Mourning the Gull
I am swimming in a bay watching two gulls sitting in what looks like a car from a rollercoaster. It's floating in the air. One of the gulls is badly burned; she looks dark pink and nearly featherless. The car touches down into the bay. The burned gull flies off and the other, healthier-looking gull remains. He cries, mourning the loss of his mate. Then he is hovering over me as I lay back in the water. The water is very thick, like foam padding and it is deep gray. I am surprised it can hold me like this -- I don't have to make any effort. I start sobbing, mourning the loss of the burned gull. I weep and weep. The gull comforts me. Then a big wave comes and pushes me away from the gull. I am sad, but I know we must be separated.
This dream demonstrates my feelings about the dying Gulf of Mexico seabirds and the sea turtles being burned alive as BP tries to clean up the oil. It shows that the ocean will still hold us, that there is still the possibility of relationship even though we have so thoroughly let the ocean down. There is hope.
I'm having trouble mourning the Gulf in waking life...the pain is so tremendous that I don't let myself go there very often. This is the case for most of us: the devastation is overwhelming to the point of numbness. But we still need to try, as much as possible, to feel the anger, the sadness, the pain. Because the numbness is what got us here. It is what has keeps us disconnected from Nature.
Terry Tempest Williams recently wrote a moving piece posted at the Great West Institute's blog. In it she makes the connection that this wound gushing from the center of the earth is our own wound: "How many people killed, how many communities destroyed, how many ecosystems ravaged, how many species lost, before we will begin to see this dark open wound gushing from the depths of the sea as our own?"
This is one reason why this crisis is so devastating and painful. This is our blood pouring out. We are wounding ourselves. She goes on to say, "Carl Jung has described the ocean as a symbol for the unconscious. May our unconscious death grip on the planet be brought to the surface and released as we seek individual and collective help for the trauma we are inflicting on ourselves and all life on this beautiful, breathing Earth, from our self-destructive behavior and dangerous dance with oil."
This is "trauma we are inflicting on ourselves and all life." It bears repeating because it is important for us to understand how deeply this affects us all. So what is to be done? Must we all just sit with our grief, not knowing what to do, ignoring it, numbing out?
No. We can do several things. First, we can look at our own individual dependence on oil. By now we all know the solutions: biking or walking to work and nearby errands if possible. Cutting way back on consumption. Eating local. These are all good first steps.
But there is more, and Terry Tempest Williams shares this step in her piece: we must bear witness. I bore witness in my dream this morning, as well as in the pelican dream I shared earlier. This is one way to bear witness. Another is to listen to the stories of the dying animals, the dying livelihoods, the dying ocean. Yet another is to look at images, watch video of the damaged waters. And finally, we can literally get ourselves down to the Gulf and see the crisis first-hand. That is what Williams says she will do.
It is not necessary to go to the Gulf physically. We can go there in our minds, in our hearts. Watch your dreams: you may be traveling there at night. As Williams writes, "We can bear witness each in our own way, each in our own time, each with the gifts that are ours. The adage, 'all disasters are local,' has never been more true."
Find your way of bearing witness. Transmute the pain and grief into an action you feel comfortable taking. This is the most important work we can do right now.