by Abbie Goldberg, Video Coordinator for the North Shore Team
When we arrived at the Pawtucket Congregational Church, after a long day of around 40 miles of biking, we set up a hose where we could shampoo our hair and clean the bike grease off our legs. We had been biking for two days and we were frankly kind of gross, but instead of pulling out the old Dr. Bronners Magic Soap, we ran around like kids under a sprinkler. My already sore calves stung from holding my weight on my toes to dance away from the cold sprays my teammates and friends turned on me.
Later that week we went to a party hosted by the exceptionally friendly and unbelievably generous Chip. We played lawn games, talked about bees and then gathered to showcase the finest talents of the climate summer crew. There were backbends and juggling acts and even an improv dating show. Two friends and I closed out the show by playing two semi-rehearsed songs, which devolved, as much of our rehearsal had, into pop songs we new none of the words to, but belted with singing-in-the-shower levels of fervor and abandon. Naturally, this resulted in a fifteen-minute rendition of Hey Ya with lyrics covering everything from the reoccurring refrain of “Stop Natty G (Natural Gas)” to a plea for people to do laundry with, to reminders to always bike with your helmet.
Even yesterday when we were talking about systems of oppression around race, class, gender and sexuality, heavy topics for sure, we made sure to take time to go around the room and make the sound that best described our feelings. We were like a cartoon machine, whirring, sighing, and bloop, bloop, blooping our way to emotional grounding.
Knowing about climate change sucks. It’s painful, and frustrating, and scary and overwhelming and isolating and it sucks. In an article in The Nation, Wen Stephenson wrote that holding this knowledge is like walking around with a knife in your chest. What I’ve been working on is holding the pain next to the beauty and recognizing that neither negates the other. The world is really messed up. Waters are rising, America’s breadbasket is undergoing dustbowlification, toxic waste disposal sites are built in minority and low-income communities. But the world is really beautiful too. We play in hoses, sing songs, make silly noises. People like Chip welcome strangers into their lives year after year. They hold us in a community of support and commitment to one another. I think we need those silly moments. We need the play to keep us sane and to remember why we’re here in the first place; not because we’re angry, but because we love something. We’re angry because we love something a whole lot. Climate change feels like a knife in the chest, but the climate justice movement doesn’t have to. It can feel like infinite possibilities for new Hey Ya verses, and eating mulberries during church coffee hours, sharing panniers and sharing jokes. I don’t think we can take the knife out, but we can hold and be held by each other through the beauty and the pain. That’s the world I’m fighting for and the one I’m excited to be a part of this summer.