding our future is mostly repressed so they can concentrate on making a living, but this could be redirected into a very positive power for action, if the hope of finding solutions became real and accessible, turning the tides at last.

    So this is where my own hope resides – empowering communities through real initiatives everywhere, until one by one, the big guys join in. We have to show them the way so that they can believe in their own big power as something vital for humanity. And act accordingly.

    By looking at Fern as a rainbow child today, I can’t help having the feeling that she might be one of the initiative makers at some point :o)

  4. how do we do this?
    how do we feel this earth soul pain?
    we hide it.
    and fuck up all other outlets.
    surely we’ll be crushed if we feel it.
    can we just sit, together, in silence, feeling?
    feel it all, and be okay?

  5. I LOVE those books! They are so groovy!! I have almost a whole set (and a few doubles of certain #s if you need any). My swap partner (Frances) is so amazing and sent me the best package full of southwestern magic vibes. I just sent hers off and hope she loves it, I was sick too. Darn it. Elderberry is my drink of choice but I wanna try your sinus brew now! xo m

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