Tis the season to talk about gratitude. And turkey. And colonialism, Indigenous peoples, Buy Nothing Day, Shop Local, consumerism, capitalism, and the growing list of ways humanity will come to an untimely demise. I’m going to leave all that aside for a moment. In other years, I’ve had a mouthful of opinions along with my vegan Thanksgiving. This year, I have only gratitude.

There’s nothing more humbling than nearly dying and realizing you are simply grateful to just be able to show up at this moment in human history on this beloved Earth. Yes, the world is a mess. Yes, there is a mile-high stack of injustices looming. But, I’m struck by the stark fact that this brush with cancer meant I almost lost my chance to be here in all of the beauty and all of the madness.

And I wouldn’t want to miss this part of the story.

This is it. The climax of humanity’s long epic. The page where the plot twists turn us into tragedy or triumph. I’m personally rooting for us. I suspect we’ll have a moment in the future where we can look back and say, wow, that was crazy, what were you doing on the day that you realized you had to become one of the heroes/sheroes of our times? One of the many leaders in the leaderful movements? One of the awake human beings who upended their lives to save the lives of everyone and the beautiful Earth?

And as we look back, we’ll realize that our lives were a staggering adventure of courage and love, hope and kindness.

Of course, I’m a sucker for a good story. Especially love stories. And I think humanity’s story is, ultimately, a love story.

It has been for me. This year, as I confronted the possibility that I might die young (a tragedy, in my opinion), I hollered at the universe, what kind of a story is that? To die at this moment seemed like a terrible ending to an odd and interesting character in a saga such as mine. The writer in me rebelled. I even shook my fist at the proverbial sky. Then I sat down with my friend, the Earth, and we quietly told a story together: the story of my life if I was able to live it, all of the loving, the creativity, the kindness, the showing up in nonviolent movements for change, the laughter, the beauty, the reweaving of my life in relationship with the Earth. And when I finished, the Earth said quietly to me, what is the story of your friends, the other humans? What will the story of their life be if they have a chance to live it as a species, long into the future. 

Oh my friends, what a story I told! The Earth and I, we laughed ourselves to tears, we wept with beauty, we rejoiced to see the possibilities looming in our future, we saw your children and grandchildren, and descendants uncountable. We saw their foolishness and follies. We saw their brilliance and inventiveness. We saw their kindness and connection. And most of all, we saw their love.

If we want to live, each breath gives us the love to make the healing changes we need to make. For the Earth is asking us to fall in love again, to see the land, air and water with fresh eyes, to live as lovers do, enraptured with the miracle and the beauty of it all; to love in all the dimensions we can imagine and then some, to make friends with rocks and trees, rivers and oceans, marshes and plains, and love them with depths of friendship some of us have never before explored.

For me, this starts with gratitude for the chance to be alive right now. This is it. This is the edge of humanity’s story, where our collective hand has touched the pen of our actions to the page of our present.  What story will we write together?

I’m looking forward to the tale. I’m glad to be a part of it. I’m grateful to be here, alive, with you. May we live full, lively, unexpected, adventurous lives together.

Love, Rivera

PS I’m also grateful for your support of my health, writing, and the new novel The Roots of Resistance, through our Community Publishing Campaign. Practical gratitude, I know, but no less sincere and heartfelt! Love, Rivera