Finding Beauty in the Broken


Finding beautyI have a ritual upon returning home from my travels. The first morning back, I take the trail behind my house, up the hillside, up another steep single track, until I reach a rocky outcrop that is for me an altar. I pray there, to the trees, sky, bay, mountain. I have planted acorns as wishes and buried loved pets close by. It’s my special place, and now I am trying to open my heart to it. And struggling, a little. I returned form England and couple of weeks ago. The last weekend was spent teaching "Reclaiming the Wild Soul" at Hawkwood College in the Cotswolds. May in Stroud is a jolt of every shade of green. The grass so lush, I watched a frog, small as a thumbnail, navigate it as if it were the Amazon rain forest. Late one evening, Bruce and I hiked in the woodlands in drenching rain under a canopy of beech, larch, hazel and ash. It was like entering a green womb, I felt so held and protected.

Back here, the grasses are prickly dry and crackle like gold coins. Beautiful to look at, but hard to the touch. In places they are turning that strange salmon pink that is usually reserved for later in the year.

It’s dry in California. Parched. And the political season has made us all equally prickly and fractious; the slightest spark, one feels, and it will all go up in flames.

And so, a part of me longs for the gentleness of English meadows. Not this—the tough, spiky, dry terrain with which I’m surrounded, quite literally, on every side.

And yet this is the new reality. The drought isn’t going away anytime soon. California will get dryer, hotter, more tinder-like with climate change. And we, too, will likely lose our cool much more often.

So how to love this changed and broken world? How to love grass that dries out too fast and too soon?  And people that are barbed and prickly? How to open our hearts when everything seems to be hurting, harmed, and less hopeful?

I don’t know the answer. But standing by my altar on a high ridge with Mount Tamalpais in the distance, I am reminded of the words of Terry Tempest William:

May we all learn to find “beauty in a broken world."