Reflections on the seasons of our lives in a context of climate change …
I have been observing carefully, over the last few weeks, the branches and twigs on the trees and bushes along the side walk, on the way between our apartment and the metro station, here in Copenhagen.
A few weeks ago, a couple of sunny days invited a few buds to turn bright green, tiny promises of leaves, ready to burst with life. But the cold returned and they halted their expansion; they just stayed there, in expectancy. Yesterday, encouraged by rays of sunlight, some buds dared the discreet yet vibrant opening, a miraculous explosion of colour amongst grey twigs. Timid blossoms accompanied their expansion.
After a long Scandinavian winter and its dark days, the magic of spring is all the more palpable. Like a miracle, really. It’s an all the more powerful reminder that life lives on no matter what, constantly reinventing itself.
Throughout the seasons, I watch the trees and vegetation in the gardens around us. Trees shed their leaves in the fall, withdraw their energy in their core as the cold takes hold, and burst with life again in the spring until full summerly maturity. The passing of the seasons echoes the shedding and sprouting that rhythms all of our lives, in big and small ways.
Are we not always having to let go of something, so as to make space for something new? This process is often painful for us, especially when we resist it. Is it painful, I wonder, for the trees and bushes too, when their leaves fall? Do they fear the winter? Do they get frustrated at the length of the winter nights or angry at the cold? Are they anxious for the sun to return? Is it difficult for them to be patient, as these timid buds are, for the right moment to expand into full liveliness? They seem so poised, so peaceful through it all. Maybe they just let themselves be traversed by the flow of life, caressed by the rhythm of the seasons? Is there something we can learn from them?
I watch the trees and vegetation all the more attentively now, with the acute awareness of climate change’s impact on nature’s patterns. I wonder – how are they adapting or how will they adapt? Some trees were severely challenged by the drought last summer; will their branches bloom this year? Are they afraid, confused, angry, sad? Or do they just put all their energy into making the best of it or simply staying alive?
I remember the words of Terrylynn Brant, a seed keeper from the Six Nations of Grand River, in Ontario, Canada, during the International Symposium on Food Security and Nutrition in the Age of Climate Change organized by Québec, in September 2017. She told us that according to her people’s understanding of nature, the changing climate and rising temperatures are a sign that the earth is purging itself, like a body heating up with fever as it fights infection. “What are we to do to help her?” I asked. “We are to be present, to listen to her, and accompany her,” Terrylynn responded.
And so I listen to her. I hear and feel her grief, at the ongoing mass extinction of insects, birds, plants and other animals. I hear her contract and shiver when her soils are polluted or her crust fractured. I feel her suffocate when her waters are spoiled with plastic. I feel her tears when she witnesses human lives lost or families torn apart in environment-related disasters and shocks.
But above all, what stands out are her words of comfort and love. I feel her strength, her endurance. And I hear her whisper and feel her joy, as the youthful buds and blossoms sing out to us “life will prevail, always!“.