An antidote for despair? Community (and movement).
Volunteering with Friends of the L.A. River, this morning we donned our gloves, gathered our trash bags, heard the safety spiel, and traipsed down into the L.A. River with perhaps 40 or more folks. The FoLAR rep had informed us that a biologist had scoped the area we would be cleaning earlier that morning, and there were no nests for us to be concerned about disrupting, but to also avoid the cattail as that is a common nesting area. As I peered around to identify plastics, cables, and oh so much more, I heard kids crying out when they cleaned up something big or strange - Dad! I found another scooter!
Ducks waddling nearby, a blue heron soaring overhead to land just a few meters away, kids making discoveries: all reminders of why and for whom we're cleaning and keeping clean the river.
The waves of anger and despondency wash over me in equal parts these days, and at a downtown rally last night, one of the speakers said, “If you're feeling hopeless, look around you.” I looked and saw a community of people of all sorts, gathered together to share in our humanity, fight for our human rights, and support each other.
Some of the plastic, clothing, metal, and wires have been in the riverbed so long, they’ve started to wrap around and decay into the natural elements. At times I had to yank at something with all my strength, at times gently tug, see where it was intertwined with branches and moss, and follow its trail to release its hold. There are times when we will need to rage and disrupt, and there are times we will need to pay quiet attention to see where the thread is leading us to unravel the white supremacy, racism, and hatred that holds our nation back from flourishing as a living, healthy ecosystem. Looking at the bags of trash we, working alongside so many, pulled out of the river, I had a glimmer of hope.