Harwich CAN Holds Solstice Ceremony

We at Harwich CAN have been exploring how best to channel our love for Cape Cod and our concerns about the effects of climate change on our environment and our community into meaningful action. Here we share our current project, and how we came to it, hoping to provide encouragement and support to others who are also asking “what can I do?”

Since our inception in March 2020, we’ve been meeting monthly to get to know each other and to explore options for action. Among the many choices were:  offering webinars, selecting a focus for study and public education like “pond health,” or “electric vehicles,” and reminding people to reduce, reuse and recycle. In addition, we have familiarized ourselves with town bylaws and regulations and are exploring ways to challenge our town to develop more sustainable ways for allowing growth and development.

We’ve struggled with our limited knowledge and experience, and at times have felt discouraged and hopeless about our capacity to effect cha

nge. The problems seem so vast and overwhelming; we’ve wondered how we could make a significant difference.

Despair over the effects of climate change that have become so apparent in our world during recent years is one of the silent effects of climate chan

ge and has been affecting us all in the Harwich CAN. For some members, the motivation to stay involved in climate activism been sapped by this creeping sense of despair. Others have experienced a loss of direction or purpose that created uncertainty about what kind of events, projects, or campaigns would have meaning and value for our community. These factors have stalled and complicated our efforts.

Recently we realized that what we do know is how the climate catastrophe affects us, and those around us, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  We alternate between wanting to protect ourselves by not paying attention, distracting ourselves with our individual and immediate day to day lives, or by telling ourselves it isn’t really that bad. And then, when we dare to look unflinchingly at the mounting evidence of climate change, it is easy to become overwhelmed and disheartened.

We are inspired by the work of Joanna Macy, a visionary leader now in her 90s, who writes books and leads groups that encourage us to join with others in facing “the mess we’re in.” She describes “active hope” which encourages us to do what we can even though there is no guarantee that it will reverse the direction we’re headed in. We do so because it is the right thing to do, and because it sustains community, hope, and purpose.

Consequently, the members of Harwich CAN are creating opportunities to meet with concerned others in outdoor settings, such as the beach, where we can commune with the natural environment we love, and share our thoughts and

feelings.  Our CAN wants to facilitate processing and giving voice to the grief and anxiety we are all experiencing, even when it remains unacknowledged, about the  effects of climate change.

We held our first gathering on June 19 at Red River Beach, in recognition of the summer solstice. It created a safe space for quiet reflection and communal processing through singing, drumming, and sharing of thoughts.

The weather provided a dramatic, constantly changing backdrop with swirling gray clouds reflected on the still water, punctuated with occasional raindrops, intermittent breezes, and changing colors as the sun set.

The group began by sitting in a circle, then we set off individually to contemplate the natural world, how it is being assaulted, how we are feeling about it and what we imagine might help. We took time to walk, sit or simply stand in silence, intending to communicate with the forces of nature, ask for guidance and open ourselves to receiving it. When we regrouped we shared the messages and flashes of inspiration we had received, which felt empowering and motivating. The group agreed that change is ever-present and we must embrace it as the natural order of things. To resist this dynamic is resisting nature itself, so we must learn to become comfortable with change – and to channel positive change.

Each of us found the experience cathartic and healing, and it inspired us to sponsor further gatherings like this for others who are already pursuing climate action, and for those who are interested in becoming involved.

We plan to hold our next beach gathering on the evening of Wednesday, September 21, for fall equinox.  Stay tuned to this webpage for the details of time and place, and for future events.

Harwich CAN is committed to reaching out to involve all Harwich residents in our efforts to adapt and protect the natural environment that sustains us. We welcome new members, please contact us at HarwichCAN@capecodclimate.org



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