earthweal open link weekend #11

Welcome to Open Link Weekend #11 at earthweal.

Post a poem in whatever theme or mood that suits you. Share something new from your creel of winds, or a greatest hit from your true and blue lists.

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. March 16 will be (duh) PANDEMIC. I’m very interested to read how minds from around the world and grappling for words for this vapor of a changing Earth.

But for now—pull up a stool and sing us a song of whatever!

—Brendan

 

 

If there’s anything we need right now in this weird, shouting, overbright, panicky moment of a rapidly unfolding pandemic, it’s medicine songs—voices of assurance from far and wide, deep and old.

In his book The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram points out that the role of the traditional healer—the so-called medicine man—was not primarily to heal humans, but rather to keep balance with the wild which surrounds and sustains every village:

The traditional or tribal shaman … acts as an intermediary between the human community and the larger ecological field, ensuring that there is an appropriate flow of nourishment, not just from the landscape of the human inhabitants, but from the human community back to the local earth. By his constant rituals, trances, ecstasies and “journeys,” he ensures that the relation between human society and the larger society of beings is balanced and reciprocal, and that the village never takes more from the living land than it returns to it … The sorcerer derives her ability to cure ailments from her more continuous practice of “healing” or balancing the community’s relation to the surrounding land. (7)

If we would address our virus-stricken new reality—a global change dissembling and crumbling normal routines right before our eyes—we must first try to redress our own disruption of the natural order. (Coronovirus ain’t nothin’, compared to the human stain!) We should inhabit tenors and tones which  correct the imbalances wrought of climate change. Let us pray for the healing of pangolin spirits, poached almost to extinction for game markets and bad medicine. May we rebuild a bridge to green recognitions and assurances. Giving voice to the Earth, we balm our afflictions.

Who knows—maybe our quarantines will help turn our gaze to the lushness of our back yards and the wilderness beyond.

I mean, what else are we gonna do?

 

OUTSIDE

William Stafford

The least little sound sets the coyotes walking,
walking the edge of our comfortable earth.
We look inward, but all of them
are looking toward us as they walk the earth.

We need to let animals loose in our houses,
the wolf to escape with a pan in his teeth,
and streams of animals toward the horizon
racing with something silent in each mouth.

For all we have taken into our keeping
and polished with our hands belongs to a truth
greater than ours, in the animals’ keeping.
Coyotes are circling around our truth.

earthweal weekly challenge: STORMS

 

A storm brews: That is a phenomenon as old as the weather. But there are new, darker and deeper notes in that foment. The black crow’s shadow reveals a dragon.

As temperatures rise globally, evaporation is creating a soggier atmosphere. This means water—lots of it—is coming from the sky. Heaviest downpours have increased almost 20% since 1950, and by 2050, inland flooding events are projected to increase another 40%.

Last year’s spring flooding in the American Midwest caused more than $6 billion in livestock and crop losses. Nearly 38 inches of water fell, almost eight inches above average. Add all that to the next spring flooding season, and fresh disasters roll out. Already heavy rains have flooded portions of the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers in the South. In South America, recent heavy rain has caused flooding mudslides in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Honduras. Floods from heavy rainfall are worsening in Indonesia, Vietnam, Iran and Zimbabwe.

Climate change however also means alternating extremes; where flooding increases in one area, lack of water will become an increasing problem in others as drought cycles intensify.

Sometimes these adverse conditions roll through each other, as in Australia where record drought and heat created conditions ripe for wildfire, which in turn made conditions worst for heavy rains which followed, running off massive amounts of soil.

Winds are picking up, increasing the destructive force of storms. Storms flowing in formations which result in rivers of storm, derecho and bomb cyclones. The freak outbreak is becoming appallingly routine—sudden irruptions with devastating result. A hailstorm in Guadalajara in Mexico last summer dumped six and a half feet of hail pellets. A wild storm erupted in Greece also last summer, driving rain and hail with such force that six tourists were killed. Last month, a freak drop in weather pressure over the UK resulted in Storm Dennis, a storm so powerful it was classed as a “weather bomb,” with gale-force winds and flooding rainfall. And just a few days ago, freak hail ruined many crops in Rajasthan, India.

I remember some while back here in Florida when one night when a state-wide weather emergency was announced. Weathercasters on local network stations  all came on the air to announce that some strange weather pattern had coalesced into conditions which could erupt in tornadoes from Tallahassee all the way down to Miami. Storms were immanent and all were advised caution. Local radar showed heavy red swarms with purple highlights approaching our small town.  I went outside and witnessed a maddened sky, this huge vague swirling mass of cloud just above whose shape and menace were announced in constant flashes of lightning. There was the dragon of storm: And yet, most freakishly, nothing happened; the storm passed over and dissolved with all the other threat of tornadoes across the state. It was as if forming the threat was the purpose of the dragon, and that night it was content to fly overhead.

But the story can blow terribly the other way.  Another night years ago my wife had just gone to bed and were wakened by flashes and rumbles overhead. The cacophony lasted for ten or so minutes and then drifted fifteen miles east to the town of Sanford. There an F3 tornado struck down, raking through several trailer parks. Savage hands, lifted this then that, not that but this and not this and those trailer homes into the sky, killing 23. The morning after when I heard the news on my car radio driving in to work, I felt Biblically passed over, the angel in that great storm deciding between elect and preterit, marking doors in a ghostly language: him, them, not them but her, him but not her, not them, all of them.

Storms also occurs in the mind and soul and heart, in the brainstorm of inspiration and the fructifying cloudburst over parched place. Gifts from heaven are measured, panic is a flood. The emotional textures by which we experience storms—tempest, force, rage, turmoil, onslaught, blast, disturbance, gale, torrent—suggest Wotan’s fury and Thor’s hammer, the bolt of Zeus and the whirling madness of Lear. Sexual pleasure crescendos in what the Japanese call the moment of the clouds and rain. Daily challenges require us to pile sandbags we don’t know if have enough to last through the night.

How does climate change deepen, darken and magnify these inner swirlings? Selfishness is our common burden, but it doesn’t normally become murderous or suicidal until under the influence of Saturn’s leaden depression, thrilling but shredding manic episodes or the abandon of the drunk.

For this weekly challenge, explore the outer and upper manifestation of storms and/or the inner and deeper tangents and myths. How are they changing with a heating earth, what is the color and sound and resonance of air whipped higher and wilder and louder and fierce?

Note: I’ve passed over the topic of hurricanes and cyclones, saving them for a later challenge. They are angels of a different order and deserve separate treatment. Include them however in your own responses however if you wish.

— Brendan

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!

—Brendan

SPRING

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)

 

earthweal weekly challenge: BEATING THE DRUMS OF CHANGE

Chief Howilhkat, Freda Huson, stands in ceremony while police arrive to enforce Coastal GasLink’s injunction at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre near Houston, B.C. on Monday, February 10, 2020.

Source: The Narwhal

 

The Rise of Indigenous People and their Allies Across Canada

By Sherry Marr

On February 10, 2020, RCMP invaded Unist’ot’en territory and arrested elder Freda Huson, in prayer, during ceremony, along with other land defenders, as they peacefully stood on their own road protecting their unceded lands and waters from a proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline that will threaten their traditional way of life. As a non-indigenous person, I observed this disrespect with outrage.

In support, blockades rose up across Canada. For two weeks railway lines, ports, bridges, intersections and commuter trains were shut down, as indigenous and non-indigenous people across Canada stood in solidarity with the Wet’sowet’en people. Canada’s commerce ground to a halt. Protests are still being held on the steps of the Government Building in Victoria, and outside the Parliament Building in Ottawa. Blockades are still occurring at significant points of entry to ports and at key intersections.

The blockade set up in solidarity by the Mohawk nation, in Tyendinaga territory, east of Belleville, Ontario, has been much in the news, echoing the Oka crisis in 1990. Wounds from that 78-day standoff have not healed. On February 24,2020, RCMP moved in and made arrests. More blockades sprang up. Land defenders and their allies plan to protest until the RCMP withdraw from Wet’sowet’en territory, and “until the demands of the Wet’sowet’en hereditary chiefs are met”.

Frustrations mount. Commuters feel “inconvenienced.”

“There is inconvenience. And then there is injustice,” a B.C. chief responded. For 300 years, First Nations have lived under oppressive colonial rule on land that had been theirs for thousands of years. Many reserves do not even have clean drinking water. Prime Minister Trudeau found billions to buy an old pipeline to carry oil, but can’t find money for pipelines to carry drinking water to the people, some of whom have had boil water advisories for 25 years. On some reserves, people can’t even use the water for bathing or washing dishes, it is so contaminated. This is unacceptable.

“Reconciliation is dead,” First Nations are saying. This has gone far beyond the issue of the pipeline. The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the rights of indigenous people to their land, stating they hold title and cannot be removed from it. The United Nations has told Canada to stop the pipeline, which will cause irreparable harm to indigenous peoples’ land, rights, and way of life.

First Nations are tired of oppression, of government-backed corporations taking resources from the land they have left. They wish to be regarded as the sovereign nations they are, and to make their own decisions about their traditional territories.

The hereditary chiefs remain willing to talk to government, on a nation to nation basis, but only after RCMP have withdrawn from their territory. And traditionally, it behooves the government to go to talk to them, not demand the hereditary chiefs come to Ottawa.

An environmental assessment of the proposed pipeline has rejected the project.

It makes neither economic nor environmental sense. But capitalism only knows one way to proceed: money and jobs, they keep saying. Money and jobs. The few temporary jobs created by the project won’t benefit very many, and the proposed route across northern Canada and along the B.C. coast will put entire ecosystems at risk. The gas will be shipped to China. Also, the government actually has to subsidize these projects. It seems insane, to me, to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize corporations flogging our fossil fuel dependency, the way of death, rather than to develop clean energy alternatives, providing jobs for people across the country. We need to turn away from fossil fuels and replace them with clean energy projects.

What isn’t being said on the news is that the hereditary chiefs offered an alternate route to GasLink, away from the river, but the company rejected it.

In an unexpected bit of good news in February, another giant, Teck, withdrew plans to expand the oil sands in Alberta. “Shareholders have little interest in investing money in a sunset industry,” they said. Light is beginning to dawn.

“The government only understands the language of money,” said one land defender. “So we are shutting down their avenues of commerce.” It definitely got everyone’s attention.

Civil disobedience is how we saved the old growth forests of Clayoquot Sound in 1993. When all other avenues fail, civil disobedience is what we have left. Our voices, in large numbers, have impact.

I spoke to a young woman yesterday who gave me hope. She said this is the shift we have been waiting for. It is a time of turmoil, unpleasant to live through, as the old systems are no longer working and are breaking down. In the upheaval, something new is being birthed. Never has support for and solidarity with the first peoples of this land been so strong. The environmental crisis has finally gone mainstream, and is spoken of daily on the news.

We have the knowledge, the science and the technology to make the leap away from fossil fuels and the ways of death of the past, to new clean energy sources and towards the healing and restoration of the land and people. The time is now to vote out leaders who do not hold visions of a clean and livable earth. It is time to join hands and voices across the land to insist on respect: for First Nations, and for the earth herself, who has given herself nearly to the point of extinction, and who is crying out through all of her systems and creatures for our help and healing.

The indigenous people of this land have lived on Turtle Island in harmony for thousands of years. It only took us a couple of hundred years to cause so much destruction. We can learn from their leadership, and stand in solidarity with them to protect Mother Earth. We must.

Indigenous elders say we humans must walk lightly on the earth, for we are treading on the faces (and the futures) of our children. Let’s envision the world we want, and add our energies to the shift happening across this land – and this planet.

FOR YOUR CHALLENGE:

Let’s beat the drums of change. Write whatever you are inspired to write by this situation or information, or about the need for social justice, especially for indigenous people, world-wide.

Or you might like to look back at the indigenous world, pre-contact. Or re-vision a future where non-indigenous folk have learned from the people of the land how to live on and with Mother Earth in a respectful sustainable way.

The Nuu-chah-nulth people, where I live on the West Coast of Canada, have no word for the wild world. “The only word for wilderness is Home” they say.

The challenge is wide open for you to write whatever comes. I look forward to reading your thoughts, in prose or poetry.

—All My Relations, Sherry

Update:

Since the time of writing, provincial and national government officials finally travelled up north to meet with Wet’suwet’en Chiefs. Word is Prime Minister Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan will become involved after the preliminary talks. News anchors note “There is a fundamental shift in tone in the dialogues.” Perhaps Canada is finally recognizing they are dealing with sovereign nations, and accord them the measure of respect of any other governing body. We live in hope.

Work is paused on the GasLink pipeline, while talks continue. We have learned one valuable fact: in large numbers, united, we can bring the country to a halt and impact government. Good to know. Many of those joining the protest were taking a stand for the environment, as well as supporting the Wet’suwet’en people.

On Sunday, government officials left the north, saying they and Wet’suwet’en elected representatives have reached a proposed preliminary agreement with regard to Wet’suwet’en rights and title to their territory (rights that already had been established). This proposal will now be taken to the hereditary chiefs, and to the various clan houses for input.

But spokesperson for the Gidimt’en camp, Molly Wickham, says the agreement does not address the presence of GasLink and RCMP occupation of their territory, which is still a problem. And the hereditary chiefs continue to oppose the pipeline.

Solidarity protests continue.