by Cinnamon Evans

I believe that young people know what is wrong in the current dominant relationship between people and nature. During my work, the young people I meet can see nature’s painful wounds and people’s wounds and pain, and they often suggest to me profoundly simple ways to heal the world. They see so clearly and know how to act. The natural moral intelligence of young people is very powerful.

Sadly, somewhere along the path of many people’s lives, something gets in the way of this clarity, and they no longer see clearly the relationship between nature and people, and the reflection of nature’s wounds and pain in people’s wounds and pain, and vice versa. I think what happens, somewhere along the paths of many people’s lives, is they experience their own wounds and pain, passed on from generation to generation. These wounds and pain absorb them so completely that they are compelled to repeatedly play out the wounding in the hope of working through the pain. From within this patterned behaviour, they no longer have attention for the wounds and pains of nature. I believe there will be little space for nature’s healing, until the people’s wounds and pains are processed and cleared.

People want so desperately to be healed, but there is limited space for this kind of healing in my culture. We are not accustomed to being witness to other people’s emotional distress. It makes us uncomfortable, and we try to stop its expression, with tissues, comforting words and advice, or distraction. I think what people need is a different kind of support, someone to just listen with attention and respect, while they discharge the emotion and heal themselves. Then they be able to think more clearly about nature’s wounds and pain.

When I was young I sometimes had trouble breathing. The Western medical system diagnosed me as asthmatic, prescribed the standard array of drugs to manage the condition. Later, the Western medical system diagnosed me allergic, and suggested I avoid certain allergens. I recall an incident at my friend’s beach house in Torquay, where the rye grass was in flower, when my lungs became so constricted I could barely breathe. I will never forget the feeling of being unable to breath. I thought I was going to suffocate. I was taken to Geelong Hospital and treated for an asthma attack. I recovered, but will always remember that feeling.

I now know that I was neither asthmatic or allergic. These are names for symptoms, not causes. I had a deep sadness in my lungs. In my limited understanding of the Chinese medical system, sadness is the emotion of the lungs. My sadness began at birth, when I was separated from my mother for two days. At two years old my family moved to Europe and I lost my stable home forever. At five years old my parents divorced and I was separated from my father. During my childhood years my mother worked and studied, and had little attention for me. I was a separated, homeless, lonely child, who had sadness in her lungs.

The first memory I have about being sad and angry about people’s destruction of nature was in primary school. When I was seven years old Nottinghill Primary School amalgamated with Pinewood Primary School, and we all moved to a new site called Monash Primary School. There was a huge old Eucalypt (Red Gum) in some remnant vegetation that we all used to play in. I will never forget standing outside my classroom watching it being cut down to clear the ground for a sports oval. I knew it was wrong, and I felt sad and angry about the loss of that tree. I never played sport on that oval because of my asthma.

In thinking about the relationship between my wounds and pain and nature’s wounds and pain, I asked myself what I would change first in the world if I was in charge. My immediate answer was stop the loss of forests. Then I was chilled by my insight. The role of the forests in the global ecosystem is to breathe. Of course I want to stop the loss of forests. I know what it feels like to be unable to breathe.

The destruction of forests makes me deeply sad for the future of people on Earth. The loss of forest habitat reminds me of my early loss of home and the home of people in nature. The loss of forest species reminds me of my early loss of family connection to both my mother and my father, and the loss of community in my culture. The separation of people from nature makes me think of my culture and my people as homeless, lonely children.

I have known about my deep sadness for some time, but it was not until I thought about the relationship between nature’s wounds and pain and my personal wounds and pain that the picture became so clear.

I am working on this sadness, both personal and global, with support from some people who are close to me, and who are prepared to just listen with respect. In a supported space I have cried and cried about feelings that I have no words for, and I know that these are early wounds. I know there is more crying to come.

Crying is not the feeling of sadness, it is the natural healing process of the feeling of sadness. I can feel the pain in my lungs easing as the layers of sadness are released. I can feel my wounds healing. I am emerging from my separated, homeless, lonely world. I am becoming more powerful. I am beginning to think more clearly about nature’s wounds and my role in healing them.

I am breathing again.