Ed. note: The following extract, from Elizabeth Glenn-Copeland’s new book: “Daring to Hope at the Cliff’s Edge: Pangea’s Dream Remembered: A Poetic Odyssey”, is published with the permission of Chapel Street Editions, Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada. You can find out more about the book here.
I have long had a passion for communicating with the non-literate, animate world that began in childhood in the comforting embrace of an old Weeping Willow who knew my heart best of anyone. Her wise counsel and abiding love saw me through difficult times I believe my child heart may not have otherwise survived. This pattern of communication with the animate world has continued throughout my lifetime, and so, when offered a writing residency at the Joggins Fossil Institute, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the mighty Bay of Fundy, I jumped at the chance to communicate with the three-hundred-million-year-old rock formation known to the Mi’kmaq as The Grand Nyjagon. Thus began an incredible odyssey that took me down into the dungeon of my own eco-despair, forcing me to practice what Buddhist eco-philosopher, Joanna Macy calls Active Hope.
Our beloved Earth is suffering a massive systems failure, commonly referred to in the abstract as climate change. It is through the blundering of our kind that we find ourselves in these desperate straits, and here specifically I refer to those of us who live in relative comfort free of the threat of war or drought or any of the myriad great sufferings that impact the majority of the people on the planet today. Some have dubbed this epoch the Anthropocene, but perhaps a more apt name might be the Pyrocene, as our addiction to fossil fuels heats the world to the cliffs edge of doom for our kind, and sadly, many other species as well.
We are witnessing a rapid rise in a mental health condition now known as eco-anxiety. Dominant culture would have us believe that these fear-based anxieties are individual problems, and yet, is not the evolutionary purpose of these phytochemicals to notify us that there is danger present? Instead of suppressing these fears with trance-based excursions on social media or mindless shopping, can we heed their call and come together to forge a new way forward?
I believe the portal to this new way lies partly in our DNA. On a cellular level, we all hold memories of living in harmony with the natural world. We can activate these memories in many ways: through our imaginations; through time spent quietly in wild places; through the study of ancient, land-based wisdom; through wholehearted, community-driven, research-based exploration rooted in respect for the living world.
Evolutionary systems scientist, David Loye tells us that in the “The Descent of Man”, Charles Darwin mentioned the word Love no less than ninety-five times (along with other feeling words like Altruism and Sympathy). For one hundred and sixty years mainstream science chose to ignore Darwin’s moral theorizing in favour of a dangerously deadening paradigm that casts the Earth in the role of ‘stage’ on which we, the master species, can enact our dramas. But today we have an opportunity to change that paradigm, to choose to act from Love. And here I am not referring to a gushy stay-positive-while-avoiding-
This is a once in an epoch opportunity, my friends.
Will we wake up in time to salvage a future for the next seven generations?
What part will you play in the unfolding story of this, humanity’s next great adventure?
“Daring to Hope at the Cliff’s Edge”
Prologue: Dragonfly’s Tale
Once upon a time, when Earth was about to be born,
after she had slowly gestated in the fertile velvet of the
Great Dreamers belly,
she careened out in a joyful arc
into the dark,
the silent dark,
the silent, starlit dark.
Around her were her brothers and sisters,
Jupiter, Mars and Uranus,
Venus, Mercury and Saturn with her elegant, icy rings.
In the center of them all was her Father, the Sun,
and Earth, overcome with gratitude for the beauty of her Life,
began to cry.
She cried and cried and as she cried
the Great Waters were created.
Magma too wanted in on the experiment,
so he bubbled upwards
and in the cooling waters land was created.
and Earth knew that like her Mother, the Great Dreamer,
she too was gestating Life
in the dark,
the fertile dark,
the fertile velvet dark of her belly.
She birthed this Life into salty waters, and over eons it grew:
one cell to many to algae and plants, to flesh and blood and bone.
Propelled by the folding, warping, and fracturing of Earth’s crust,
many continents became one and thus was born Pangea.
Here Earth dreamed a new dream
and life began to flourish on land as it had in the seas.
This was the time when my ancestors,
named by you as Megasecoptera, first appeared.
Wild winged and big as bobcats, in marshy stretches of equatorial rainforest we flourished.
We were Pangaea’s dream.
Whose dream are you?
About the author: Elizabeth Glenn-Copeland is a writer, theater artist and artist facilitator whose work over the past five decades has evolved at the intersection of the arts and activism. Her book, “JAZZ: Nature’s Improvisation” was shortlisted for the 2015 ReLit Award and for her work in community, she won the 2018 Environmental Leadership Award. To find out more about Elizabeth and her work, please visit: https://www.elizabethcopeland.