Or maybe I should say, “It’s never too late to be an optimist”? Or maybe, simply, “Count your blessings”? The week has been full of quotes, aphorisms, figures, facts, predictions, moments of reflection. Observation. Concentration. Tears. Laughter. Confusion grabbing clarity’s hand. I’m writing in the evening light of another long day. Three doors are wide open to the bird song outside, warm, humid air streams into the classroom, waning shadows play on the leaves. I can just barely see the lake water, blue-grey, from where I sit. It’s been driven home to me this week that if we intend to do the work of turning around this great ship we call Earth, we need to rest, breathe, fall silent. Put our ear to the ground and listen.
This week, our class was taught by a group of people from the fields of biomimicry (Julie Sammons and Mark Dorfman), ecological design (Nancy Jack Todd and John Todd), soil science (Dan Kittredge), and biodynamic farming (via the keepers of Hawthorne Valley Farm). None of them are pessimists, even though all of them work in direct contact with the destruction and degradation of land, and its people, be it urban, rural, wild, and everything in between. I’m not much of a pessimist myself. Especially not when it comes to the future of our planet. I can’t be: it’s not worth the energy, all that sadness. And what’s more, I can’t stop myself from being an optimist when the earth, as Emerson said, laughs in flowers. When pessimism, or his dour playfellow, hopelessness, come to visit, I do my best, with varying degrees of success, to stop them at the door. It’s too late, pessimism, old friend, we’re on a path of no return. Every one of us who has ever been shaken out of his or her drowsiness by the shriek of a killdeer, the prick of a thorny rose, or a breath of wind on a hot, still day (and that makes every single one of us, I reckon), has been committed to the planet, if only by being born here, now, alive today. Some of us are the lucky ones—I count myself among them—who cross paths with teachers, wayfinders, experiences, opportunities to learn, and are perhaps endowed, through all this, with a powerful sense of responsibility. There are plenty of reasons I could find to be pessimistic about life. I could make a list, and I might be up all night. But I need a good night’s sleep. It matters more. So tonight, instead of counting sheep, I’ll count my blessings.