The Ecoretreat at the Rhenish Brown coal area 3/3 (2022)

Bearing Witness to the Earth (3/3)

The Ecoretreat at the Rhenish Brown coal area

The camp was established by activists over 2 years in the middle of remaining houses. It had a livable infrastructure with everything heart, mind and body need. To explain the outer and inner structures, remarkably growing at this place, would fill another book – again one that should be written! A woman by the forest name Schildkröte (Turtle) guided us openheartedly through the village, enriching us with background information, experiences and later with her enchanting singing voice.

I have deep respect for what was created in Lützerath. The people living here are using their bodies right now to prevent the village being excavated. Already for two years they have been making sure that Lützerath lives and thrives inspite of the daily uncertainty. Here an exerpt from an email a friend wrote me from Lützerath on 22 October 2022:

At the moment I am in Lützerath. It is beautiful, too warm and too dry weather. A peaceful saturday. I kneel in the memorial on the mattress in front of my laptop. From afar I hear some guitar music, light hammering, from time to time a passing car and flying by flight object. A child’s voice, other voices and laughter. Beneath me it is tinkered in the Bicycle Castle and the wind is rusteling through the poplar leaves glimmering in the sun.
 (…) In the morning we had prepared vegetable beds. They have brought seeds and sowed spinach, radishes, bulbs and mache. Knowing that with some luck we will see these living
creatures germinate but not grow. Up to the highest “realms” they say it is now sealed that Lützerath, the plants, the earth, the insects, the worms, that all of us here must give way to the coal.(…)
 RWE keeps excavating in depth in front of
Lützerath. They started to dismantle wind turbines now. I ask myself how it can be more obvious, more visible what is happening here right now. All the beings preparing for the winter as it was field tested for them for millenials or even millions of years. All this will be a manmade nothing. A non-livable space. And it is also a place of music, full of conflict and life and something new, surprising and touching. Almost every day people come by who haven’t been here at all or for a long time. It is nice to be in the shit brigade with them, to swear for night watches, clean vegetables, be asked where help is needed. It is also a space of many expectations and disappointments, a place of finding yourself again, standing up again, of reconciliation and rest.”

How to respond to so much beauty? I am left with the words of Václav Havel..

“Hope …
is not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense,
regardless of how it turns out.”
Václav Havel

Here we were now at the edge between deadly destruction and self-effectiv created aliveness. In Lützerath. Everything at the same time. Split and Wholeness and the rhythm in between. Here in Lützerath I could here it. Especially in the Yew Chapel.
From the Yew Chapel, the remnant of an old wayside cross chapel, I watched a bird. It left from a tree and flew towards the hole. I don’t know what happened to it. Was it a wall of heat rising from the hole and let it bounce off or a sudden change of heart because it realized that it was approaching a territory hostile to life without a landing spot in sight. For a while it faltered, then bobbed up and flew straight back to its known tree. What made the bird turn around? Was it by habit from a time when fields and trees used to be on the other side of the road – not too long ago presumably. Or was it out of a shock or simply a thermal updraft because the heat is more extreme at the hole. Or a combination of all of it. I gave myself a treat by imagining a contest among the birds: “Who dares to go the farthest?”. What tricks your own mind is playing, particularly at the edge.

May the bird and its tree giving shelter and all the others in Lützerath facing the clearing right now be well

“You have dreamed me, God.How I practice walking upright and learn to kneel downmore beautiful than I am nowhappier than I darefreer than allowed over here.Do not stop dreaming me, GodI don’t want to cease to rememberthat I am your treeplanted at the watercourses of life” Dorothee Sölle
(During the retreat a friend wispered this poem into my ear, heartwarming)

Later we listened to an inspiring service held by our KiDl friend, celebrated our Gate of Sweet Nectar ceremony in front of sceptically marveling people. Before we could start we were surprised by an Attac demonstration of 300 people in red. With a lot of noise and vigerous resistance they walked along the red line, the line marking the 1,5 degree climate goal. A total A total contradiction? Yes and no – just life.

Life channeled through our guitar player. He flooded our heart and minds with Jewish songs we celebrated. Yes really, we celebrated life at the very edge. He also sang a song by Rabbi Shir Yaakov. We got to know it at the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreats in Auschwitz. Good to sing it also at this place. Here an exerpt from the text:

“Healer of the broken-hearted
binder of their wounds
Counter of uncountable stars
You know where they are
Healer of the broken-hearted
Binder of our wounds
Counter of uncountable stars
You know who we are
Ha·le·lu YAH
Ha·le·lu YAH”
Shir Yaakov

We stopped off at one of the rural storage houses formerly used for harvests or machines. It was dark, silent and empty. Only a couple of straw bales and a big selfmade swing in the background. Together with our violinist we played with our voices. The halls acoustics resounded superbly. A space for voices. Later when we wanted to leave, a part of the group stayed and seesawed in intense joy. It looked like they were on the high sea. Frank Roshi shouted into the hall: “Come peacemakers! Come!” – this sentence reverberates. Even after the storage house was knocked down yesterday, “Come peacemakers! Come!”.

At the very edge, in the Yew Chapel, we celebrated later that evening my Jukai, a traditional Zen Buddhist ceremony to receive the bodhisattva vows. I got my second dharma name, Wildflower.
A Zen friend gave me later a broken, painted thin piece of wood she had found at the Yew Chapel. Maybe it was once a tinkered sign from the camp. There is so much lovingly and colorfully painted in the camp.
The wood was a fragment of it. She presented it to me with the words: there is the color. It reflects the color of your eyes, the patterns of wildly climbing flowers, the Wildflower. The white dots are the stars that shone above us and bore witness to everything.

This journey as well as this report can only be fragments of the whole. But everything is included in this fragment.
Yes, the stars at the night sky, the depths of the naked earth and every single human, bird, tree and beetle who were with us witnessed this.

“Sometimes you must look.
Otherwise you don’t see.
Sometimes you must listen.
Otherwise you don’t hear.
The glaring pictures, the piercing sounds don’t suit me.
I come quietly.
Love always comes quietly.
Unlock all senses!
Unlock your heart!
For I am here.
And I’ll stay”

Jürgen Werth

Sign in Lützerath „I stay“

This is a piece of my raku, a traditional Zen Peacemaker “robe”, which I stitched for the Jukai ceremony and will wear from now on during my meditations and pilgrimages. The small embroidery represents a green broken pine branch: A green broken pine branch:

“This is our life
The length of our days
Day and nightWe meditate upon it”

From the Gate of Sweet Nectar liturgy

In deep respect and gratitude to Roshi Bernie Glassmanfounder of the Zen Peacmakers with whom I experienced the Bearing Witness training & Roshi Frank De Waele spirit holder of the ecoretreat and my Zen teacher

Information about us:
Zen Sangha Gent with Roshi Frank De Waele:
about myself:
black and white photos by Harry Aaldering:
colored photos: Wildflower
drone picture of Lützerath: www.lü

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