It’s mid December. Right now the temperature outside is about 40 degrees at 6pm on a Monday evening. The lake iced up at the end of November like usual, and then it rained and the ice melted. Every day it seems the sky is gray and heavy with rain, and the ground is soggy. I have seen three mosquitoes in the last week. Our seasonal stream, the one that only runs during the spring melt, is freely flowing and has been for a few weeks now. The geese are still here. The silver maple looks like it wants to bud and we hope it doesn’t. I could go out to the garden and plant more garlic if I wanted to since the ground is no longer frozen. Our skis are in storage, and it’s hard to believe that Christmas is next week. We are waiting for the cold and snow that illustrate the Christmas season we are used to.
When you look at what’s going on in the world, it seems to be crumbling, or spinning out of control, or making progress, depending on what you value. Politics seem more like a comedy show every time you turn on the news, world leaders still get together behind closed doors to decide the fates of Indigenous people and the loudest voice gets to make the decision at the end of the day.
The climate talks just ended in Paris, the same Paris that weathered so much public violence just weeks before the talks started. Politicians argued over how to address the changing climate, and if you squint at the agreement that resulted from all of those meetings, a hopeful outcome squeaked out at the end. World leaders agreed to act. Time will tell if those promises actually come into being, as there was no binding language in the agreement that was passed. We’ll have to rely on their word and hope the agendas of big oil and industrial ag change. We’ll have to hope that people are willing to act and think differently and embrace ways of doing things that they thought they never would.
Seems hopeless, right? It’s easy to get sucked into thinking that nothing will ever change, that it’s all for show. World leaders can talk and agree on things until the cows come home, and the cows might never show up. We the people might say we want to contribute to the healing of the world, but then it gets hard and it’s easy to just keep on doing what we are used to doing. Activism and protests and chaining ourselves to trees will buy us time, but the most seasoned environmentalists know that it’s not enough. It’s never enough.
And right now, in the midst of all of the chaos that is spread to the four corners of the Earth, it’s also Advent, the Christian season of waiting. And it certainly feels like we are waiting, regardless of our religious inclinations. Waiting for something to shift, for someone to pass the bill that will make our lives better. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the shit to hit the fan. Waiting for mom to get through treatment, for dad to agree to be moved into assisted living. Waiting for that big presentation to be over, for vacation to finally arrive. Waiting for everyone who doesn’t agree with our point of view to finally see the light.
We don’t have to wait in despair, however. We don’t have to wait for someone to swoop in and save us. We don’t have to let the unknowns and the violence and the desecration of our lands plunge us into doing nothing and wringing our hands while we wait. We can be active in our waiting. We can control how we respond to the choices of others we don’t agree with, and we can make the choices in our own lives that align with the truths that matter to us. We can stop interacting with messages of hate, and we can start seeing opportunities for healing no matter where our gaze might fall. We can wait and feel annoyed about how long it’s taking, or we can use that time of waiting to reflect on whatever beauty can be found in the people or creatures or natural spaces with whom we are sharing space.
So even while the climate changes and we wait for things to get back to normal in a world that has stretched normal to its limits, and while we hope for change that may or may not come into being in our lifetime, we don’t have to be stagnant. We can be active in our waiting. We can practice peace, we can be the light, and we can see the beauty and good tidings even while mosquitos hatch in December and Santa has to travel by boat.