Mama Bear Comes Out of Hibernation

Our dreams, our instincts, our fears, our love can guide us through these perilous times

| January / February 2003

BY THE TIME this reaches you, I will have already been to Washington, D.C., to join the Women?s Vigil and Fast for Peace, the first step toward gatherings all over the country and a march in the capital for International Women?s Day, March 8. I have never considered myself an activist, so it takes me somewhat by surprise to find myself going to D.C. and committing to seven days of fasting.

What will my fasting actually accomplish? Probably not much on the surface. I see this as time out of time, a chance to focus my attention on what I really care about, and a preliminary test of the lengths I?m willing to go to protect what I love. I, like most everyone else I know, am all-too-easily caught up by everyday details that distract me from confronting my complicity with our country?s rampant exploitation of people, with the environmental devastation wrought by our habits. I hope that by voluntarily experiencing a taste of hunger and cold, I will find it harder to avert my eyes from or close my heart to suffering, and I will become more conscious of opportunities to speak up, to act, to help.

The vigil is being initiated by UnReasonable Women For the Earth (, an organization inspired by environmentalist Diane Wilson?s challenge to the 2001 Bioneers Conference: ?A reasonable woman adapts to the world, an UnReasonable woman makes the world adapt to her. What this world needs is more UnReasonable Women!?

What that means to me is that all of us, male and female, need to take a bold stance on behalf of traditionally feminine values like compassion and collaboration, and to make a ferocious commitment to the power of love.

At this year?s Bioneers Conference, co-producer Nina Simons (who responded to Diane?s challenge by organizing the inaugural meeting of UnReasonable Women for the Earth) quoted Elizabeth Sawen of the Sustainability Institute in Hartland, Vermont. Sawen expresses the awakening I sense in myself and in many people I talk with:

?I don?t think of myself as a fighter, but I can be fierce in protecting the people I care about, especially my kids. The fierce part of me is not very nimble or very articulate. It focuses on hot stoves and sharp objects. It doesn?t know how to respond to acid rain, or deforestation, or global war. It?s a mother bear that lives in the basement of my soul, and when I let it upstairs for some air we usually have a period of door-slamming and muttering without much constructive action. Lately though, I think the mother bear has been listening to the part of my mind that tries to comprehend the whole world. If no place is safe until all places are safe, then we need a worldwide blossoming of conservation projects, women?s health initiatives, schools, nutrition projects, and peace brigades. The mother bear has no words for any of this, but I can feel a shift as she catches her first scent of a place to act.

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