I posted my first story about the climate crisis four and a half years ago, a gentle, personal, scary—but not too scary story. Ninety-three posts have followed. I thought that I was writing the stories for you; to tap you on the shoulder, buoy your spirits, and move you to do something—anything to protect this one precious gift of life.
My stories grew out of conversations I had with everyday people.
Elizabeth, my seat mate on a train, was a gardener whose tomatoes never ripened (https://daviarivka.com/climates-not-really-my-thing/). Jim was a coal miner turned climate activist (https://daviarivka.com/climate-change-coal-country/) and my daughter Sarah, was hungry for some wild nature (https://daviarivka.com/cry-me-a-river/).
Week after week, month after month, I wrote. The more I wrote, the more the stories buoyed me, inspired me to action, like the story about Elke, a young woman who had just spoken with her member of Congress for the first time. (https://daviarivka.com/the-world-became-accessible-to-me/). Or the high school students in Washington DC, ready to take the reins. (https://daviarivka.com/i-almost-blew-it/).
Even so, the right and the left continued to argue.
Extreme weather events multiplied and very little action was taken. Despair shrouded me and I started to curl in on myself and lose the ray of light that carried me forward knowing how perilously close we were to a certain tipping point.
And in the midst of that despair, my sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When she died three months later something inside me cracked.
I was all grief.
I couldn’t take another climate step, make one more phone call to my rep, or write one more letter to the newspaper. I cried. And cried, about my sister, for the people who had lost their homes in fires, floods, hurricanes, for the dying trees and birds and animals. For immigrants and climate refugees. I cried for the baby in my apartment building who wouldn’t stop crying. I cried because we’d trashed the earth, trashed each other, because we’d failed each other.
I cried alone for all that has been lost, for all that we stand to lose.
I want—no I need to sit in community and cry. I am filled with grief. Climate grief. I need to mourn, to share this grief collectively and listen to others as they cry.
This is my climate work now. To sink deep into my body, mine the grief, let it break me wide open, soften me, tenderize my heart. I want to hear the trees crying through my arms, to feel the rivers slog through my body, to sense the sorrow of the earth in the marrow of my bones.
And I want, no I need to keep writing—for me.