Canadian Joanna Pocock (Ottawa, 1965) decided in 2014 to leave London, where she had lived for more than three decades, and dive without prior preparation into the open spaces, still semi-wild, and the pioneering spirit of the American West. Missoula, Montana. There she and her husband chose to turn 50, accompanied by her seven-year-old daughter. The result of those two years is Surrender (editorial Errata Naturae), a hybrid collection, between essay and report, written with exquisite elegance. Pocock mixes with the wolf trappers, with the nomads who follow the bison on their vast journey across half a continent, or with the ecosexual community determined to make love to the Earth to save it from extinction.
Response.Because it is the first step towards full awareness and acceptance of reality. If you fight and resist, you are not open to anything. Fighting is a form of denial. If you give up, you open up. It is not about lowering your arms, as you might in a battle. I see surrender as surrender, as a form of strength.
P. As a form of abandonment…
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R. In the way it appears in the Buddhist tradition. I am not a practitioner, but I have immense respect for their way of thinking. It would not hurt us all a little of that way of understanding life.
P.Escape to the western United States from a metropolis like London, about to turn 50. Why?
R.It was especially my husband, Jason, who became very restless as he got closer to that age. You start thinking about everything you haven’t done and want to do. We needed to escape. We thought of different destinations, such as El Paso or San Antonio, in Texas. Even in the State of New York. By a series of coincidences, we began to hear more and more the name of this city, Missoula, in the State of Montana. We had never been there, and we let ourselves be guided by guts and instinct.
P.And what better way to immerse yourself in the culture of the place than to sign up for a course on wolf hunting traps…
R. [Risas] It was free! I’m very anti-trapping, but I thought, if you’re going to be anti-something, the best thing you can do is learn about it. It helped me understand how divided America is now. To them, I was probably the enemy. a liberal [en el lenguaje político estadounidense, alguien con ideas progresistas] who is against the trappers. But at the same time it was an enriching experience. I did not try to impose my values or principles on anyone, and I put a face to people who did something with which I disagreed. I like to hear people explain what they do. And that, in some way, they force me to question my own ideas.
P.Because you can be a conservative and a conservationist at the same time.
R. There I found an attitude closer to live and let live, a conservatism with a small “c”, almost libertarian. You can find people who are on the extreme right, like some ranchers, who have a true vocation to care for and respect their land. And at the same time come across people who consider themselves progressive and drive their 4 × 4, devouring gasoline, and have the heating on at all hours.
P.In the book, he defends the realization that, in this world, we are all prisoners…
R. One of the biggest problems we have is this idea that the human being is something exceptional. The feeling that someone has given us the Earth to do with it what we want, as its supreme rulers. We could use some humility. We should remember that we do not control everything. You see it clearly when key animals surround you, as they do in Montana. Wolves, bears, all those species that no longer exist in the United Kingdom, and that keep the balance of the ecosystem. They control the number of deer, and if there are fewer deer there is more vegetation, more birds, and so on. As humans, it is important to surrender to the idea that we too can die, and that we are not more important than other creatures.
P. There is already a current of thinkers, committed against climate change, who warn against this constant announcement of the end of the world, which causes people to throw in the towel.
We must take the protection of the planet with a Zen attitude, of accepting reality as it is
R.It’s something I think about constantly. Our planet does not necessarily have to disappear. But its habitable portions will get smaller and smaller, and its resources more scarce. And that will necessarily lead to dangerous situations. I recently read an essay by Derrick Jensen that he wrote 15 or 20 years ago in the magazine Orion. When you are sitting at the bedside of a loved one who is dying, you don’t “trust” them to recover. You do whatever you can to make it better. Perhaps that should be the way to convey the message to people. Let’s do something together. What we can. Let’s not wait for someone else to come up with the solution. We should all take it seriously, but at the same time combine it with a somewhat Zen attitude, in the sense of accepting reality as it is.
P.And in the middle of her stay in Montana, she goes through this experience called menopause.
R.Fun, fun, fun…
P. It almost seems like it, reading it…
R.It is not, it is clear. And for some women it’s hell. Perhaps I have been luckier. I’ve had mood swings, hot flashes, but again, it’s also been a kind of surrender. I haven’t tried to fight it. Like those buildings in countries with many earthquakes. You accept the move because you know it won’t break you. There has to be a reason for what’s happening, I told myself, and I have to get closer to it to understand it…
P.It also coincided with the death of his parents. Would it have been different somewhere other than Montana?
R.I think so. If he had caught me in London, with such a regimented and chore-filled life, it would have been different. There I felt freer, I acquired a more open mindset and, at the same time, more grounded. It made me more flexible to take on all those changes.
P. “The earth is our mistress. We are madly, passionately and fiercely in love.” She was also able to meet an ecosexual commune.
R.They try to make us aware of the state of our planet through sex and fun, with a series of rituals that have been invented. Are they naive? I don’t know, maybe. Aren’t we all? I liked his optimism and his way of thinking. And maybe they are able to reach some people for whom catastrophic messages do not work.
P. Finally, it has a declared war on social networks.
R. They are guilty of the aggravated climate of division that we live in. I think they have caused a disembodiment, a separation between the body and reality. They have alienated us from nature, even from our own physique. I see more and more young people who self-harm, who want to alter their appearance. They are not happy. They are completely disconnected with nature.
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