“We were the ‘Land of the Free’ for the longest time,” state Rep. Regina Cobb (R) said recently at an Arizona Republican forum. “We wanted to be able to put wells where we wanted to. We didn’t want monitoring. We didn’t want metering. We didn’t want government coming in and telling us what to do. Until,” she told an audience where some wore “Make America Great Again” hats, “we saw the number of wells that were being put into the ground.” Continue reading “When the water runs out”
I should have known it was coming, but like always in the heady rush of things you forget.
Two Fridays ago that beautiful morning, sunshine glinting off Cardiff Bay, a crowd of schoolchildren buoyant with homemade banners and placards outside the Senedd, smiling and laughing, singing and chanting. They were calling on the politicians inside – not one of whom showed their face – to listen up. They were calling on all adults everywhere to act their age and confront climate change. It was impossible not to be moved. Not to feel almost giddy with the sense of possibility. If you were there in Brighton, Sheffield, Berlin, Sydney or any of hundreds of other towns and cities where the same was happening that morning and in the days since, you’ll know what I mean.
You’ll also know what I mean if you’ve seen YouTubes of Greta Thunberg talking. A small, slight figure, softly spoken, reticent, not a hint of arrogance, holding an audience of big shots spellbound with her simple, honest, indignant message. For a moment the bluff and bluster that mark success in our crazy upside-down society melts away. The small, softly spoken person inside all of us holds sway. There’s hope. A new vanguard emerges, uncomplicated and instinctively true, seeking like a dog’s nose for some hint of a way forward. ‘We are nature defending itself’ said one of the schoolchildren’s slogans. I believe it.
But then you know how it is with feelings. You open your heart a crack, cognitive defences are down, and something else slips in to hijack your spirit.
Just over a week later we experienced the hottest February day ever in the British Isles, towards the end of what was the hottest February ever. 20°C across much of the land, quite a spike in a month where the average temperature in past years has been 7-9°C. The weather news was all about people sunbathing in city-centre parks and queuing for ice lollies at the beach. I briefly voiced my unease, in quiet conversation with a colleague in our over-warm office and was batted back with “the climate has always changed” and “we exaggerate our own influence”. There was no talk of climate in any of the sunny conversations around me that morning, only great weather.
At lunchtime I wandered out to the patch of bare ground across the supply road from the building where I work, and followed a muddy path into the strip of scrubby woods which lines the expressway. No question, the weather was gorgeous up there on the edge of the Brecon Beacons under an alpine sky. There was a bumble bee, fat and furry, zig-zagging among the slim tree trunks just above the leaf-fall. What’s going on, I thought. I’ve never seen a bumble bee at the turn of winter. What’s it looking for? Nectar, surely. Flowers. But there aren’t any flowers. None whatsoever. The trees are bare and nothing has poked through the mulch. Has it been warmed from its winter resting hole by the premature heat? I once read that bumble bees can manage only about 20 minutes of flight without a slurp of sugary energy. How much longer did this one have left? I placed a bite of apple on the ground close to the bee when it settled at the foot of a tree, but that spooked it and it promptly zig-zagged out of sight. The traffic roared. I pushed on, but the thought of the bee wouldn’t leave me. Imagine emerging on cue, primed by the eternal waltz of life for a summer of buzzing, to find yourself in a wasteland of dead leaves with 20 minutes to go. The image fused in my mind with a recurring scene from Tarkovsky’s Stalker: a man stepping slowly, expressionless, through a forest of blasted birch. Post-apocalypse? You never find out. But something bad.
And that’s how it happens. When you realise you’re feeling shit again.
The nadir, certainly, was this. One evening in the kitchen, after washing up and all that, the kids readying themselves for bed, I’m scrolling through Twitter and stop to watch a 10-minute video of Greta addressing an auditorium of European Union political elite. My daughter steals in behind me to watch over my shoulder and I’m pleased that she’s interested. Greta stresses the “less than 12 years to act” message, says there will be uncontrollable chain reactions if we don’t, and at that the daughter retreats upset, later to be found in a far corner of the flat, eyes red-rimmed and wide as she says to me: “…but it can be fixed, right? It can be stopped, yes?”
I can write this now because it’s passed, that stumble. I guess it comes in waves. I guess it’s like two sides of a coin. Some days what the kids are doing is hugely heartening. Other days it may just break your heart.
(Image from a postcard by Peter Reason)
I’ve had little time to think and write of late, as many small crises converge – from a sick elder dog to local political struggles to broken equipment to minor family exigencies, but there are always moments of grace amidst the scurrying and chaos, and one of the moments was seeing this photo in the bathroom of my veterinarian’s office. I immediately titled this photo in my head: The Richest Woman in the World. She is a dignified elder of native Hawaiian heritage. She is poor in material things – her house is old and ramshackle, there are no window panes and the foundation is buckling. This kind of house was and still is common in the area where I grew up – South Kona and Ka’u – although nowadays most such houses are either fixed up or abandoned and slowly falling down. But she is rich in a boundless peace and a connection to the world around her, she is rich in that native heritage and community which is so deeply place-based and family-centered, and she is rich in the companionship of her skinny but contented cats who sit at her feet amid the dust of her yard. It reminded me of Basho’s haiku:
Girl cat, so/thin on love/and barley.
It’s a struggle for the new chick to peck its way out of the egg. We postmoderns still seeking truth have the same basic problem to solve, but the eggshell is less visible. Make no mistake though we are each inside the thing, struggling to get out, and find out what is on the other side. And then of course we each have to figure out what do next. The good news is that there are a lot of us.
image: Kornerstone Farms
SILVER LININGS IN THE VERY DARK CLOUD OF CLIMATE CATASTROPHE
We actually do not have all the time in the world, so I am going to be bold. What you do after you finish reading this is your business and ultimately, that is exactly as it should be. We may all be facets of a larger Oneness, tiny sparks of the Divine dwelling in human form, but for the moment—allowing the potential truth of a larger connection–we are very clearly individuals, each with our own experience and outlook. We have our own ways of coping and to some extent, each of us charts a unique course through this life. We are often granted some choice about how we live and how we die, though most of us vastly prefer to focus on the former.
Even there, we tend to let life happen, getting pulled from one urgency to another amusement without full consciousness of how we spend the time. “Where did the time go?” is a plaintive query, often-expressed. “Time flies!” When you are having fun, when you are busy, when you aren’t fully present. Life happens to us more often than most of us would like to admit. But still, we can always meet it–our life—where we find it today and choose differently how we experience the flow of time, how we interact with the circumstances we have been given and crafted for ourselves. Such is the beauty of being alive. Continue reading “Guest Post: Living Like It Matters”
Chris Martenson’s recent article about collapse and the plummeting of biodiversity made me think about what it feels like to be left behind. Few people living in affluent countries or communities understand what this means. Continue reading “What will it feel like to be left behind?”
The older I get the less I enjoy having stuff. When we moved three years ago it was shocking to find how much stuff we had accumulated, and how much work it took to pack and move it. It took months and yet there are still boxes waiting to be unpacked. Every so often I attack them; sorting, repacking and deciding what things I want to keep or to give away. Years of accumulating things has begun to feel more and more like an anchor around my neck.
A recent article got me thinking about our contact with the natural world. After reading more about the Social Justice Movement and in particular Extinction Rebellion I agree with one of the commenters that “the left is on an ideological crusade to promote its doctrines and that the climate change issue is merely an opportunistic vehicle to do so”. It isn’t that I don’t agree there are social justice issues that need confronting, but I think there is a danger when political groups use the issue of climate change as a reason to promote social revolution. I agree, “we need to confront the material, scientific and institutional causes of climate change”, and I don’t see how we can do that if our rebellion isn’t about climate change. I believe the way to confront climate change is with more environmental awareness.
Last week was tough in a way that I hadn’t expected.
I had two events to go to: the first, a climate change conference put on by our state’s climate change commission, and the second, an agricultural bank board meeting. It was unexpectedly tough to think about the world in such disparate ways within a few days of each other. Tough to reconcile their differences, or not to reconcile but bear those differences when they were not reconcilable. That was the hardest part and it took a toll on me.
There were two different visions of the world that undergirded these two different meetings, two different ideological positions that were the common, unspoken background of most of the attendees at each meeting, and two different set of blindspots. Continue reading “Whiplash & the Breath of the Sea”
My father died on Dec. 24th and my husband and I returned to Minnesota for his funeral. At 87 he had lived a long and full life. It seemed like he went “downhill” very fast. In the last two years each time I saw him I couldn’t believe the changes. In some ways I feel fortunate that the end of his life came relatively quickly. He lived to a “ripe old age” and enjoyed his life almost up to the very end. We were fortunate that a family wedding last August brought most of our family together in celebration and my father’s health was still good enough to share in it. The picture above of my father was the one taken last August and the one we used at the funeral. When the end came it came relatively quickly, although I know it didn’t feel that way to my mother or sisters who sat by his side for four days.
His memorial service was a beautiful celebration of his life. It was held at the small Lutheran church that our family attended most of my life. It was bitter sweet. The church was filled with people and many of them came up to me to offer condolences. They would often say “You probably don’t remember me…” and all too often I didn’t. Many people I hadn’t seen for years, even decades, but their words always touched me. Their stories brought tears and laughter. They all thought so much of my father. How can one explain what it means to belong to a community? These were my people. I was Bob’s daughter. I belonged. Somehow sharing with each of them it felt as if the emptiness I was feeling was filled. The hole in my heart that I wasn’t expecting…was somehow filled. These people in one way or another made me feel that my father was important. His life mattered and by extension …my life mattered.
How absolutely essential it is to belong in community. Our roots go deep and our soil is enriched because our father tended it. He wasn’t perfect. Nor are we. But we would not be who we are if not for him. To me he was my idol because I was the proverbial “daddy’s girl”. He was my first teacher and I learned so much from him. I would not be who I am without his influence. We belong to a family within this community. My mother, my siblings, my nieces and nephew, their spouses, their children…we gathered together as family. We cried, we laughed, we hugged, we looked at pictures, and we hoisted our drinks. We came together as family. This is a time when you feel we are more than just individual people living our separate lives.
I could feel my father’s spirit and I know he was smiling. I thought “Look what you started dad. Look what you left behind.” I could feel his approval and his love. His spirit was with us. The mystery of life came full circle, we are born, we live and reproduce, we die…the way we only hope it can be. We all hope we can live a long and full life and in the end to know it is our time, to know that we were part of something larger than our self.
A week before he died my sister asked him about death. “Are you ready?” His answer was straight forward. “Yes. I’m pretty sure I am. ” Can we hope for more than that?