When I stand under a tree – radiating truth, beauty, and extending a perfect silence, the kind only nature can offer – it is not possible for anyone to make me sad. When the creation envelopes you, you feel nothing but empowered. And yet, this happened last spring. I felt really sad under a fine, illuminated tree. I felt lonely. Even, helpless.
Just outside my home, I was standing under this gorgeous cherry tree on the street. Loaded with resplendent white blossoms, its branches formed an intricate mesh against the blue sky of spring, letting the dainty sunrays to permeate through. Looking up at this canopy, I was not able to believe the preciousness I was fortunate to behold, my heart was filled with joy and gratitude for the generosity of nature. How come there is no ticket to be able to stand under THIS? – I had thought.
Failing to process the utter exhilaration I was experiencing, baffled about what to do with what was before my eyes – I wanted to hold at once, all those branches in my arms, or, wanted them to take me in their embrace. I wanted to keep the tree inside my heart forever, or, wanted it to dissolve my being in itself. For I knew, that sea of whiteness swaying above me wouldn’t last long, there was impatience, desperation, and a strange anxiety about the passing time.
A familiar possessiveness had come over me. These moments of puzzling wonderment have happened to me several times before, and, I know, will keep happening in future too. However, this particular incident made its way to this page because in the very moment I stood there transfixed, filled with the purest of loves, I was told one of the most heartbreaking things about a tree, on my face.
A woman passed by, looked at me gazing at the cherry tree, and said – “Yes, you should think about requesting to cut it down, its pollen is making your house’s side wall dirty!”
That moment, was one of the loneliest. As if that tree with all its blossoming glory was not visible to anyone but me. Was I dreaming? Or, was everyone else sleeping?
In any case, I stood there all alone. In my awe. In my joy.
I had just witnessed the kind of attitude I fear the most for the natural world. Indifference.
More than two centuries ago, when the genius who illustrated Milton’s “Paradise Lost“, English poet & artist, William Blake (November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827) received complaints from a reverend who had commissioned him for the artworks to illustrate his writings – that his art was overly transcendental, needed explanations and was inept for the reverend’s worldly intentions, the visionary artist, in defense of his work, had written a letter.
The letter – that remains one of the greatest and timeless defense of introspective, visionary spirit of imagination that is being curbed since time immemorial by stifling mundaneness of purposes that prevail in human societies – included these shining lines:
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.
Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.
Anyone who would rather be in the lap of wild than among the roistering party crowds, would have felt lonely. Sometimes profoundly. Not for missing people, but, for missing the sense of wonder for nature in them.
As someone who finds the beauty, joy and meaning of life nowhere else but in the natural world and who constantly tries so that others see that too – I too, have been saddened by the apathy towards nature so many times. But the loneliness I felt in the cherry blossoms incident was quite unbearable. In that moment, I had wished really hard to be surrounded by people who would value that tree as much as I did. That longing sat so deep in my heart, it feels like universe manifested my wish in an almost poetic way. I came across this beautiful and revolutionary community named, “Lonely Conservationists”, no less!
Founded by Jessie Panazzolo, a sustainability educator and facilitator, Lonely Conservationists is a community of thousands of global conservationists who feel lonely, burnt out or frustrated in their careers or endeavors.
Conservationists, driven by their love for the environment and/or wildlife often take up volunteer jobs or work for very low salaries. Their intentions are noblest, their hearts burn with passion for their purpose but the responses to what they want to convey so desperately to the general population and sometimes administrations is often lukewarm, reluctant, and sluggish. Those who professionally work long hours in this demanding field frequently encounter this disheartening feeling of unrequited efforts. This, coupled with a constant eco-anxiety affect their emotional well-being adversely.
The Lonely Conservationists promote a shared belief that conservationists deserve to feel valued, respected and looked after in the conservation industry and work together to combat impostor syndrome, burnout and isolation to promote collaboration, empathy and authentic storytelling. Lonely Conservationists use the platform to discuss their feelings and experiences during their journeys within conservation industry, thereby building an uplifting and supportive community of global conservationists.
I thank Jessie for sharing my story and featuring me among these incredible, brave conservationists. I invite you, dear reader, to check out the Instagram page of this very promising, heartwarming community, to increase your awareness about the plights of conservationists, share a story if you have one to tell, and also to feel inspired to contribute your own little bit in the area of conservation!
Article © 2022 Gyaneshwari Dave
Excerpt from The Portable William Blake (Penguin Classics, 1977)
Author William Blake, Editor Alfred Kazin, Copyright ©1974 Viking Penguin Inc