Coronavirus and peace in the valley
Published in the Greenfield Recorder, April 11, 2020
I respect Thomas Curren, and the Franklin Land Trust, for protecting land from development and for his “My Turn” of March 31: “Peace in the valley and honor to the hills.” We are reminded to “count our blessings” while in the present crisis of coronavirus, and to face profound questions about how we are to live our lives. I have found, through personal struggles and with Indigenous Grandmothers’ teachings, that gratitude is crucial to living in joy and celebration for all the connections in my life: countless beauties of nature, many compassionate people I know, even though I know there are too many victims of war and poverty here and throughout the world, many Indigenous peoples forced from their land and children taken from them to be abused in boarding schools, too many homeless/hungry/despairing victims of human greed, the most extreme inequality (a handful of people could feed the whole world). Mr. Curren reminds us of the immigrants who came here to this Valley 400 years ago, having “survived wars, depressions,” (I add oppression and displacement), and of the four centuries of their descendants’ “blood, sweat and tears” in “making our hills and valleys peaceable and productive places.” I am happy and grateful to feel at home in this place.
But he left out the 10-to-20,000year history of Indigenous tribes, living in balance with Mother Earth — land, water, plants, animals, insects, web of life. This valley and river was so life-giving that tribes came from afar each spring to share in the harvesting of anadromous fish, planting and nurturing and harvesting the Three Sisters (corn, beans, squash) for nourishment of all, sharing storytelling and ceremonies of gratitude.
Then settler-colonialism disrupted that balance, choosing killing, claiming land as “property,” enslaving poor “whites” and “black” people stolen from African land, family, culture. This system, this structure, became ever more extreme, taking more from Mother Earth than needed, extracting precious gems, ores, fossil fuels, uranium … and leaving ever more toxic wastes to spread through water, plants, fish, and animal meat into our bodies. Today we must realize that our bodies are not healthy — diabetes, hypertension, liver and circulatory failures, cancers, addictions. Studies show that the vast majority of deaths due to the coronavirus are with unhealthy bodies.
“Social isolation” is the “wise response” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We may find in our lonely confinement that we can open our hearts to see what this greedy system has done to us, as we step off the treadmill, take time for quiet — meditation, prayer, yoga, Qi-Gong, TaiChi, walks in the woods, connections with children and dear friends and wider family, online storytellers, musicians, teachers, activist-demonstrators.
We are fortunate to have the technology to “see” and “hear” and “be with each other” virtually. We can also be creative and make things with our hands.
This is the gift, to maintain and deepen our heart connections, let our bodies work “in balance with all our relations,” living simply, sharing our gifts, harvests, stories, music, joy, gratitude, and ceremonies. May we come together with compassion in this special time to build a renewed world.