We were trying to outrun the monsoon, but our destination, Bisbee, Arizona, drew us back into the storm’s front edge just before we hit town. The rain came down so hard we had to pull over on the side of the highway because we couldn’t see to drive. When the rain let up, we drove into Bisbee, a former mining community.
To drive into Bisbee from the west, you pass a strange and oddly moving monument. I say strange because this is not a monument that rises into the sky and inspires reverence. It’s an inverted monument, one that descends, drawing you down into a vast pit gouged into the Earth. To see the mine at Bisbee and to really take it in deeply is to feel your gut carved out. What was once a desert mountain (there are photos) has been is now a yawning chasm, a mirror image of a mountain dug into the planet, an image sullied by human need and greed. The sheer size of the open pit mine is breathtaking. At its nadir, acid mine drainage seeps in and through the rock. I couldn’t help thinking of the French word for wound: “blessure,” from the same root as the word blessing…
Because it is an odd blessing that the mining company has negligently left this wound out in the open. I think it should remain that way and become a national monument, like mount Rushmore and others. We need to see what industrial culture does to the planet and we need to be reminded of what needs to healed, in ourselves and in the culture.
As we drove up to the house we were staying in, we were hit by yet another deluge. Once settled in and dry, we looked out over the town of Bisbee. The effect of what met our gaze in the background could aptly be called cinematic. A rainbow had appeared and its brilliant hue soared over the sunlit town, spanning it from end to end. Even more incredibly, the rainbow’s arc descended precisely down to the peak of a rock spire that stands above the open pit mine we had just passed. Noah’s rainbow was a promise from the Divine that there would never again be a deluge of the magnitude that all life would be wiped out. Taking in the intensity of the rainbow, I thought: “Perhaps we can choose to think of the Bisbee rainbow as another such sign – that there never again will such a wound be inflicted on the body of Earth.” This enormous and imposing mine, emblematic of the larger wound industrial culture has opened in the human psyche, was being trumped by an image of promise.
A few days later, I descended into the underground part of the mine on a tour. It was 53 degrees, damp, and the smell of the Earth penetrated us. Clearance was no more than two feet on both sides and overhead. As we moved deeper into the body of the Earth, I had conflicting feelings of claustrophobia and being held. I felt myself moving along the veins of the wound and the thought that upheld me against my fear of tight places was that I was moving into the pain of the Mother, that somehow the descent was taking me toward the light of understanding, not the darkness of fear.
Our work as guardians of the Earth is the work of moving toward the light of understanding, of compassion in the sense of “suffering with,” toward a consciousness that ignites the vitality of life and love. We are all human and we are afraid of each other’s pain. But moving into the darkness is as much a part of the move toward light as is the joy and the celebration of community. It is an integral journey of pleasure and pain, joy and grief.
Whatever the outcome of our sojourn on Earth, we are all being called to uphold each other in moving toward the light.