I swear to God, on Nov. 9th the sun never rose; New York City skies were thick, gloomy, gray in the morning and black by afternoon. I recalled words that a friend of mine, artist Alisha Anderson, had written for a different occasion: I believe in a God who weeps.

There were quivering lips and darkened eyes on subway trains, grieving and disbelieving conversations on park benches. Free hugs doled out on the fringes of the rally that displaced the farmers market on Union Square. A wall of sentiments written on post-it notes underneath 14th street, next to a sign reading Subway Therapy. Here, the zeitgeist is clear.

Self-care was, and remains our first mission. Breathe, cry, exercise, walk, make love, drink tea. Grieve alone if you need a minute, but then, get with your people and love them out loud. Heal together, strategize together, and cry some more.

Might I suggest you go outside? Take a walk, wherever you find your Refuge. Witness the peace of beings that have lived through more than one administration. Look for signs of survival and rebirth, decay and decomposition. Notice the wild variety in color and texture. Smell the air, and remember that you are inviting its particles and vibrations inside your physical self. Nibble berries. Eat sassafras leaves. Hear birds. Look at the sky.

Remember that for everything your place has given you–respite, peace, health, resolution–you owe it something in return: every ounce of your strength, voice, passion and compassion, to be writ and wrought and shouted and conversed and argued in its defense.

Friends of wildness, for the next four years, we are going to need it.

All of it is in jeopardy. All of it. Public lands, sacred ground, biodiversity, climate change policy, responsible agriculture, Real Food, ocean health, plastics reduction, renewable energy development, ecological literacy. Parks funding, wildlife biology research, the safety of delicate oil-rich ecosystems.

Thomas Berry writes, “The Great Work now, as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.”

And also, “The present is not a time for desperation but for hopeful activity.”

Never were his words more astute.




All I’ve ever wanted to do is to write about wildness, be within it, take people out there and help them to love it and be in it. But that won’t be enough anymore, probably hasn’t been enough for some time. This isn’t news, friends, but we have got to


I suck at this, prefer working alone, don’t like the person I am when I get angry. I loathe the grease and gamesmanship of the political process, have been skeptical of the effectiveness of rallies and public demonstrations, hate the exclusivity and strategic obfuscation of legislative action. But none of that matters. Not at this moment in history. This is a time for sacred rage. We have all got to step up our vigilance, sharpen our voices, shed comfort and complacency, if we’re going to figure this out.

My November 9th included a doctor visit (bless that woman; she prescribed discernment, deep breaths, papaya and chia seeds), then an afternoon of wandering those cold, gloomy streets. Big-city living: anonymity in a crowd, frequency of creative expression, freedom to emote in public. Walking, wherever it leads, is sacred practice. Solvitur ambulando, man.

I landed (as ever) in a succession of parks, libraries, and bookstores. Here are the words that found me:

“Quantum physicists have confirmed the reality of the basic vibratory essence of life, which is what intuitives sense. Human DNA vibrates at a rate of 52 to 78 gigahertz… Life energy is not static; it is kinetic…” 

-Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing, by Dr. Caroline Myss

“It is that smell of winter dust I love best, rising from the cracked stalk. Tenacious in its cycle, stubborn in its modest refusal to die, the grass embodies the philosopher’s myth of eternal return. All flesh is grass is not a depressing conceit to me. To see ourselves within our span as creatures capable of quiet and continual renewal gets me through those times when the writing stinks, I’ve lost my temper, overloaded on wine chocolates, or am simply lost to myself. Snow melts. Grass springs back. Here we are on a quiet rise, finding the first uncanny shoots of green.”

-“Big Grass,” by Louise Erdrich, in Heart of the Land: Essays on the Last Great Places, ed. The Nature Conservancy

Friends of sacred places and creatures that breathe: heal yourselves first. Then, do whatever it is you love to do, whatever it is you’re great at. But do it harder, and better, for wildness’ sake. We are energy, energy is power, all power heals.








9 thoughts on “Breathe

  1. Teresa

    Lovely essay. My hope is that this will galvanize folks to become activists in the causes that matter. I know my husband and I are talking and planning in that direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dianerenkin

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hopes, Hilary. It helps to hear what others are thinking during this awful turn in politics. I will definitely be an activist for the multitude of causes that really matter now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found strength and common ground with this piece called Breathe. I read something today in the Washington Post, a quote in one of the editorials. It gave me a new direction. I was about to throw in the towel and hold my breath for four years. Now I have a goal. Let me share………Rebecca Solnit reminds us, “Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. Hope is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.” Make no mistake, we have an emergency on our hands, a climate emergency, a justice emergency and a moral emergency. …” I can only add Pray and trust in God that he has a plan. Maybe it is to bring us all together in a common good. MW


    1. Marcia, may my prayers rise up and commingle with yours! Thank you for sharing the words of Rebecca Solnit, that incomparably steady eco-literary-place-loving advocate. David Orr, Sustainability prof. and thinker from Oberlin College, writes a similar sentiment: “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.” Hugs to you! Corraggio!


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