Joanna Macy and Sustaining the Gaze

Joanna Macy meeting with us on Skype.

Joanna Macy meeting with us on Skype.

One of the many phrases that will stay with me from this week at Women’s Future First 2014 Congress is that of Joanna Macy: sustaining the gaze. Even though what we see in the world is frightening and enraging, it is so important we witness (not deny) what mankind has perpetrated upon our planet and to feel, to let ourselves have open hearts to Earth and her many inhabitants.

This conference is focusing on drafting a Bill of Rights for Water. Joanna addressed three practices that have consequences for water with results that last forever: nuclear power and its radiation contamination; genetically modified organisms, which cannot be undone once in use ; and fracking, which forever contaminates ground water with chemicals that cannot be extracted.

She “met” with us by Skype from her East Bay home and spoke with wit about these matters so important to our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, our seven generations. Historically it is women who are the stewards of water, she reminded us. As we 450 women of all ages and great diversity, from all over the country, listened to this lively elder who has done so much to move people from despair and inaction to  protectors and guardians of future generations, we were summoned. Women everywhere, and Men too, the time is here! The time for waking and action is now.

“It is a great privilege to be alive when the future ones want so much,” she said. She spoke of being willing– even glad!– to be living in a time with so much uncertainty.

And then Skype suddenly clicked off, and her image flashed away, as technology will do. There was no goodbye, only the lingering feeling in the room: here is an elder who sustained her gaze. She showed us it can be done, that, in fact, grief opens hearts, softens us, opens us to gratitude for the abundance of Earth and for each other. That what we do needs to be done out of love of the Earth, of each other, of our ancestral lineage, and of future generations.

You too can join this movement. My friend and colleague Leah Shelleda is attending the conference with me. Next weekend, November 15,  Leah, Naomi Lowinsky, and I will be offering a writing seminar Wounded Earth, Wounded Psyche through the C. G. Jung Institute in San Francisco. Please join us. We have each other, most important in facing a crisis of this size, and writing helps heal and move us to action. We hope to see you there!