As 2017 came to a close, I couldn’t help but feel reflective.
The year was filled with a lot of hard things, of course. Fires have ravaged California, scorching the earth all around where I live. Hurricanes decimated Puerto Rico, flooded Houston, and terrified Florida. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been opened to drilling. The Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock was torn down. President Trump reduced Bears Ears National Monument by 90%.
And yet, all around me I still see hope. My boyfriend now eats very little meat, and checks the Seafood Watch app every time he buys seafood. A couple of my friends are going zero waste this year. My neighbor is building a garden on his roof. I finally have compost up and running.
I saw the fruits (no pun intended) of incredible reforestation projects in Costa Rica. I participated in a beach clean up in California that cleared away over half a million tons of trash from the coast. I spoke with committed activists in Kaua’i working to stop the spraying of poisonous chemicals by the biotech industry. I saw fresh snow fall in my home state of Iowa, after months of seeing nothing but dry earth. I met with members of the Meskwaki Nation, who have miraculously preserved their traditional corn varieties – protecting our future food security by keeping alive thousands of years of evolution.
And on those days when it does feels dark, I go to the places that hold all my imagination—all my hope, all my dreams. Nestled away, these little corners of the wilderness are steps on the ladder out of sadness, out of frustration, out of grief. They are the seeds of hope that keep me (and I think all environmentalists) going when the going gets tough.
There is a wisdom in nature that I can’t find in our modern cities (except for maybe in the eyes of a grandmother)… something I can only go home to in the green spaces still thriving beneath azure skies, in blue rivers that still run clean, in leaves that fill the air with the kind of freshness you have to seek out these days.
I find it in strips of white sand. In forest canopies shimmering bright green after a gentle rain. I find it in soft soil—the kind that smells like new life, like change, like the promise of what is to come.
You can touch it in the tangles of jungle roots and thick vines. See it in rainbows around secret corners—within clear tide pools and on the gentle curve of smooth stones along the sea. In the shine of the full moon, and in young kids.
I think maybe it is love? Certainly, it is the ability to overcome all odds. A relentless insistence on beauty, on the melting back and growing forth of life from the same miraculous source. I love these places—the wild ones—where everything feels as it should.
With all that we know today, we still can’t say with certainty where we came from—what kind of cosmic collision or brilliant spark brought all of us into being on this green planet of the gods.
And yet, we get this chance to witness heaven in the universe. Heaven, which for all our searching and striving among the stars, has perhaps been within us and (certainly around us) all along.
I don’t know what 2018 has in store, but I know that as long as there are places on the planet worth celebrating and protecting, there will be people throwing their all into the job of doing so. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.