Finding Solace in a Devastating Summer

Contribution by Penny

I was lucky to spend some time over January with a sister in a part of Gippsland blessedly unaffected by the shocking fires. The wonderful coastline and a glorious sunset were soothing.

Apart from nature I have often found inspiration and healing in books and films. Recently I saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, the movie starring Tom Hanks based on the true life story of the American children’s television program presenter Fred Rogers. Some have criticized it for being platitudinous and sentimental, but I personally found its portrayal of the importance of compassion and being present to the people in our lives very enjoyable, and in tune with Buddhist teachings.

A book I have been enjoying (also referred to by Anja in her recent Sunday reflection) is Waking up to What You Do by Diane Eshin Rizzetto. I particularly like her chapter on The Dead Spot which comes at the end of the trapeze swing when ‘the performer hangs at point zero before grabbing the next bar’.

Life presents us with many dead spots such as when we lose a partner or a job, or await news of a possibly life threatening illness. Diane encourages us to take advantage of the power and creativity that can be available at these possibly terrifying moments, as we are tempted to grasp at the first thing that is available.

If we can ‘take pause in the dead spot, that moment of nonaction before we react’ we have a chance to meet ‘life just as it is’ and break away from our usual habitual thoughts and patterns of behaviour. It seems like a useful metaphor not only for our personal lives, but also for approaching the devastation of the bushfires.

People need to not react with blame and the usual assumptions, but be open to new ways of addressing climate change and healing the earth.

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