earthweal open link weekend #32


Howdy earthlings,

Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #32. During open link weekend you’re invited to write to your own challenge, whatever that may be.

Be sure to include where you’re linking from and visit your fellow linkers and comment.

Last call for open links is Sunday night round midnight EST, at which time we roll out the next weekly challenge. Sarah Connor returns with a delightful one titled LOST WORDS.

What’s the news in your world?


earthweal weekly challenge: STRANGE WORLD


Hot and sunny this Friday afternoon in Central Florida as I begin to write this week’s earthweal challenge—nothing unusual about that, it’s probably been this way here in July for the past 10,000 years. Nor is there anything much different about hurricane Isaias working its way up from the Bahamas right now just barely at Cat 1 strength. Forecast now is that it will brush Florida’s eastern coast but stay offshore and spiral slowly north, probably coming ashore in North Carolina.

All of that seems pretty normal for right about now, although other weirdness is leaking into the mix and changing the picture.  Saharan dust high in the atmosphere (blown this way thanks to mid-Saharan drought) along with wind shear is making Isaias’ spiral progress more labored.

Probably won’t be much, but then a heating ocean and more moisture in the air means more powerful storms, heavier rainfall events—and much more of the unexpected.  Noah Shannon writes in the Climate Issue of the July 22 New York Times Magazine,

Since 1989, the number of storms with winds topping 155 m.p.h.—the speed at which wind starts to tear walls from building—has tripled; over the last few years, parts of India and the American South have flooded, with anywhere from 275 to 500 percent more rain than usual. In the oceans, where there is now 5 percent more water aloft than there was in the middle of the last century, the odds of a storm spinning into a major hurricane have shot up substantially in the last 40 years.

Last year Hurricane Dorian came up much the same path toward Florida but parked next to the Bahamas at Cat 5 strength. The year before, Hurricane Michael barreled up the Gulf while intensifying from tropic wave to Cat 5 in just 36 hours. They are still rebuilding the Panhandle after taking a direct hit. The monsoon season this year has flooded a third of Bangladesh, and the Yangtze River in China is seeing its worst flooding in decades, threatening the Three Gorges Dam and livelihood of millions.

Storms are also breaking weather patterns by straying out of season and latitudes. Although the Atlantic hurricane season has been set between June and October, last year the first tropical system formed on May 20 and the last one on Nov. 24. (This year, Tropical Storm Arthur formed on May 16.) Cyclone Idai struck the Mozambique coast late in the Pacific cyclone season in March 2019, six weeks later when Cyclone Kenneth struck Mozambique, evacuation routes were still choked from the previous weirdly late storm. Some forecasters now believe Category 6 storms are now possible due to the changed climate.

Extreme weather is also more difficult to predict. Shannon writes,

The chaos wrought by climate change requires radically rethinking some of meteorology’s core concepts. As a disciple, meteorology is based on the idea that the climate is a constant; within each year, season or day, only a certain number and range of variable weather events are possible. But because that constant has become a variable, (severe weather expert Steve) Nesbitt thinks the field needs to take a big step back and begin again with the basics: close observations of how storms develop and behave. “We thought we knew how the climate and weather operated,” he told me. “But not we have to think more like astronomers—like we don’t know what’s out there.”

Strange new world. As coastlines submerge, maps are becoming fast outdated. The virus spreads, taking advantage of every doubt and equivocation and weariness expressed by leaders or the populace. A map of projected inundations by 2050 is curiously akin to a map of projected infection in the United State two months from now. Governments don’t seem to be able to respond sufficiently to either, nor do citizens of this century.

We have more advanced tools than ever but we’re less decided the tidings they bring. The weather darkens and threatens but we don’t know or can’t comprehend what’s coming. We should be prepared but we don’t seem to want to accept the reality that demands. Millions are on the move now due to climate change but there isn’t really any place for them to go. The rising tide of those faces is all but invisible to the commercial consumer world most of us inhabit. What do disconnects like these bode for us and the century now unfolding?

Our solid sense of reality has been disrupted, and what we’re left with doesn’t behave normally. The mind which assembled words for this post is more aged and dicey, less focused and reluctant to summon orders which used to come easy. Am I going mad or is the world?

And despite all these challenges, most hunker down into the safe and known, tried and true solutions which ceased being so some time ago. It may be more the 1950s now than ever as we repeat the ghostly patterns of assurance and solidity.

But who’s the ghost now in this strange new world?

STRANGE WORLD is the theme of this challenge. Take the opportunity to assess what’s become so strange in your world, be it climate or politics or culture or dreams. Are the tools of observation changing from the weather forecaster’s reliance on past data to the weirdness of astronomy—discovering new unknowns?

As I finish this challenge on Sunday, Isaias weakened overnight and now is a disorganized tropical storm brushing the Florida coast. The hot ocean which has witched up such wicked storms recently was countered by Saharan dust from hot dry weather elsewhere. We’ll feel some breezes later today, maybe a few rain bands: The opposite extreme of the extreme we were fearing. In a strange world, sometimes it goes that way, madly still instead of violently rending. They are both faces of the same time.

What’s strange in your world/country/city/home/backyard/forest/ocean/head/heart today?


earthweal open link weekend #31

Whale shark off the Galapagos Islands

Salutations earthlings,

Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #31.

Everyone’s invited to link a poem—old or new—fitting for the moment.

Be sure to include where on Earth you’re linking from and visit you fellow linkers and comment.

Last call for open links is Sunday night round midnight EST, at which time we roll out the next weekly challenge.


earthweal weekly challenge: SACRED LANDSCAPES

dun i iona

Dun I at Iona, just off the southeastern coast of Scotland

Fiona MacLeod’s essay “Iona” is about an island the author lived on for a time in his youth, the lore of it he learned and the way it grew in his heart as he championed the Celtic Renaissance.

The introduction to that work provides the springboard I’m looking for this week’s challenge.

A few places in the world are to be held holy, because of the love which consecrates them and the faith which enshrines them. Their names are themselves talismans of spiritual beauty. Of these is Iona.

The Arabs speak of Mecca as a holy place before the time of the prophet, saying that Adam himself lies buried here: and, before Adam, that the Sons of Allah, who are called Angels, worshipped; and that when Allah Himself stood upon perfected Earth it was on this spot. And here, they add, when there is no man left upon earth, an angel shall gather up the dust of this world, and say to Allah, “There is nothing left of the whole earth but Mecca: and now Mecca is but the few grains of sand that I hold in the hollow of my palm, O Allah.”

In spiritual geography Iona is the Mecca of the Gael.

It is but a small isle, fashioned of a little sand, a few grasses salt with the spray of an ever-restless wave, a few rocks that wade in heather and upon whose brows the sea-wind weaves the yellow lichen. But since the remotest days sacrosanct men have bowed herein worship. In this little island a lamp was lit whose flame lighted pagan Europe, from the Saxon in his fens to the swarthy folk who came by Greek waters to trade the Orient.

Here Learning and Faith had their tranquil home, when the shadow of the sword lay upon all lands, from Syracuse by the Tyrrhene Sea to the rainy isles of Orcc. From age to age, lowly hearts have never ceased to bring their burthen here. Iona herself has given us for remembrance a fount of youth more wonderful than that which lies under her own boulders of Dûn-I. And here Hope waits.

To tell the story of Iona is to go back to God, and to end in God.

(Iona” first appeared in The Fortnightly Review in March and April 1900, was put into book form in the same name in 1905 and in 1911 was anthologized in volume 4 of MacLeod’s collected works.)

A simple, almost nondescript island in the Hebrides (there are more than 40 in all, most uninhabited), Iona also has been a magnet for spiritual expression for millennia. Iona was a druidic island before the arrival of St. Columba in 563 AD, and before that it was sacred to the moon-goddess Ioua. Once there were 360 standing stones around the island’s margin; an Iron Age fort once stood on Dun-I; a Christian monastery flourished for centuries, was destroyed several times by Vikings, sat fallow for centuries and then was rebuilt. Irish Catholics include it in their sacred pilgrimages along with St. Patrick’s Purgatory and Station Island. Tourists come from around the world to revel in its sacred landscape. My father visited there several times over his life, had a seminal encounter with something there in 1977 and used that to cultivate his own sacred landscape in Eastern Pennsylvania. Some of his ashes rest near Dun I.

I never visited the island, but it has been a permanent fixture in my spiritual geography for the past 40 years. (The name of my blog Oran’s Well derives from such a spring called Tobar Odhrain near Dun I, also called The Fountain of Youth, now lost; other similarly-named wells are found on nearby islands like Colonsay and back in Ireland.) Iona is a place where the veil is thin. It is located far away yet deep in me, of a past which is somehow wound in my fate; the work of resident energies became my father’s which are also mine as well as any who treasure and further thin places and resonant energies.

What makes a landscape sacred? From what do wells and mountains and rivers and islands inherit their power? Long habitation and use? Leys and magical rooks? Unconscious cultural material which has followed us for hundreds of thousands of years? Innate animal affinities which provide us with our native compass and speak our origin myths?

Redwood National Forest, California

I’m leaving that up to you to answer. For this week’s challenge, imagine a place that is important to you, perhaps magical or spiritual. What makes it so for you, and how have you kept a relation with that place over the years? Is it a real place or an imaginary one? Have you lived there or only dreamt of visiting it? How has it affected your poetry? And how might it be affected by climate change and a fast-evolving humanity? (Iona was stripped of much of its cultural magic when the Gaelic language was lost to modernity—some would argue that its Christian foundations have slipped away, too–sadly for many, it is empty buildings and eternal wind.)

Think of: vistas like the Grand Canyon; depths suggested by the keel of a boat far at sea; the vastness of stars above and beyond; old-growth forest canopies waterfalls and sweeping fields; Edens and primaveras; gods and goddesses of place; the language of a culture wound into particulars of place-names; the wonder-worlds of childhood and fable and storybooks; the heart which is intimate with such places and calls them home.

Is there a sacred landscape in this world for you? Gather round and help us weave those shrines into a sacred Earth!

— Brendan

earthweal open link weekend #30


Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend #30.

Here’s a chance to share something from your wider repertoire, whether brand new or goldie oldie.

Be sure to include your location in your link and honor your fellow linkers with a comment.

Last call for open links is Sunday night round midnight EST, at which time we roll out the next weekly challenge. (Thanks to Sherry for a great job hosting the challenge this past week; and to all for so many great responses!)