[Note: Papatūānuku = Mother Earth in Maori]
Rest now, e Papatūānuku
Breathe easy and settle
Right here where you are
We’ll not move upon you
We’ll stop, we’ll cease
We’ll slow down and stay home
Draw each other close and be kind
Kinder than we’ve ever been.
I wish we could say we were doing it for you
as much as ourselves
But hei aha
We’re doing it anyway
It’s right. It’s time.
Time to return
Time to remember
Time to listen and forgive
Time to withhold judgment
Time to cry
Time to think
Remove our shoes
Press hands to soil
Sift grains between fingers
Time to plant
Time to wait
Time to notice
To whom we belong
For now it’s just you
And the wind
And the forests and the oceans and the sky full of rain
Finally, it’s raining!
Ka turuturu te wai kamo o Rangi ki runga i a koe
This sacrifice of solitude we have carved out for you
He iti noaiho — a small offering
People always said it wasn’t possible
To ground flights and stay home and stop our habits of consumption
But it was
It always was.
We were just afraid of how much it was going to hurt
- and it IS hurting and it will hurt and continue to hurt
But not as much as you have been hurt.
So be still now
Wrap your hills around our absence
Loosen the concrete belt cinched tight at your waist
And we will do the same.
I’ve received several notes as to the author of this poem: “Hi, this actually wasn’t written by the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, she simply shared it. Credit for the poem and the explanatory quote should be given to Ngāti Hine/Ngāpuhi writer Nadine Anne Hura.”
“Many people have asked who the author is so I wanted to clarify that I wrote this poem on the train home after the announcement of total lockdown was made here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. I felt like I could hear Papatūānuku exhaling in relief as we all began our journeys home. In truth, one month of lockdown is not enough. Even six months would not be enough!”
It’s astonishing to us North Americans that such a wise and sensitive person could be leading a nation. It makes a huge difference whether your leaders are wise or stupid. It’s unfortunate that our country has to learn that lesson yet again. We seem to be waging the civil war again, contesting basically the same issues. Slavery by another name seems a fine way to live for too many Americans. They are not offended by that idea and insist upon voting to maintain it.
The optic on living that uses everything in existence for money and power regardless of the suffering it causes is coming back to haunt us at the moment. We are learning that pain cannot be inflicted on “the other” without it coming back to bite us. We are “the other”, attached in body and soul to every living thing — and everything is in fact living, at some level.
There are those who take this lesson to heart and there are those who don’t. Those who don’t are in power now. We all suffer the consequences, and when I say “we all” I mean the animals, plants and spirits of the Earth. The lesson we are learning is that nothing is dead and everything suffers when we can’t treat it with kindness.
If I have a religion it is just that — kindness. No matter what biblical stories and precepts you believe, if you don’t have kindness you can’t claim to be spiritual or religious. I don’t see how we’re going to save our planet without kindness. Conflict over religion or any other belief system misses the point. Believing the “right thing” is a stupid idea. If a belief doesn’t soften the heart it’s useless. People cling to their beliefs and stories like lifesavers because they are afraid of drowning in life’s unquantifiable sea of questions.
The feeling of knowing the absolute truth gives a sense of importance, of separation from others, but it doesn’t bestow kindness.
Our tradition of unquestioned belief, religious or otherwise, will need to change if we are to create a viable system that promotes life instead of extinguishing it.
That fact that we can put cruel and ignorant people in charge of our government and business shows how far we must grow before we can have an equitable — much less kind — way of life.
I never expected to see Americans flirt so dangerously with fascism as now. We are like babies who just want a parent with a strong hand. That strong hand is turning into an iron fist in front of our eyes. Cruelty has become policy. This is a version of America that alarms and frightens the world now, and as Americans we have a responsibility to speak truth to power or give it up. The image of the world crashing down around our ears is a prominent view now, with reactions ranging across the board from panic to relief.
How it goes is up to us. Can we create a kinder way to live or not? The alternative is unthinkable.
- Anima Fire is my publication