(Written by guest writer Stacy Oler)
Every speaker at Brave Souls Day in Quesnel, BC touched me in some way. The keynote speaker, however grabbed my attention in particular because she spoke to something I feel passionate about - the environment.
Danielea Castell is an Emissary for Water (which I think is probably the coolest title a person could have) and has traveled the world speaking to the importance of caring for our rivers and waterways. I was most impressed by her message of finding harmony...not just with water and nature, but with each other and with ourselves.
Climate change is such a controversial topic. There are climate change believers and non-believers and each side of the debate thinks the other side is
a.) completely misinformed
b.) hopelessly insane
c.) grossly corrupt or
d.) all of the above.
They are probably both right on some level or another...
I’m not writing this to convince anyone that climate change is real. What I hope to point out is there are specific and undeniable environmental catastrophes which have happened, are happening, and will continue to happen. Like when Mount Polly Mine dam broke and polluted Quesnel Lake so badly that residence couldn’t drink the water and still can’t. Or when the audacious & boundless Blue Pike disappeared from the Ontario Great Lakes in the 80’s. Or when devastating forest fires devoured our Waterton & Fort McMurray woodlands. We know those disasters are real because they affect us, right? That suffering we can see with our own eyes, feel it on our skin, smell it on the wind. We can’t deny that High Level is still burning because, well, it just is. Sometimes people find themselves debating (and especially on social media) why it is burning and who is at fault…
Danielea compared an environmental crisis to a marriage crisis. In a marriage crisis - husband and wife tend to be angry - hurling bitter accusations and defending themselves obstinately, blindly even. And what are they blind to? The true victims in a divorce - their children.
It can be the same in an environmental crisis. We are so busy pointing fingers and arguing semantics that we fail to recognize the ecosystems in the background still suffering despite our stirringly-overstated arguments.
Danielea asks us to shift our focus away from finding blame. The new shift needs to be in finding connection. She urges us to stay with the water. Stay with the land. Stay with the endangered species. Stay connected.
I think of my friend Natalie who hikes through Waterton National Park, with a camera and a keen artistic eye, looking for flowers. She hunts for the rarest ones. She returned to the mountains even after devastating fires -and maybe even because of them.
I think of people like eco-artist Danielea who spends her time, her talents – her life – reminding us that “holy is the ground”, holy is the water, holy is the heart.
One thing Ms. Castell mentioned was that Mother Earth will survive. We, on the other hand may not be so resilient. That hit me hard. What we do to this planet we do to ourselves. We are connected. Every waterway that is polluted; every acre of rain forest stripped; every white wood Aster that doesn’t return in spring; even the dwindling common sparrow affects us. We are part of an ecosystem family and when one of us suffers, we all suffer. We cannot turn our backs on each other. We are in this together.
In a messy divorce, what does it take to stop two bitter parents from fighting as they shift their focus to what matters? Court orders can’t do it. Settlements don’t do it. Lawyers won’t do it. The only thing that heals when crisis hits is to look deep within -to start with the heart. It is the only way.
I’m not quoting Danielea exactly, but she talked about how "our hearts are the foundation for the planet." If we come from love, we will never be lost. As we change our own hearts, we will change minds. Whether you believe the polar ice caps are melting or expanding, this truth remains unchanging.
We may never get some things back. Just like after a divorce – the family is never the same. Rebuilding new relationships is a slow process, but it isn’t impossible. Nothing starts that slow process better than looking into your own heart and making the changes only you can make.
"I am building constantly. Everything is holy and essential to my song. Rejoice in the web. Dance in communion with the land.” Mother Earth
Danielea talks about dancing and rejoicing with this earth the way it is now. We have got to stay with those parts of our world that are suffering – burnt forests, polluted lakes, eroded farmlands, disappearing species. How can we not help but lament the “good old days” when the air was cleaner and the water clearer? We should mourn what was lost and then embrace what remains. It is only when we appreciate what we have - as it is - that any real change can start.
A bumblebee lives at my residence. She has nested in the rocks in my front garden bed just under a lilac tree. She is huge. She is fuzzy. She is perfection. Every time she is out, we stop and pay attention to her. I know there should be more – so far there is only her. Maybe that will change. She must find a male. She might not and it breaks my heart to think she is on the endangered list. Right now, I’m happy knowing she chose our place to make her home – that is reason to celebrate. It’s why we plant flowering trees. It’s why we don’t spray our dandelions. It’s why we purchase plants which aren’t sprayed with herbicides (ever notice at the pop-up garden centers at supermarkets there are no bees anywhere? Shop where the bees shop 😉). It’s why we stick with heritage plants and stay away from hybrid plants (which are bred more for decoration than for nectar production). I do all these things because I celebrate the big fuzzy bumblebee that lives in my garden.
During Brave Souls Day, Danielea Castell inspired me to celebrate every living thing. She reminded me how important it is to stay connected to the land, to each other, and to myself. It’s the only way we are going to get anywhere worth going.