On a spectacularly clear and warm morning in late November 2019 I was sitting on the ledge of ancient cut rock, still cool from the desert night. I had found a secluded vantage point that served up, panoramically, one of Petra’s most incredible monuments. An early start and an efficient hour-long climb meant that I had this world-famous heritage site to myself… for a short while! Nothing quite prepares you for the massive towering facade of The Monastery, it is simply breathtaking and still hard to articulate.
I had hiked well over 50km of Petra, which barely touched the sides, absorbing everything I could in the little time I had. The feel of the sand, which is heavy yet fine, the touch of the dry air on the skin and in my lungs, the smoothness of the ancient carved stones. Imagining the early Nabateans creating and carving the “Lost City”, one of the world’s most ingenious architectural sites. Seeing the city bear the marks of geographical, cultural and religious changes, through historical conquering and mother nature. The very essence of Petra talks to you intimately, independently, and on that beautifully clear warm morning, sitting on that ancient rock I felt this.
With each inhale we absorb the story of life and death on earth, the idea that we are inhaling history’s exhalations is thrilling to me. The implications are wild, I am sitting at The Monastery, a childhood dream. I’ve inhaled the breath of the Nabatean who carved the final pillar, and that of my young self – saying the word Petra, the breath of my children when they took their first. I’ve inhaled the last breath of my beautiful Nana Bess, that of Hilary and Tenzing, Caesar, a podium finisher, a moon walker, A Byzantine merchant and every breath there was, including the breath of all sentient creatures. We are inseparable you and me. It has been said that a breath taken when present is a compression of time and space, and I felt that.
A month after that November morning the world was hearing whisperings of an unknown illness. Literally what can happen in the blink of an eye? Covid-19 can. Here we are in June and globally our individual landscapes have changed in an unprecedented and alarming manner. Our future choices will forever be affected. There is light though, and it’s begging to reach the tunnel but the light, it needs for us to make better choices.
The incredibly esteemed, beautiful late poet, Mary Oliver has coined a stunningly, solid question that is more relevant today than it’s ever been.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”.
Surely we should be roused to act on pure fact, that is, if we want to continue to see the world, to be inspired by nature, to feel the smoothness of ancient carved stones, to see our loved ones, to move freely, to stand close to someone, to not put our front line workers in an unprecedented firing line. And that pure fact is that animal exploitation leads to human catastrophe.
Slaughterhouses, live animal markets, animal agriculture, historically, these industries are responsible for many devastating disease outbreaks. Obeying the #Stayathome policy saved lives. But if we want to save more lives in the future, we need to truly understand the power our purchasing choices have.
Do we purchase to support industries that historically create all zoonotic diseases and we permanently live with staying at home or do we choose to use our purchasing power in a way that allows for a magnificent answer to Mary Oliver’s question?
Our choices make us inseparable and I feel that, today the world feels that. What I hope to do, one day, on an adventure, is to take that future breath, the one that is a compression of time and space, with an inhalation that is abundant with exhales that are born out of choices made with love and compassion.
Written by Barbarah White
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