About a month ago, I found myself in California. In the territories of the Cahuilla, Luiseno, Cupeno, Kumeyaay and Northern Diegueño people. Their trees are beautiful and fragrant, but I didn’t see or hear any birds. It was an astonishing realization. As the wind blew, I thought I heard them in the absence of sound. I could feel, I think, the energies and presence of the ancient ones, walking in the grass and standing on the hills.
I wonder how we have evolved to this place, as a species, where we are happy with the loss of soil, sounds, souls. That land bears the scars and carries the blood and bones of millions of Indigenous souls whose connection to the lands, the birds, the trees and the water were profound. How have we evolved to this place where we see a building as a sign of progress but ignore the price of that progress, counted as the tree suffering some 200 yards away.
Is it progress? I don’t know. It’s hard to see past the pollution and broken bodies scattered across the freeway right of way. It’s hard to capture the scent of the eucalyptus when the smell of exhaust and asphalt predominate the air.
How is it that we see a highly toxic fuel – toxic in the extraction and processing – as a ‘bridge to a better future’ when in fact, it is a commitment to that which has degraded the quality of our lives for centuries? When it is a continuation of the addiction to a ‘resource’ that inflicts more harm than good, but some still believe it is the right path for humanity to take? To my mind, it is a buying-in to the lies of colonizers and speculators, promising us ‘better lives through chemistry’ all while they tear at the earth that we stand on, poison the water we drink, and cut down the trees that breathe with us and leave us gifts. It is binding ourselves to a toxic substance and creates toxicity in our relationships.
The birdsong this morning has been healing. I am grateful for it. But I am beginning to realize how their voices are growing quieter; I am beginning to realize that their numbers are diminishing. What should be a cacophony of voices is now a few voices, ringing through the morning air as a temple bell…distinct, attention-grabbing, singular. The silence is deafening.
I do not write these things from a place of despair. It is my belief that it is only in acknowledging the full impact of our actions, and the dear price which has been paid by so many, that will we be able to return those voices to our assembly of souls. Are you listening?