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From the Earth and the Bones

Every day brings with it new reminders that this is no longer the world we knew.

It’s not merely the misapprehension of memory, not that the world of our youth seems somehow golden by comparison. In truth, it was never golden, not then and not with the benefit of time’s diffuse lens. We know that youth held no special magic, and that the world is not somehow more cold and dark simply by means of the passage of years, nor is it a question of relative perception, of what we did not need to understand then versus what ew are now compelled to know.

No, the world is different now, by empirical, tangible measures. What is perhaps more terrifying is that now, we can watch it changing, daily, right before our eyes.

Drought. Wildfire. Flood. All these have come and gone, many times over, but not, certainly in living memory, with the extreme force we see now. Seasonal change has remained fairly constant; a season of drought gave us no cause to fear that the next year would be anything but a return to more normal circumstances. We could count on the presence of certain animals at certain times; on a steady schedule by which the plants and trees would bud and leaf and grow and go dormant.

A harvest of some sort was virtually always assured; we only needed to put in the labor.

We thought these were truths, when in fact, they no longer qualify even as truisms: The only aspect of our world that is now dependable is its very undependability.

And for us, it awakens other memories. Ancestral ones.

For many of us, this world is not precisely new: Its occurrence was long foretold by the elders and the ancients, in prophecy and dreams. The degrees and forms of catastrophe vary with people and place, with teller and time, but the warp and weft of the story remain the same; eventually, the byproducts of colonialism will injure the Earth sufficiently to bring human existence, or our part of it, at least, to a tipping point. Whether we survive to rebuild our indigenous world thereafter depends upon how well we have attended to the lessons of the ancestors, to how well we heed their warnings and step up to fulfill our own obligations.

That time is now.

The day is young yet; there will be far worse to come. This is the time for us to stand up, to step forward, to arm ourselves with knowledge and skill and commitment, to ready ourselves for the long battle to save the only world we have. The days may grow longer and hotter, but unlike some battles in some other cultures, the sun will not stand still for us. We must learn, and rapidly, too, how to salvage what has life in it yet, and how to adapt to living without what does not.

Our ways teach us that a new world will be born from the earth and the bones of the ancients, from the spirit of an ancestral world that, once banished, now holds the hope of our very survival.

We have excavated for too long, dug graves instead of building foundations. The preparatory work has become its own excuse, and its own trap. Time is short, and the days about to grow much shorter.

We have a new world to build. It’s time to get to work.

~ Aji










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