earthweal open link weekend #7


NOTE: Mr. Linky is working intermittently. If you can’t link there, include it in the comments section.

It’s open link weekend at earthweal. Link a poem using the Mr. Linky Widget (include your location) and be sure to visit your fellow linkers’ contributions and comment. Open link weekend ends at midnight EST Sunday night to make room for the Monday’s weekly challenge.

On Feb. 17 Sherry Marr takes over the reins again with a challenge titled FINDING HOPE. We could sure use it!

Now ladies and gentlemen, start your earthy versey engines!

— Brendan


Albrecht Durer, “Melancholia,” 1514


It’s hot here in Florida for mid-February; everything is blooming in salvos of color and scent. Hardly a bane for in local creature comforts (we’re still months from full-tilt summer swelter) —but weather in the Anthropocene means the sweet spots have very wide margins. Some ways north of here, all this warmth is translating into heavy Gulf moisture, dumping state-sized jerricans of rain, rain, rain over the South. Lakes, ponds and streams are flooding, fish are showing up in submerged farm fields and millions of gallons of sewage is overflowing from compromised systems. Spring is coming early and fast, bringing with it the spectre of last year’s flooding event, where a million acres of Midwest farmland in nine states were inundated.

And in Australia (of late, climate change’s favorite punching bag), torrential rains are now rounding out a “triple whammy” of drought, wildfire and flooding, affecting rivers in the island nation’s eastern half and creating cascading impacts upon fish, invertebrates and platypus. “There’s a real risk of losing species that we have not even gotten around to describing yet,” said Prof. Ross Thompson, a freshwater ecologist at the University of Canberra’s Institute for Applied Ecology.

Lots to worry and grieve. (Current forecast is for 80 percent saline precipitation from weepy eyes.)

But this, too: Lots to look forward to as well. Meaning: There is hope!  You just have to know where to look for silver linings. Peer with care!

I gave Glenn Albrecht’s paper on solastalgia a second read this week; sure enough, I picked up several important points—for this forum, anyway— that I missed earlier.

First, the condition of solsastalgia suggests a treatment. Nostalgia can turned the other way toward a vision for sustainable future:

While some might respond to such stress with nostalgia and want to return to a past state/place where they felt more comfortable, others will experience solastalgia and express a strong desire to sustain those things that provide solace. Solastalgia, as opposed to atavistic nostalgia, can also be future orientated, as those who suffer from it might actively seek to create new things or engage in collective action that provides solace and communion in any given environment. Solastalgia has no necessary connection to the past, it may seek its alleviation in a future that has to be designed and created.  (My emphasis)

Solstalgia helps us celebrate a better future by sharpening our focus on the sustainable. Mental illness is structured in a way that reading it closely reveals the keys to returning from it. A schizophrenic takes a blue pill to live between the lines, the alcoholic reaches for a white chip of surrender. Australia’s burnt-beyond-all-recognition spaces show us the bitter fruit of residents abdicating civil responsibility and governments ruled by powers. Designing a better future is the cure for twenty-first century solastalgia.

To paraphrase Holderlin, the devil is in the details, but salvation is, too. As Jim Feeney put it in his contribution this week, solastalgia can be “a longing for light / hidden under a bushel / at the end of a tunnel.”

Second, though melancholy is a depressive disorder, it is also a disease common among creatives.  If Albrecht is correct in calling solastalgia “Anthropocene-era melancholia,” then there must be creative responses to it.

James Joyce’s daughter Lucia was a gifted dancer, but as a young adult she suffered from schizophrenia and was hospitalized frequently, ending up finally in an asylum until her death. After the publication of Ulysses in 1922, James Joyce spent the next 17 years diving into the verbal unconscious with his novel Finnegans Wake. In 1934, Carl Jung treated Lucia. After their appointment, Joyce asked the psychologist,: “Doctor Jung, have you noticed that my daughter seems to be submerged in the same waters as me?” to which he answered: “Yes, but where you swim, she drowns.”

That may be the difference between suffocating solastalgia and the melancholy which broods a better future.

Certainly here at earthweal, we mean to find out!



W.S. Merwin

This is what I have heard

at last the wind in December
lashing the old trees with rain
unseen rain racing along the tiles
under the moon
wind rising and falling
wind with many clouds
trees in the night wind

after an age of leaves and feathers
someone dead
thought of this mountain as money
and cut the trees
that were here in the wind
in the rain at night
it is hard to say it
but they cut the sacred ‘ohias then
the sacred koas then
the sandalwood and the halas
holding aloft their green fires
and somebody dead turned cattle loose
among the stumps until killing time

but the trees have risen one more time
and the night wind makes them sound
like the sea that is yet unknown
the black clouds race over the moon
the rain is falling on the last place

from The Rain In The Trees (1988)

9 thoughts on “earthweal open link weekend #7

  1. Wow, this poem speaks to me. May the trees always rise again. Jung’s quote to Joyce speaks to me too. I have always been very strong and resilient. I have had to be. I have an ex with a mental disorder and two kids with mental illness (one of them schizophrenia.) The quote: “where you swim, she drowns” speaks right to my heart. Because of their roller coaster ride through life, I learned early on to grow a tree inside, to keep me standing strong enough to support them. Trees get old and tired, though, and I definitely can no longer carry the weight I once did. I attended a gathering of women this morning and gained some hope. I wrote about it while it was fresh but will link it on Monday with my prompt. I wasnt sure where I would find hope, till this morning happened. It IS all around us. I will link up something else today or tomorrow. Thanks for being here, Brendan.


    • Thanks Sherry — I have one cousin with schizophrenia and have watched 40 years of its damage and recovery. The voices are in all us, but sometimes they are just too loud. It’s weird, living with schizophrenia is like living with tinnitus — you just have to learn to listen around the noise. (Poets channel the voices; our challenge to to stay tuned without allowing them to master our meters.) That’s the tree inside you speak of I think. Glad to hear you found support from your spiritual sisters.


  2. I listen carefully to my son. He is attuned to a higher frequency than the rest of us can hear and utters some amazing truths. We have made an amazing journey together. I am putting together a book of his poems right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brendan, it’s quite late, and I did try to read everything, tho with small success, my friend. I also tried to link, but either tomorrow (today) you will have three links to the same poem, or none at all, because things did not go well with the mechanics. I will be back when sleep has refreshed my own data.


      • Yes, I was able to link. I’m glad to see you placing some emphasis on hope in your essays and examples today. Despair, I believe, might be called the drowning daughter of melancholia, and its painful process too often robs the soul of any useful response, or ability to even see one. I don’t think we should be in that place with our planet’s woes, however dire they have become in the last twenty years. It’s the same with our current political struggles–of course they want to wear us down into mush, normalize the unforgiveable, and thus keep us from the only fight that can alter them. Looking forward, we can’t throw up our hands and place the burden of constructive resistance on the future’s shoulders so cavalierly. Despair will defeat everything if we let it. Hope and possible actions will have to our blue pill or white chip, the medicine for melancholy, as it were. Now I need more coffee–look forward to reading this weekend.


  4. Joy, I agree. They would love us to give up and we dare not. First Nations and their allies are rising in protests across Canada. When our numbers get this large, governments have a problem. Everything got shut down this week. Things have to change.


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