I have struggled with sadness this past week in the tragedy of the mass shooting in Orlando and other acts of violence happening in the world. Grief feels like a daily occurrence in our connected society, where the media places in front of us images of destruction and violence moment to moment. One tragedy overshadows another, and it is easy to feel hopeless. I know that this is not all that is happening in the world, that also moment to moment many lives are being saved and enriched by innumerable acts of kindness. These aren’t the stories making headlines and it is easy to forget all of the good also present. But, it all feels heavy: gun violence and the end of so many lives of LGBTQ people of color, a devastating flood in Ghana that no one seems to be talking about, the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Mother Emmanuel AME Church, and the political spin placed on all of this for the politicians’ gain.
When I feel overwhelmed by the sadness in the world, often I seek refuge by stepping outside my back door. Beyond my small square of lawn and flower garden is the deep green of an urban forest, shrouded in midsummer mystery. Where a few months ago there was only snow-covered ground with gray tree trunks protruding, there now is a leafy wilderness, protecting the secret lives of plants and animals, vibrant with life.
The other evening I went out just after a powerful summer thunderstorm had swept through. It was still raining lightly, but the air felt cool and rich after a hot day, pungent with the musk of wet leaves and humus. I stood at the edge of the chain link fence separating the domestic landscape of the yard with the wild edge of the forest, overgrown with wildflowers and grapevines and Virginia creeper. Translucent beads of water dripped down the broad leaves of the redbud tree and the last orange rays of sun cast a magical glow on the dense foliage of the forest beyond the grassy edge. There is indeed much to grieve in the world, and it is difficult for me to know what to do in the face of so much blatant and daily injustice. But, there is also beauty, and love, and hope. Being outside helps me remember the gentleness that is also present in the world, and the gifts that remembering such gentleness can bring.