This afternoon I got an email from our property manager saying that one of our plants was growing over and through our fence. She asked if I wanted to take care of it or if I wanted the landscaper to do it. I said I would do it, because, frankly, it was a chance for me to get my hands dirty.
But when I went outside and looked at the plant, I realized a couple of things. One, it was a couple of plants that had grown together. And another thing was that they were deeply rooted on the outside of the fence, meaning that technically this problem was not mine. And finally, I really had no idea what I was doing.
I started cutting into the plants and pretty quickly my hair was full of leaves and dust and dirt and my hands got tired from cutting over and over again and my arms hurt from pulling at the vines. At one point I realized that the vines had grown into the tree branches and that I was literally fighting the tree.
As I kept cutting, I got angry. Why had I said I would do this? I almost gave up half way and went back into the house to send an email that said, “you know, you need to have the landscaper do this. The plants are outside the fence and I don’t know what I’m doing.” But then I smelled my hands and saw just how dirty my fingers were getting and I remembered a conversation I’d had earlier this week.
I’ve been working on divestment from fossil fuels for more than two years now—particularly in the church—and I’m frustrated by how many people make excuses for not divesting. Excuses like “well, does that mean I have to stop driving my car?” “do I have to stop eating meat?” “aren’t we hypocrites if we don’t divest our own selves if we ask the church to divest?” “shouldn’t we be keeping our money in fossil fuel companies so they can fund research into alternative energy?”
This conversation I had this week brought all those excuses (though if I’m honest, they’re important questions to ask) to the forefront and I totally lost it. I started yelling about how we have to do everything in our power to stop climate change. That we can’t somehow think that climate change is going to affect us sometime in the future because the people I serve on the South Coast are already screwed. That I’ve been a vegetarian for 13 years and live in a three room apartment and drive a Prius and I’m not invested in fossil fuels and don’t have children and I compost and make art out of garbage and NONE of that has yet saved the world. In fact, if everyone on the planet lived like I do, we’d still be screwed.
A little while after that conversation, I wrote an apology to my conversation partner. I apologized for yelling but not for getting mad. I’m still pissed. I want a world that is full of joy and I want a world where people do not have to fear. I want a world in which I can hope to have a child and a world in which my child can hope to pick apples from the trees her mother planted. I want to live with a hope that plants those trees.
But for that world to exist, we have to do all we can, together. We have to work on these problems that we didn’t plant and that aren’t really our fault but, still, are our responsibility.
I finished pulling up the plants. I didn’t do a perfect job, and there’s still more to work on, but it’s enough for today. And now, sitting in my apartment, my hands are dirty and my arms are tired and my skin has a layer of sweat and my heart is grateful.