earthweal open link weekend #10

Welcome to Earthweal’s tenth open link weekend.  Here’s your chance to express yourself as widely and deeply as you wish, in whatever theme or mood that suits you.

Only two requests: include your location in your link so we get a feel for the breadth of global reportage, and be sure to visit your fellow linkers and comment.

Open link weekend ends at midnight EST Sunday night to make room for Monday’s weekly challenge. The next one is tentatively titled A GROWING THUNDER (something about increased storm activity across the Earth and/or in the mind).

Enjoy the free-for-all!


A quiet mood has been on me for the past week, so I don’t have much to offer by way of homily today. (Cue cheers from the peanut gallery.)

Becalmed is one way to put it; no wind in the sails, ergo no forward movement. Fits and starts with new poems which splutter out.  Dead zone is another, a region of sea depleted of oxygen mostly due to human activity, mostly nutrient pollution.  Without enough 02, sea life dies or flees. One such dead zone lies off the coast of Louisiana and Mississippi (USA) where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and it covers about 6-7,000 square miles. Excessive rainfall this year and last—due in part to a heating Earth and increased moisture in the air—is increasing the agricultural effluent flowing down the river into the Gulf, creating hypoxic conditions which threatens fishing and tourism in the area.

Anyway, that’s my state of mind this week—at odds with Earth and Sea in a way which turns  pages stale and dry.

It’s been an eventfully unstable week in the world, and that can surely upset vatic apple carts. Coronavirus has spread to my Florida—not vastly, not yet anyway—so there’s that in the news cycle, as well as filtering into grocery stores where people are already stocking up for quarantine. (My local grocery store doubled their normal business for the day when the first cases were announced in Tampa, about 50 miles away.) Global markets have been on a financial Tilt-a-Whirl, stoking fears of recession or worse and U.S. politics are churning with a high-anxiety 2020 presidential campaign.

And then there are the personal uncertainties and anxiety of unemployment in one’s 60s, a wife in much distress over care for a father with advanced dementia and someone banging around in the bathroom all day replacing a shower that had been installed ten years ago by a criminally lazy contractor.  Hard to peruse the deep well when your domestic ass is on fire, is it not?

Occasional bouts of becalmed-to-dead inner oceanics have grown routine as I age; I stare at a blank page and wonder if there’s a single inspired word left in me. So far it doesn’t last for long. Eventually the wind shifts and the sails fill again, the pollution clears in the water and big fish swim back. Who knows why the spirit leaves us, where the leak might be, though I’m sure I have legion and the muses have a large congregation to inspire. I’ve found that if I not get too troubled about it and focus on peripheral projects on the creative farm—filing away old poems, cleaning out the detritus of the learning life, or writing this post—the secret rudder eventually finds its webbed footing again and I’m baaaaaaack.

Like a lot of things it magnifies, climate change may be increasing these doldrums with new vistas of bewitched, hypoxic emptiness. The whole world is going silent in its acquiescence to digital disruption, its numbing 180 away from the world. Maybe Ross Douthat is right that we’re in a latter-time decadence where the world isn’t so much zooming up into singularity as scattering in dust:

The truth of the first decades of the 21st century, a truth that helped give us the Trump presidency but will still be an important truth when he is gone, is that we probably aren’t entering a 1930-style crisis for Western liberalism or hurtling forward toward transhumanism or extinction. Instead, we are aging, comfortable and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer optimistic about the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we await some saving innovation or revelation, growing old unhappily together in the light of tiny screens.

The rising crescendo of earth events precipitated by climate change only makes the cultural dead zone of decadence even more lifeless, for both come when we are seemingly least capable of lifting a finger to do anything about it.

It’s all rather depressing, and that, I think, has kept or driven people away from here. (One departing poet sniffed, “This place makes Goths look like Up With People.”) Jamming a finger down on our inability to respond, much less change, despite the overwhelming evidence that we must do something immediately to combat the lasting effects of climate change—well, that just makes it all the more depressing. And depressing poems about earth change don’t seem like very apt buckets when one should instead be baling a capsizing boat.

But maybe that’s the point. Depression—dem ole melancholy blues—is a common haunt for most poets I know. It is the creative illness, perfection’s crucifix and nail. And with suicide rates for the whole population climbing globally, depression is also a thoroughly modern malaise.

Timothy Morton in his book Dark Ecology also places depression at the forefront of modernity, but adds that the modern is simply the 10,000-year shadow of the “Mesopotamian agrilogistic fantasy” that nature can be ordered to serve human civilization d. Modernity is a deathless freeze which awaits tools strong enough to defeat death.

Depression is an autoimmune disorder of the intellect against its poor phenomenological host being, little you. The “tears of a clown” form of comedic depression is when the depression says, I am not (just) a finite being, a sentence that sounds suspiciously like the agrilogistic virus. The desire arises to be regarded as a “serious” actor whose irreducible gap is sealed. Like white blood cells, the intellect can’t bear mortality and finitude. It wants you to live forever. It will eliminate every contradiction in its path to carry out this (absurd, impossible, destructive) mission. The “logical” conclusion to this path is the suicidal elimination of the host, like going into anaphylactic shock.

He adds,

The agricultural logistics that now dominates Earth is this depression mind manifesting in global space. Objectively eliminating the finitude and anomalies that actually allow it to happen, the poor voles and weeds. The level of ecological awareness after guilt and shame has to do with depression, of being de-pressed by the overwhelming presence of processes and entities that one can’t shake off. The idea that one could shake them off is the basis of the depression. The depression is in effect a symptom of agrilogistics, itself a depressive drive to eliminate contradiction, with its consequent absurd and violent demarcation of Nature and (human) culture. Depression in a box, Mesopotamian depression, obsessively reproduced, now global. The whole point is to fight one’s way back from the brink (species-cidal and suicidal) toward the comedy. Toward accepting the irreducible rift between what a thing is and how it appears, allowing it to manifest. (Kindle edition, 153-5)

Long story short: lighten up! It’s only depressing when assume the world’s “complicate amassing harmony” (Wallace Stevens) is somehow perfectible. We do what we can and leave the rest to our Olympian complexes to duke it out. (My vote is for Hermes, dark lord of long roads, the guy who can find the silver hidden in depression’s fog. )

Those who do continue to participate at earthweal (or who are now coming round) stress that changing earth also inspires hope and renewal. There is a drum yet to bang (thank you, Sherry). There is a difference between that false hope which is the fantasy of Oz— over the rainbow free of Depression— and the radical hope of whatever Kanas is and can be beyond the dust storm, through Australia’s corridor of wildfire smoke, in a Cape Town gone dry and an Iran flooding over with coronavirus. There is love in the time of cholera, and there is a poetry of that—sometimes hypoxic and then flourishing.

Morton, again: “Instead of the fatal game of mastering oneself, ecognosis means realizing the irony of being caught in a loop and how that irony does not bestow escape velocity from the loop. Irony and sincerity intertwine. This irony is joy, and the joy is erotic” (155).

Thus—we play!



Mary Oliver

This morning
two birds
fell down the side of the maple tree

like a tuft of fire
a wheel of fire
a love knot

out of control as they plunged through the air
pressed against each other
and I thought

how I meant to live a quiet life
how I meant to live a life of mildness and meditation
tapping the careful words against each other

and I thought—
as though I were suddenly spinning, like a bar of silver
as though I had shaken my arms and lo! they were wings—

of the Buddha
when he rose from his green garden
when he rose in his powerful ivory body

when he turned to the long dusty road without end
when he covered his hair with ribbons and the petals of flowers
when he opened his hands to the world

From West Wind (1997)


12 thoughts on “earthweal open link weekend #10

  1. I have found (besides seeing my therapist) that daily exercise (riding my bicycle every other day 20-30 miles) is the best thing I’ve ever found to battle depression. Even in my 60’s as soon as I start my ride I’m smiling like a maniac catching bugs in my teeth as I go. The cool thing is that smiles are catchy and almost everyone smiles back as I glide by. I like to think that those smiles lighten someone’s day for a few seconds. Actually, I read about this and it’s a fact. People say I have a nice smile and so it’s my secret weapon.

    Depression is a fickle thing though and it creeps through the most well-laid plans. Especially when it comes to things we so want to change and can’t. Some of the things you mentioned above, Brendan. We were very close to becoming homeless on April Fool’s Day (timing can be so sickening). James is 61 and after being laid off from his 10-year job (farmed out to another country) he spent one year bouncing around from job to job, and the next 4 years back at the company who laid him off as a temp worker. Temp workers get NOTHING but hourly wages, no insurance, holiday pay, nothing and times were hard. State rules say you can only work for 4 years and then have to take 90 days off (losing your job.) Unemployment cannot pay the bills here in CA.

    To make a long, sad, story short he somehow lucked out (at his age) and his job hired him as a permanent worker in another department! All of a sudden things were even better than they were before he got laid off but the last 5 hard years are still hard to ignore. We are incredibly happy but it will take a while for the damage done to “lift” from our hearts. My retirement money gone (for bills) and him in debt at least things can start to improve and no, we won’t be homeless. What a thing to face at our age though! The sad thing is, we aren’t the only ones and many will be homeless. These are sad times indeed.

    I can’t believe that people say there is no damage to the planet after all we’ve done to it and all of the evidence. The nasty things said about Greta Thunberg were shocking to me. She’s just a young lady who cares!!! And now, the spreading virus that kills people our age. Wow! Not so surprising what you wrote this week at all.

    I hope you don’t mind the length of this but I just had to answer your words because I think we all are feeling the same way. Shifting times and situations are making it hard to keep our footing in uncertain times. I guess history is like that and when people look back to these times I wonder what it will be like by then. We can only hope a hell of a lot better or at least an improvement of some sort. We can keep the faith together!

    I hope everyone has a nice weekend and a big hug to all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so for sharing your story, Bekkie, Aging is about transformation, is it not? The difficulty of that is real and so often fatal (premature of the final steps we all have to take). And the reality is that life works out very well for a few and not easily or readily or handsomely for most. How we deal with our fates, what we can do about it and not, how we suffer or grow, for me it’s spiritual / mythic adventure which has little to do with actual circumstances and everything to do with acceptance and fortitude and humility. Unemployment doesn’t pay the bills anywhere, but the attitude is all, battered and bewildered as we all are in that. From the good folks in AA I learned that the only thing you keep is what you give fully away — a smile, a good deed you never tell anyone about, assurance, hope. You get what you give. Doesn’t pay the bills but serenity sure fills up the space between ’em. Anyway, thanks so for coming by this green tent in the wild. — Brendan

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brendan, I love your post so much. And I continue to be grateful for this space where we can share real , honest feelings about this world we live in, and be understood, since we know too much to turn away. I am trying to hold onto the hope that this time of turmoil is a Great Shift trying to happen. But i see the HUGE coordinated global effort to address the virus and wish governments would respond the same way to climate crisis, which will ultimately displace and kill so many more. Sigh.

    I especially love the Mary Oliver poem which i had not read before. She is my very favourite poet.

    Bekkie, I am glad to see you hear, glad you survived your hard years. So many of us are only one missed cheque away from homelessness.

    I will link tomorrow, as have shut my brain down for the night. Smiles.


    • Thanks Sherry, always glad you’re here — This coronavirus pandemic has many hidden messages which are slowly unfolding their wings — A product of human interference and traffic in nature, spread by human mastery over distance, creating economic shocks of a scale greater than any more local natural disaster. Governments are sluggish to respond but necessity forces them to marshal resources on a scale which suggests a Great Shift is surely within the range of our global means. And it tells us that nature is still quite powerful and can mow cleanly through vast fields of overpopulated and urbanized human wheat .. – Brendan


  3. Hello, I am sorry I haven’t been here lately. I have been recovering from an illness and still working so, by the end of the day I am depleted of any energy. I have been meaning to post my offering all week for the Drums of Change.

    The world and life as we know it is quickly changing and we must adopt to the drum beat of change. I went to a small gathering of drummers and we sat around a fire under moonlight.
    Each of making an intention and offering something to the fire. It felt cleansing and I hope I was able to infuse some energy into my poem that there is hope.

    I would like all of us to consider making a medicine wheel of some sorts together. Each of creating a hand painted stone of some sorts and writing about it. Where does it fit into the medicine wheel and earthweal? What four directions are you seeking? Something to ponder. I have to meditate on this exercise for us as we are all stones in the journey. What stone would you be? Okay I am totally off the beaten path. You are free to take what you like and disperse of what doesn’t speak to your heart.

    Peace, light and healing of earth and it’s people…


    • hmm. better yet don’t paint any stones let them be raw with the jagged edges that make us unique. Perhaps, you have a personal collection like me. Also, if you find a stone in nature please ask the stone spirit before picking it up as it may want to stay where it is…just my thoughts…

      It’s sunny here today, I am getting outside to commune with mother earth…I invite you to join me in a sip of nature’s blessing…


  4. True, I am a great lover and collector of rocks – the ones that speak to me. I love your idea about a Medicine Wheel. You might have to explain it to us in a bit more detail, in terms of what intentions we need to bring to it, how do we know what direction etc.We are likely each representing a different direction, wherever we are on this planet. I am west, Brendan east etc……. I have always wanted a medicine wheel in my yard. But I no longer have a yard. But then again, this whole glorious peninsula is my yard, so I am extra lucky. Years ago, I used to find heart shaped rocks everywhere – when I lived here before. The years away, I could not find them. Last week I found a tiny one, first one in all those years. I like this Medicine Wheel idea… lovely to see you here and I am glad you re feeling better.


  5. I’m late to comment, but I seem to have lost my way in the blogging world. It’s interesting that you write about depression Brandon. Recently, I’ve been feeling quite low. The condition of the world saddens me. But I do try to lighten up, to breathe, to focus on the part of nature near me, including my own human nature and I nurture it with music and dance (I guess I’m a bit of an eccentric old woman), writing, drawing and painting.
    I appreciate what you’ve written here. You have a lovely, intellectual and sensitive style. I hadn’t read Mary Oliver’s poem. I thought I had read them all. This one is beautiful, like most of what she wrote.
    I read all the above comments and feel honored to join with such caring, giving folks. (I’m especially glad that you do have a home Becky and that you have the happy strength to go out and smile now.
    My muse has been so dormant, but I will try to write some poetry for this site. I am grateful for it and all participants.
    Brandon, thank you for your writing and for hosting.


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