…often, in light, on the open hills—
you can pass an antelope and not know
and look back, and then—even before you see—
there is something wrong about the grass.
And then you see.

That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.

from “A Message From the Wanderer” by William Stafford

There is much talk these days about the U.S. economy, and whether or not it is on its way back after its recent dark night of the soul. It seems we can practically hear the retailers holding their breath as we approach the Christmas season, and there is an almost manic energy ramping up, something with a different quality than the usual holiday stuff. It’s a kind of desperation to hold onto the idea that we can live the way we’ve been living all along, that nothing has really happened, that it was all just a bad dream.

But that’s at the level of the businesses. For real people, something else is happening. Yesterday a co-worker suggested we replace our usual “Secret Santa” holiday tradition with an event to benefit a charity. Everyone loved the idea and instantly pitched in to retool the usual practices. A friend who never recycled anything before, because she doesn’t have curbside service and considers it a hassle, now checks religiously for recycling symbols on everything and hauls recyclables to a neighboring town. There’s a new way of thinking that recognizes the resources aren’t infinite after all, that sees the need to take care of one another and our collective home. It’s the antelope that was waiting for us to stop our full throttle forward motion and look back, just for one moment, to see that there was something wrong with the grass.

I do hope the economy recovers, heartily and quickly. But I like to think this new consciousness was waiting under the surface all along, the way everything in the world waits for us to see just a little bit differently. I want to think that this new way is the waking up, not the dream.