“It’s the coldest winter on record,” some say; “there has been snow where we have no data for snow before, and” –
“No! It is the hottest winter on record,” say others, “look at our pale skin burning in the freakishly warm sunshine” –
“It’s a catastrophe! The world is going to end!” they all agree, “but we don’t want it to! What shall we do?”
“Demand that the government do something!” a voice cries, and all take up the cry, and the march begins…
I stand on the edge of the flow, watching as people push past me, their eyes full of a feverish light.
They do not look at me. They do not look at each other. They clamber over rocks and push through trees, some so eager to get where they are going that they break the rocks, destroy the undergrowth, pull down branches from the trees. In the dry dust of their wake is a slowly falling, brightly-coloured trail of plastic wrappers.
I want to say something; to try to divert the flow, perhaps, but the people are moving more and more swiftly, and they do not look at me.
“They do not look at me, either,” says a voice, and I turn.
She is standing before me, a tall, beautiful woman, full-breasted, full-bellied, her long hair flowing around her shoulders and down her back, rustling with a sound like the wind in fresh leaves in spring.
“Who are you?” I ask, but she simply looks at me, her green eyes flashing, and I feel with a jolt that her heartbeat is the same as mine; yet also that hers is deeper, slower; that her time is one which is unimaginably different to my own.
“I have many names,” she says; “Pachamama, Gaia, Bhumi…”
As she says each name, her form changes, so that flashing before my eyes I see a woman whose body is the mountains and whose hair is the golden maize, from whose breasts flow the waters of life – she changes subtly and I see her hair, made from wheat now, blowing in the breeze, filling the horizon as far as I can see, as she brings forth fresh, juicy grapes, cherries and pomegranates. I gasp, overwhelmed, and she, seeing this, seems slowly to shrink, until she is standing before me, as beautiful as ever, but now more the size of a human woman.
She still holds a pomegranate in one hand, and she offers it to me. I do not hesitate to take it. One does not refuse gifts from a Goddess.
We sit on a moss-covered rock which has been left relatively intact by the stampede. The people have receded now into the distance; one or two stragglers occasionally wander past, shouting political slogans, but they do not see us.
Slowly, I start to eat the pomegranate. It is delicious beyond words, and for a moment I forget the beautiful woman sitting beside me, closing my eyes in rapture. Soon, though, my curiosity returns. I look around at the devastated landscape, and a deep grief fills my heart. I turn to Bhumi – for Bhumi is what she most looks like now, dark and proud, her neck adorned with many-coloured sparkling crystals – expecting her, too, to be sad.
To my surprise, she is laughing softly, delight shining from her verdant eyes.
“You speak of records as though you know all that has passed on this planet,” she murmurs, and her voice is like a cool spring welling up from among deep rocks, “but you do not even recall most of your own stories. Do you think that your great-great-great-great-great grandmothers wasted time telling of what the weather should not be doing?”
“I… I guess I never thought about it,” I admit, and she laughs again, though kindly.
“They observed what is, and adapted their behaviour to fit in with whatever natural patterns they saw,” says Bhumi, “they did not panic when what they expected did not come to pass…”
I look around again, trying to make sense of this.
“But things were different back then,” I protest, “back then it was easier to live in tune with nature – I mean, with you – we didn’t have fossil fuels or microplastics; we didn’t have factories or styrofoam” –
“That is true,” she says, so majestically that I am awed into silence.
She continues, “and yet, how much of the natural patterns of the Earth are really changing because of what humans are doing? Now, in your arrogance, you think that it is all because of your actions. You do not remember the tales of your ancestors. You do not see that I have my own moods, my own behaviours, and I follow my own rhythms.
Yes, many of you are living out of balance with these rhythms now. You choke Ganga with filth and ashes; you muddy the air through which, before, you could receive messages from Vayu so clearly. These are actions you can modify.”
“So you do think we should change?” I ask, glancing around again at the desolate landscape.
I look back at Bhumi; she appears to be deep in thought, her eyes looking far, far away. I realise that perhaps it was an irrelevant question to ask of a Goddess.
“You gather the effects of your actions altogether into one menace, one thing which you can all point to and blame,” she says eventually, “a danger so huge and abstract that no one can argue about its existence. And yet,” she sighs, a long, long sigh.
Looking down, I see that where her breath touches the ground, all the little bits of plastic rubbish shiver, and transform slowly into multi-coloured flowers.
I look up at her face, and she holds my gaze in hers. I feel the slow rhythmic rubbing of tectonic plates; the rich darkness of dead matter changing into fertile soil; the profound, thirsting questing of roots into the depths. Slowly, I begin to be filled with an understanding – an understanding that as long as we look outside ourselves for the solution of our problems, we can never really solve them. It all seems so clear, like the sweet clarity of the water which she holds deep inside her, water which is still untainted by human touch. I see that while we are worried about climate change we are not looking at Bhumi, but at an abstract idea about our own actions. We need to focus on the actions themselves, and change them if they seem unhealthy. It is all so simple –
She looks away, and I gasp, struggling to hold on to the revelation. Then she looks back and smiles at me. I see she is holding a blue lotus in her left hand. She brings it up to her face, and darkness begins pouring out from the centre of the flower. I watch, entranced, as the darkness spreads, until I am sitting under a deep indigo sky, blossoming with myriad stars.
I look back, and she is gone. I am sad, because I had so many more questions I wanted to ask her, and the clarity of my realisation is difficult to hold onto. I try to find words to describe what I have felt, but the words do not come…
Frustrated, I look around again at the landscape. Something is different about it. Or rather, something is different about me; for this place no longer seems quite so desolate and empty. I can see that in spite of the destruction, it is full of life, and instead of feeling stark and forbidding, it feels welcoming. I can feel it welcoming me, who am part of this great creature we call Earth. Slowly, I begin to feel a deep sense of peace.
Drawing from ‘Elemental Spirits’ by Charlotte Holloway Ashwanden – you can see more at Dance Inspiracy