Categories
Blogging Journal Musings

Embers

Dried biwa leaf
Dried loquat leaf in front of my apartment door

Something happened in the blogging world that I had been inhabiting up until sometime around the end of last year. After two years of intense dedication suddenly the magic petered out. I even considered pulling out the stoppers and letting the air out of my own blog. Obviously I haven’t gone that far, but for some reason I have never been able to regain the momentum or enthusiasm I used to have. Maybe it is because I have tired of living vicariously in a digital world and have taken more and more to the world outside my door. I know that another part of the reason is that the close interaction with various like-minded bloggers, some of whom have become friends, seems to have evaporated. Even when I leave comments on many of their blogs or post my own essays there now rarely seems to be a response. People with whom I had had almost daily contact for those two years drifted away like autumn leaves.

Losing this connection to these people has, though I have been unwilling to really acknowledge it, hurt quite a lot, in part because I’m not sure if it was something in my own actions or words that caused the dwindling of interest. Until recently I thought it was just me, but in speaking with and reading a few people it seems the waning magic spreads further than just my own fretting mind. Maria of Alembic mentioned to me in an e-mail that she sensed a dying out of interest in blogging, too. Anne of Under A Bell recently wrote about not feeling the magic any more. Several people I used to read religiously have closed shop and disappeared into substantiality. So it isn’t just me.

When I stare at the blog entry screen now so often it feels like narcissism, pretending to reach out into some kind of network, when really what I am staring at is an opaque mirror, not unlike that of the Evil Queen in Snow White. When the computer lures me often I cannot extricate myself, the cobwebs of interactivity drawing tight around the silence of my solitude and need to speak. It is hard to formulate the truth that in spite of the hours spent cranking out words no voice emanates from the opposite end.

Like Anne I’ve been retreating to books and handwritten journals (and hopefully hand-written letters, as I have promised some friends!) and daily waking at dawn to hunker down among the wild flowers and stock-still vitality of the sprouts in my garden, sometimes poking my camera lens among the leaves to record the lives of all those little creatures that go about their business with full-fledged abandon. I find that I’ve badly missed the chill of the dawn air, the slow drawing of the deep sky, the whisking of dove and duck wings past the edges of the roofs. And, of course the unmistakable gaze of the rising sun…

The blogging world opened lanes with people I would never have gotten to know or speak to without the internet. I still hope to get a chance to meet many of them in person some day. But when the voices begin to die away it is like the rain, I have to forget the effects of their singular passage, and perhaps I, myself, must learn to fade away. If there is one thing that the internet has taught me, it is that not only is life impermanent, but ultimately there is nothing you can touch, either.

Categories
Journal Nature Stewardship

Quibbling Over Earth Semantics

I wasn’t quite sure I was reading an intelligent person’s take on things when I read the speech by Michael Crichton, posted by Dan on North Coast Cafe. What is it with this unreasonable fear of environmentalists? Why do environmentalists evoke such reactionary diatribes? Why is it such a difficult thing for all of us to take responsibility for the only place we have to live? No one would question a homeowner’s efforts to economize and better run their household and dwelling, and yet it seems as if everyone has to continually argue about the need for maturing in our practice of living on the planet. Crichton’s simplistic and willfully negligent speech, ignoring the years of painstaking research and sweat of serious scientists and environmentalists who daily live and see the effects of our actions upon the planet, only reinforces the tendency to stick our heads in the sand and hope the problems go away.

I believe environmentalists are in most cases realists who look the world’s problems straight in the eye and attempt to find solutions to seeming insurmountable odds. We (and I count myself among them) are attempting to break the old habits in favor of a healthier way of life, so that all benefit. Crichton almost seems to have been paid under the table somewhere… I mean, take this quote from his speech: “I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned.” Did he even research how DDT works to cause birds to die? Did he think at all about exactly what DDT does kill, besides the crop-eating insects that it is targeted for? Does he have an inkling about how the food-chain works and why an imbalance is so destructive? Did he take the time to read Rachel Carson’s life-dedicated scientific research?

Crichton thinks that because he is some hotshot Hollywood writer and moviemaker that he knows what he is talking about. But he is just that, a hotshot Hollywood writer and moviemaker, not someone who has spent his life trying to understand the natural world or to live within its demands. Even his description of people who go outdoors to experience it, with an attempt to justify his view that “The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff. Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does. It’s all talk-and as the years go on, and the world population grows increasingly urban, it’s uninformed talk.” by portraying an example of his trekking trip into the Himalayas, where he questions a porter about why it is necessary to take so much care in crossing a mountain river: his conclusion about the dangers of nature in a remote place only reveals his vast ignorance about learning to live in wild places so you don’t get hurt, which includes learning to cooperate with others rather than scratch and fight, and that this very uncertainty is part of the reason serious venturers into the wilds come back again and again to take the risks… it is a need and desire for many people to find a way back to our early roots of self-reliance, use of our innate intelligence, attempting to find some kind of real and practical relationship to our surrounding world rather than trying to dominate it on every level, and redefining and reevaluating what spirituality means in the sum of our lives.

No the natural world is not romantic… and what mountaineer worth their salt is romantic about the crags as they climb them? The insects in the garden eating your cabbages away are not romantic. I think environmentalists who deal with this daily have a very clear understanding of the price nature asks for survival; but that doesn’t mean that a person can’t LOVE the natural world. Anyone who would stop to gauge the romanticism and “reality” of children would probably never have them, seeing as children eat away your finances, causes innumerable inconveniences, disrupt well-laid plans, and often get into age robbing troubles, but, in spite of that, people continue to have kids, Crichton himself, most likely.

What Crichton fails to get is that we environmentalists LOVE our world, including the people in it. We want what’s best for it and will do what is necessary to protect it and make sure it is healthy, that it can grow up to have its own life when we are gone. For us the world is alive, not just some dead thing that can be chainsawed into firewood for the fire. Crichton calls environmentalism a “religion”. Perhaps. He’s assuming, of course, that “religion” is always a bad thing, that it cannot be molded into an aspect of our lives that does not necessarily prevent rational thought or change when it is necessary.

But then, perhaps he completely fails to grasp that environmentalism is probably something new, something beyond the dogma that he has his mind set to. And then, too, in spite of his acknowledgment that the environment needs to be protected, he gives absolutely no suggestions for solutions to the big problems. Kind of hard to believe his ability to perceive anything if he traveled to Nepal, but completely missed all those people living in abject, overcrowded, lacking-firewood-because-all-the-trees-have-been-cut-down poverty, isn’t it?

Crichton declares that all environmentalists live in a fantasy world… really, I ask you, who is he to talk?

Categories
Journal Musings

Idle Mind

Orkney Circle Sunset
Sunset over the Ring of Brodgar, the Orkney Islands, Great Britain, 1995.

My pet Red Slider Turtle Pepe, now about six years old, spends ninety percent of his time sleeping upon the sunning rock in his aquarium. Weeks go by without his doing more than waking, eating, defecating, and sleeping once again. I’ve often watched him as he slept and wondered what goes on in a mind like his. What insight of Nature, a practical and frugal taskmaster, prepared a creature like Pepe for passing the hours? Surely the “idle” time that I perceive must hide some purpose that contributes towards his survival? Or does the universe work upon the principle of expending the least amount of energy on awareness?

Wild cats do it, too, lying drowsy or alert upon a promontory, surveying the land below. They will spend hours doing this, days sometimes, just watching. What goes on in their minds? Do they work out tactics or is it a strip of fog, with only movement having any true significance? Would Nature waste the resources of a mind by letting hours go by without purpose or relevance?

So often I feel guilty when I allow time to slip by without making use of it. All my life the society around me has told me that time is a commodity, like money, and that when you don’t use it it goes to waste. And yet those times that I’ve allowed myself to drift have often pinned themselves to my history as the most poignant in my life; my six month bicycle trip across Europe taught me just how slowly the pace of the mind moves within the cycles of the Earth’s seasons and the rolling of the planet. The quick shutter release of city life somehow leaves my mind behind, forever trying to catch up, and never quite aware of itself or where it is.

Doris Lessing, in her book “The Making of the Representative for Planet 8” discusses the role of dreams in life and suggests that dreaming may be the awareness of reality as it really is, that the reason one cannot live without dreams, and why other creatures besides us also dream, is that perhaps reality consists of layers, of which this physical reality is but a facade for the final awakening we all must eventually go through. She asks why it is that so often what we dream seems more real than what we perceive in our waking life, but at the same time we can never find the words to describe this super-reality.

Surely with our knowledge of the insubstantiality of the universe, the way bodies are made up of such ephemeral particles as atoms and quarks and dark matter, should alert us to the possibility that the reality that we perceive day by day is but an illusion. Perhaps the colors and landscapes of our dreams and imagination are glimpses into who and what we really are.

Perhaps turtles and cats have front row tickets to viewing the world as it really is and without effort they are able to recognize creation as the dance that it is. Sleep and dreams may be more than down time for our cells to regenerate. Perhaps they are lessons for us to awaken to, for the next step in our evolution. Perhaps there is much more going on than we even have an inking of.