Léa | She/Her
Cape Town, South Africa
Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands, and Scrub
Session 5: February 2, 2023
I’m sure many fellow activists get the question: when did it start? What inspired your passion? And I think like many, for me the answer to this question is not that straightforward, because it is often not just one moment or occurrence. I didn’t just wake up one morning and think, “OK, right—I’m gonna be an activist!”
At the end of the day, I believe a passion as deep as this is born from love… and regardless of everything else that is going on in the world, there is so much to love on this little blue planet of ours. So, the story I want to share with you really is a love story: a love story for our planet, for our shared humanity, and for our future.
It is written in the form of two poems that I have published in my book, Dear Earth, and they describe an experience I had here in South Africa. I would like to share those with you now.
FINDING A PIECE OF PARADISE
Today was beautiful. Magical.
We hiked to three magnificent waterfalls in a desolate mountain valley.
It was a hot, long walk but worth every step.
The burning sun rested over us.
The wind stroked the hair on our skin.
We walked over hills and rocks.
Up and down.
The valley was covered in green vegetation.
Warm winds drifted past us as we reached higher altitudes.
Sweat and salt.
The first gushing waterfall greeted us from afar.
The cold water lingered on our hot skin.
The taste of freedom.
Every droplet reviving us.
The second waterfall drew us into a different world.
Steep cliffs on either side as we walked into the narrowing gorge.
Insects and birds chirping.
Dark, nutrient-rich soil.
Bat nests hanging on the dark walls.
Frogs jumping ahead of us on the slippery stones.
An untouched world.
An untethered being.
We dissolved into its beauty.
In awe. Speechless.
Our last waterfall was a deep pond of cool water.
A calm bubbling farewell from the valley.
The sun set as we made our way back over the mountains.
I stopped to watch the last sunrays disappear behind the peaks.
Bathing everything in golden light.
The next day it caught flames.
The fire took down our little paradise.
It burned to ashes.
Never will it be the same.
We were the last ones to admire all the beauty before it crumbled away.
Every shrub and plant I saw no longer exists.
Every frog I saw had its breath taken away.
Every cricket that sang for us sings no longer.
The green mountain peaks saw the sun for the last time that evening.
This was my home. Nature is home.
I am nature. We are nature. And we are burning.
My heart is so sore.
My body is shaking.
My piece of home is burning.
Part of me wants to hide away from all this pain and all these problems.
But I am writing and speaking about what hurts and makes me sad
Because this is something we must share and learn from.
Fire is no toy.
Wildfires spread within seconds.
Our home is burning and with it, part of us burns.
It is our responsibility to act.
To do as much as possible to protect our home.
Recently, I went back to the valley. It is blooming again. It is not the same, but nature has recovered. Nature can heal. We only need to give it the space and the love to do so. Our stories in this world might sometimes be of fires and floods, but they are also about love and hope, and collectively, we have the power to let the latter dominate. To let love and hope blossom.
Thank you for listening to this little story from the tip of Africa.
Léa is an eco-activist and poet. She was born in Germany but grew up in South Africa. She holds an MA in International Relations & Sustainable Development and a LLM in Climate Change Law. Her poetry book “Dear Earth” merges art and activism to inspire change for our future.