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earthweal weekly challenge: ANTHROPOCENE LABRYINTH

photo of Knossos ruins: Image by Bigfoot from Pixabay

by Ingrid Wilson

For this week’s challenge, let’s see if the figure of the labyrinth can help us perplex ways out of the Anthropocene predicament we are now in.

The labyrinth which famously housed the Minotaur is mentioned in a 1st-century AD encyclopedia of mythology titled Bibliotheca and attributed to Pseuo-Apollodorus:

Now the Labyrinth which Daedalus constructed was a chamber “that with its tangled windings perplexed the outward way.” (Pseudo-Apollodorus, The Library, III.I.4, translated by James G. Frazer)

Note the quotation marks: this phrase is attributed to an earlier poem, possibly by Sophocles, now lost to time, but evidently well known at the time the author was writing.

The Labyrinth was constructed by Daedalus, according to the most famous legend, to contain the monstrous Minotaur: half beast and half man, born out of an unnatural coupling between King Minos’ wife Pasiphae, and the prized bull of the god Poseidon.

There are, however, other descriptions of the Labyrinth. Its prototype was that of Crocodopolis in Egypt, according to Ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who writes:

I have seen this building, and it is beyond my power to describe… It has twelve covered courts – six in a row facing north, six south – the gates of one range exactly fronting the gates of the other, with a continuous wall round the outside of the whole. Inside, the building is of two storeys and contains three thousand rooms, of which half are underground, and the other half directly above them. I went through the rooms in the upper storey… and it is hard to believe that they are the work of men; the baffling and intricate passages from room to room and from court to court were an endless wonder to me, as we passed from courtyard into rooms, from rooms into galleries, from galleries into more rooms, and thence into yet more courtyards. (Herodotus, The Histories, 2.148, Penguin Classics 1954 translation)

Homer, in Book 18 of the Iliad, describes how “Daedalus in Cnossos once contrived/A dancing-floor for fair-haired Ariadne” (Lines 592-3).

The labyrinth may also have been a formal dance, performed in an outdoor arena on just such a dancing floor. Plutarch, in his Life of Theseus, describes how, on his return voyage from Crete having slain the Minotaur, Theseus calls at Delos “and danced with his youths a dance…being an imitation of the circling passages in the Labyrinth, and consisting of certain rhythmic involutions and evolutions” (Plutarch, Life of Theseus, Chapter 21).

Origins of the Labyrinth

Most archaeologists and historians of the Late Bronze Age identify the palace of Knossos on Crete with the Labyrinth of Minos. Hard not to, when its discoverer, Sir Arthur Evans, named it “The Palace of Minos at Knossos.” He even named the pre-Greek civilisation he discovered there “Minoan.”

I have visited Knossos several times, and there is certainly something labyrinthine, not only in its construction, but in its layers of construction. During the Minoan period, the palace at Knossos was rebuilt at least three times, following a series of destructions by earthquake and fire. The resultant archaeological picture at the site is so complex that Knossos has been referred to by scholars as ‘”A Labyrinth of History.”*

Delving deeper into these layers of history, we discover that Knossos, and the other Minoan palaces on Crete, have a more fundamental connection to the labyrinth. The labrys is the Minoan double-axe, which in a stylised form, is the symbol for the letter ‘A’ in the Cretan Linear A and B scripts. It is also the key to drawing a formal labyrinth pattern, as shown below:

How to draw a labyrinth (Costis Davaras, Guide to the Cretan Antiquities, Noyes Press, 1976 p. 173-4)

No one knows exactly who, or what, brought about the final downfall of the Minoan civilisation. There are many theories, and the topic is hotly debated by scholars of the Aegean Bronze Age. Perhaps the ravages of Poseidon, the Earthshaker eventually broke the spirit of this highly advanced and artistic civilisation, causing them to abandon their gods and run to the hills. The natural cataclysm which was the Thera (Santorini) eruption may have shaken the Minoan psyche to its core. There is also evidence that the Mycenaeans took over the Minoan administration, but adopted its artistic and orthographic practices. The final blow to the resultant Minoan-Mycenaean civilisation came from outside invasion, possibly by the mysterious “Sea Peoples.”

The Anthropocene Labyrinth

The Minoan-Mycenaean civilization came to an end abruptly in around 1100 BC. The labyrinth crumbled to ruins, out of the dust of which the legend of the Minotaur was born. Human society does not adapt well to sudden environmental changes, leading us to question our fundamental beliefs about ourselves and our place on earth. Is that not the situation we find ourselves in now, as the Anthropocene madness begins to move in the direction of a disastrous conclusion? It is said that Daedalus constructed the labyrinth so well that even he struggled to find his way out. Is there any way out of this labyrinth of destruction that we appear to be building for ourselves?

Finding our way out 

In my reading for this essay, I found out the following from Wikipedia, which may turn out to be pertinent:

In English, the term labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze. As a result of the long history of unicursal representation of the mythological Labyrinth, however, many contemporary scholars and enthusiasts observe a distinction between the two. In this specialized usage maze refers to a complex branching multicursal puzzle with choices of path and direction, while a unicursal labyrinth has only a single path to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and presents no navigational challenge. (Source: Wikipedia)

We are perplexed and bewildered by the “tangled windings” of the labyrinth, but here we have before our eyes a labyrinth which presents no navigational challenge.” In Brendan’s notes to his poem ‘Wheelhouse By the Sea,’ he remarks:

It is said that by flying over the Labyrinth Daedalus is able to “read” its pattern, a confusing maze at ground level. The vantage is all. Also, victims could escape the Labyrinth by making a decisive turn at the center — a lurch counter to the downward draw.

Let us not forget Ariadne’s clue of thread neither, with which Theseus is said to have escaped the labyrinth after having slain the beastly Minotaur. Are we able to make a “decisive turn” off our current course of self-destruction? Are we able to “perplex the outward way’” by looking within? And what clues do we have to guide us on this journey?

For this week’s challenge, let’s examine the possibility of rhyming, or perhaps even dancing our way out of the Anthropocene labyrinth.

— Ingrid

*The book Knossos: A Labyrinth of History (Edited by Don Everly, Helen Hughes-Brock and Nicoletta Momigliano, BSA 1994) examines the site from pre-history to the present day, and attempts to piece together its archaeology, layer-by-layer.

**Tablet KN Gg 702, which reads ‘da-pu-ri-to/po-ti-ni-ja,’ which has the possible translation ‘To the Lady of the Labyrinth.’ The Linear B script was a syllabary adapted from Minoan Linear A to write an early form of Greek. (See Ventris and Chadwick, Documents in Mycenean Greek, Cambridge University Press, 1959)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

earthweal open link weekend #83

 

Welcome to earthweal open link weekend #84. Link a favorite poem and visit your fellow linkers to comment.

Thanks to Sherry for her timely challenge. Great to see the community respond forcefully and with heart. Such is how consciousness raises!

Ingrid Wilson takes over the reins next week with a labyrinthine challenge sure to get all your wheels turning. Her Anthropocene Hymnal anthology recently published with many of the voices in this forum. Her challenge goes live midnight Sunday EST.

Happy linking!

Brendan

CONSCIOUSNESS RAISING DURING THE APOCALYPSE

 

eathweal weekly challenge by Sherry Marr

May I live in a way
to be worthy
of my own light.

On the bus, riding home from the city, I had time to reflect on the world in which we find ourselves living. More of us are awake than asleep now. We see clearly the many ways in which the human experiment has failed. The signs are all around us. But we need to remember: we are meant to be beings of light.

I feel the dark forces ascending and, drunk with unleashed power, and encouraged by deranged and deluded minds, it may feel like they are winning. Yet the human spirit is amazing; it is still alive and well. In every disaster we see it: humans reaching out to help one another, not seeing the “Other” that cause so many to behave badly – just seeing fellow humans, struggling. Poets, singers and dreamers are still envisioning a brighter world.

It feels like there is a war going on on this planet between darkness and light. I have to believe there are more light beings than dark, and that they will endure. I waited most of my lifetime for the transformation of consciousness to occur. Just maybe that is what is happening now? It feels like everything is falling apart. But maybe this is consciousness, transforming and rearranging?

Reptilian consciousness feeds off fear. This way of thinking emerged from the shadows during trump’s reign, which encouraged the dark hearted, misguided human to come into its own. Impossible to put that genie back in the bottle. We saw it on January 6 in full fury and it was chilling. We see it in Afghanistan, where fierce men holding assault weapons stand in front of a sign saying “your government”. (The fear of the Afghani populace is how we would have felt if the January 6 people took over, which they attempted to do, and said “We are now your government.”)

It feels sometimes like we are fighting for the soul of our country – the soul of our world.

 

 

You know how deeply the battle for Fairy Creek has been impacting me. Clearly the forces of dark and light are confronting one another on the blockade lines.

On Saturday, August 21, the “police” displayed reptilian consciousness more blatantly than ever before. Protestors linked arms to protect people behind them who were chained to a metal gate. Police began pushing against them and then drew out spray cans of pepper spray and sprayed at point blank range into the protestors’ faces. One man said a policeman pulled open the wide leg of his shorts and sprayed his genitals. Another said a policeman pulled his jaw down and sprayed directly into his mouth. A policeman on the edge lost his balance and fell. Police, to excuse their behaviour, said protestors pushed him – but their arms were linked; the police were doing all the pushing. The video shows he lost his balance. And the pepper spraying was already going on.

The video shows people being dragged along the gravel roadway – this violent behaviour has been going on all summer. But the pepper spraying incident finally hitting the news finally got the mainstream public’s attention.

Who do people being brutalized call when it is the police doing the brutalizing?

Media has been oddly silent about Fairy Creek. They likely have been told to downplay it. Plus police will not allow journalists their legal right to observe, witness and report. They keep them outside “exclusion zones” and do their dirty work out of sight. (RCMP pension funds are linked to industry. Not much conflict of interest there.)

But protestors have phones, and this bit of film, along with many others, exists. I have a media friend who called up Global News and asked why they were not reporting it. He forwarded the video, and it hit the evening news. People are outraged and MLA’s are speaking up. Finally. Over 90 complaints have been made to the police Watchdog about their violent behaviour. [After this video hit the news, police made a new rule: no one but police were allowed to video what was taking place. That will make things nice and fair and transparent!]

But. As I watched this video, I wondered: what kind of new human is this? This is no human being I recognize. They have drunk the Kool Aid, gone to the dark side. You would almost wonder if some alien species has assumed human guise to destroy us from within.

The face of consciousness rising.

 

But not all of them. On August 27, I watched another video of police brutally sprawling people face down on the dirt roadway to handcuff them. An indigenous elder woman was crying and pleading with them: “Where is your soul? Bring it back into your body! Please!”

One tall policeman, standing in front of the pleading elder, struggled to not break down in tears. His face showed his deep discomfort at the scene in which he found himself. Perhaps it was his first time there. It was good to see conscience and humanity in at least one policeman, who did not engage in any violent behaviour. But in the village today, I passed a policeman on the Post Office steps, and I had to look away, could not meet his eye. My trust is broken; maybe it has been for a long time – a few police shootings back of young indigenous folk in my community. I do not view them as serving and protecting any more – they serve industry.

In this video, at the side of the road, a young woman played guitar and sang about the birds and the trees and her soul, determined to hold onto nature and beauty in the midst of cruelty and injustice.  The land defenders’ message is positive: “Our community is filled with love, and together we are strong.” They are fighting to save the last of the ancient forest, the very last of the Old Ones. An irreplaceable ecosystem that holds more magic than humankind yet understands.

I worry. Someone could lose their life at Fairy Creek, while the government remains unbelievably silent.

(If you wish to add your concern, an email protesting the logging of old-growth to Premier Horgan from other countries would carry weight. premier@gov.bc.ca )

And covid is on the rise again. Now there is a new Delta Plus One variant. Like the human virus, covid is once again ascending, gaining power. I have a double vaxxed relative who is recovering from covid. Kids are getting it. Babies.

Out of control violent police, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, the Personal Freedom Over Personal Responsibility anti-mask folks, right wing white supremacists – the picture isn’t pretty when it comes to how advanced or evolved we are as a species.

But let’s not give up. When things are this dark, we need to shine our light even brighter. When you shine light on cockroaches, they scatter.

The old power structure isn’t working. It got us here. It holds on tight when it is threatened. It fights for its life. But it has to go. For survival, we have to transition to a new way of being on the earth – which is actually the Old Way. This will happen either with or without us.

I recall something I read in 2016, when our hearts were stupefied and broken at the election of one of the darkest hearts on the planet. In Kali Takes America, Vera de Chalambert said “Donald Trump became the President of the United States. But make no mistake, it is really holy darkness that won this election……. it is the Dark Mother, the destroyer of worlds, oracle of holy change, the tenderhearted be-header, that won this country. Kali has brought down our house in a shocking blow; all the illusions of America, stripped in a single night. We are not who we thought we were. Now we must get ready to stand in her fires of transmutation. We need them.”

An oracle of holy change and the fires of transmutation – I like the sound of that. Perhaps that is what we are living now. It is prophesied that in the dark days of floods and fire, the Rainbow Race will rise, all over the earth. (I see these warriors of the rainbow at Fairy Creek, and I love them with all my heart. They are fighting to save us all.) It is prophesied that in dark times,  Shambhala warriors, armed with compassion and insight, will walk the halls of power. (I think Barack Obama was one of them, and it freaked out the extreme right so much they lost their grip on reality.) They say we ourselves were born at this time because we are the ones who will help make this evolutionary shift. That feels hopeful to me.

All this time I told myself we were born from war– but I was wrong. We were born from beauty. Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence—but, rather, that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it.― Ocean Vuong, from On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

These evolved and tuned-in beings are at Fairy Creek, linking arms and singing for the trees, putting their bodies between the heavy equipment and the last of the Ancient Ones. I see them in the hot dog vendor who once a week feeds the homeless. I see them in front line workers who help the sick, fight the fires, resuscitate the addicted. I see them rescuing animals from the wildfires, desperately saving lives from the flames. I see them in the response in our hearts – we poets across the planet – as we sing our sorrowful/hopeful songs, longing for that better life – the life we were meant to have here in the garden.

We can never give up. The transformation of consciousness begins with individuals. When the light goes on for – and in – conscious beings, we understand our place, our connection, on this finite planet in our care. The choices we make personally do have impact, even though we may feel they are a drop in the bucket: recycling, reducing consumption of meat (and everything else), using public transit, avoiding plane travel, withdrawing support from corporate offenders, demanding change from our supposed leaders, becoming activists for the world we want to see, for whatever cause stirs our hearts the most.

People are already out there, cleaning oceans, repairing streams, planting trees, protecting trees. Some advanced countries have already made the switch from dirty to clean energy. Some have banned fish farms from their waters; others make roads from recycled tires or plastic. Some are growing bamboo and hemp, more quickly renewable than trees, giving forests a chance to mature and become the biodiverse ecosystems they are meant to be. (Remember the best carbon storer on the planet is a mature tree. It is insanity, in ever-increasing drought, to be cutting them down.)

Time for us to shine our lights, boys and girls, as brightly as we can, into every dark corner.

Your challenge: In the midst of everything going topsy-turvy, in a dark-hearted world, let’s pick up our pens and direct our faltering hope, our vision – OUR LIGHT – in what may very well be our last gasp at the brink of the abyss.  With our Shambhala warrior pens, let’s expose what is wrong on the way to making it right. Let’s keep shining some light into this broken world, which remains so heartbreakingly beautiful, in spite of everything.

earthweal weekly challenge: SLOWNESS

 

We live in a world too fast on the move; having ramped up this speeding furnace, we must somehow slow it down.

Bone-dry conditions, high heat and whipping winds are driving wildfires across the Western North America. The Glass Fire last year in California’s wine country grew at about an acre every five seconds. It’s not unusual for wildfires to now burn 15 miles in a single day. The Caldor Fire now approaching Lake Tahoe in Nevada is spreading so quickly that it burned an area roughly half the size of Chicago in a week.

As more moistures is trapped elsewhere in the atmosphere, rain is falling faster. In Tennessee, the small town of Waverly was pummeled by 17 inches of rain from stalled thunderstorms. Runoff from higher elevations outside the town created a wall of water that raced through like a tidal wave, destroying 125 homes and killing 21. The town beat the state’s previous one-day record of 13 inches and did so much faster, in about 8 to 12 hours.

The magnitude of what happened was summed by Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis.  “The perfect storm happened here,” he said. “Are we going to definitely look at it and learn from it? Absolutely. We’d be crazy not to.” But, he added, “we made the best decisions we could when we had to make them.”

Learning from the incomprehensible is a new problem we face, a labyrinth yet without a discernable pattern.  Examining the data from the summer’s first heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, environmental scientist Robert Rhode called the numbers “statistically impossible”:  so far beyond the observed experience that it exceeded even statistical models’ outmost potential extremes for the area. According to Rhode, this means that “events … are not just pushing the boundaries a little bit, but are really jumping out at us as something we did not expect based on what we had prepared for in the past.” (Ronald Brownstein, “The Unbearable Summer,” The Atlantic, August 26, 2021).

All this is due to accelerating and cascading effects of climate change. Extreme events are happening now at alarming speed, so much so that one disaster quickly erases memory of the last. Remember the town of Lytton in British Columbia, which burnt down the day after temperatures hit 121 degrees F? Or how about the embered town of Greenville, California? How  Talent and Phoenix, Oregon from last year? Or Paradise, California, the year before? What Kangaroo Island or the vast Siberian taiga? Or how about Hurricane Kartrina wheeling its massive saw into the Louisiana and Mississippi coast exactly where  Hurricane Ida now barrels in intensifying might, 16 years to the day? Remember Hurricane Harvey (2017, 60 inches of rain, Groves, TX) or Michael (2018), which intensified from tropical wave to Category 5 monster in just 36 hours? How can we, with the extreme weather wire jangling at every next moment?

Hurricane Ida rapidly intensified this weekend and hit the Louisiana coast at near-Cat 5 strength

Scientists said these events were going to start coming at us fast, but how much faster can we accommodate them? When you consider that we’re only at about 1.1 or 1.2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, and with projections of about 3 degrees C total increase by the end of the century, this party has hardly begun …

BRIGHT BIRD FALLING

Speed, efficiency,
convenience—
so this bird is winged.

Not long ago we boarded up
and soon the sun grew large,
a gold future clear ahead.

Then too huge and hot,
a burning crown of dread—

and us too high for jumping down.

Time for one fast sigh
before we learn
that bird is dropping dead.

—Brendan (August 2018)

Counter to all this, of course, is slowness, this week’s challenge and the brake by which we must somehow absorb what’s happening and find some workable or functional vantage by which to escape the burning labyrinth we’ve created.

I take the name of this challenge from the title of Milan Kundera’s 1996 novel, where three tales intersect one night in one ancient chateau. There the novelist and his wife arrive from Paris to spend the night; an 18th century libertine games to extend a night of pleasure with a noble’s wife; and where the libertine’s modern counterpart races on a motorcycle for a drunken tryst ruined by its haste. “Our period is so obsessed by the desire to forget,” Kundera’s narrator reflects, “and it is to fulfill that desire that it gives over to the demon of speed; it picks up the pace to show us that it no longer wishes to be remembered that it is sick of itself; sick of itself; that it wants to blow out the tiny trembling flame of memory.” (135)

Kundera, a Czech exile who became a French citizen (Slowness was his first novel written in French), weaves this novella’s separate threads like a musical composition, layering and drawing out its single moment into a sustained classical meditation on “the pleasure of slowness” — something our modern world has lost at, what we now discover, is our greatest peril.

Kundera’s novelistic observations came just prior to Internet and its hyperspeed connectivity. Digital events are 24-7 and transpire in nanoseconds; the knowledge it accumulates spirals so fast that it will soon blossom into what futurist Ray Kurzweil calls The Singularity, when machine intelligence becomes omnipotent, saturating the universe with its device. And we thought TV was rushing us out the door!

Our culture’s thirst for meltingly-faster connections shows up in films like Speed, The Fast and the Furious and Mad Max Fury Roads; uperheroes like Superman, The Flash and Shazam; and the warp-drive blue contrails of Star Trek and Star Wars. The speedy pleasures of pornography is what drove the early spread of the Internet, and shiny things are the attentional fiber of social media’s fleeting intelligence.

All of this is in defiance of that fact of climate change and its very real threat to human civilization (and perhaps all life on Earth.). We can’t stop it now, but somehow we must slow it. Doing so requires deep political, social and cultural change: regulating fossil fuel extraction, radically changing consumption habits and somehow braking our racing imaginations. To stop the Minotaur at the center of our future from tearing us apart, we must slow down and consider changing course.

What is slowness, and how do we embrace, nurture and embody it? These questions I am asking you to help answer this week.

Here are a few ideas.

A. There is a slowness in growth, a low deep duration infinitely greater and grander than my fleeting attention. Watering and nurture is a daily process of taking seed to harvest over many months. The year cycles through seasons. Trees grow for decades. Surrounded by digital culture, I’ve grown accustomed to writing poems in a few days; but master poets put poems through dozens, sometimes hundreds of drafts. Jack Gilbert said once in an interview that he often worked on a poem for years. The mastery I find in his poems derives from the nurture of deep time.

This poem from his collection titled from Refusing Heaven (2005) (a book I am re-reading for perhaps the tenth time) offers some good thought on slowness:

Burning (Andante Non Troppo)*

We are all burning in time, but each is consumed
at his own speed. Each is the product
of his spirit’s refraction, or the inflection
of that mind. It is the pace of our living
that makes the world available. Regardless of
the body’s lion-wrath or forest waiting, despite
the mind’s splendid appetite or the sad power
in our soul’s separation from God and women,
it is always our gait of being that decides
how much is seen, what the mystery of us knows,
and what the heart will smell of the landscape
as the Mexican train continues at a dog-trot each
day going north. The grand Italian churches are
covered with detail which is visible at the pace
people walk by. the great modern buildings are
blank because there is no time to see from the car.
A thousand years ago when they build the gardens
at Kyoto, the stones were set in the streams askew.
Whoever went quickly would fall in. When we slow,
the garden can choose what we notice. Can change
our heart. On the wall of a toilet in Rock Springs
years ago there was a dispenser that sold tubes of
cream to numb a man’s genitals. Called Linger.

* In orchestral music, andante non troppo means “at a moderately slow tempo” or “walking pace.”

B. In archetypal psychology, the puer aeternus is the archetype of speedy spirituality – the flying young man whose feet can’t touch the ground. (Ever date or raise one of ‘em?) Figures ranging from Eros to Hermes and Icarus, the Trickster and Messiah all fold into this archetype. James Hillman wrote a definitive essay on the puer and its opposite, the senex, in his 1967 essay “Senex and Puer” (collected in Puer Papers, Spring Publications, 1979).

Six decades later, Hillman’s characterization of this figure is chillingly accurate for the problematic spirt of our age:

In him we see a mercurial range of (mythical) ‘personalities’ A mercurial figure, the puer is a bundle of contradictions –  narcissistic, inspired, effeminate, phallic, inquisitive, inventive, pensive, passive, fiery and capricious. (22) … The eternal spirit is sufficient unto itself and contains all possibilities. As the senex is perfected through time, the puer is primordially perfect. Therefore there is no development; development needs devolution, a loss and fall of restriction of possibilities. (23) …  The horizontal world, the space-time continuum which we call ‘reality,’ is not its world … Because of this vertical direct access to the spirit, this immediacy where vision of goal and goal are one, winged speed, haste —even the short cut — are imperative. The puer cannot do with direction, with timing and patience. It knows little of the seasons and of waiting. And when it must rest or withdraw from the scene, then it seems to be stuck in a timeless state, innocent of the passing years, out of tune with time. (24)

For Hillman, the only way to slow this figure is merge him with his opposite, the senex. (That figure has his own bucket of problems, but the wise old man figures into him along with the goaty old lecher). The path to such a two-faced archetype is found in the paradoxical Renaissance maxim of festina lente: “make haste slowly.” Such is maturity, where the puer finally enters time. Festina lente “is an ideal that may be achieved however only by remaining consequently true to the puer aspect. To be true to one’s puer nature means to admit one’s puer past — all it gambols and gestures and sun-struck aspirations. From this history we draw consequences. By standing for these consequences, we let history catch up with us and thus our haste slowed. Through our individual histories, puer merges with senex, the eternal comes back into time, the falcon returns to the falconer’s arm.” (35)

Festina lente is a great maxim for this moment we currently find ourselves in. We are caught in a speeding time, though we don’t have to pour gas on the fire by indulging its worst obsessions. Gilbert’s poem above is a great example of festina lente.

C.  It is said that in the Anthropocene, fleeting human activities are irrupting into deep time. In just a few centuries we have vastly changed the face of the planet in ways that normally take hundreds of millions of years. Instead of speeding up geological scales, how can we adapt to their slowness? If my life is but a nanosecond in the grand sweep that accumulated sediment from the eroding Appalachian mountains and formed the Florida platform—one grain of that sediment—then all my loves are one summer morning in that state, all my work an afternoon rainstorm in which formed and darkened and thundered and poured and was gone by dusk. No more; so any sense of accomplishment is the world’s, not mine.

D. One can witness slowness in old growth forests, those cathedrals of sustenance where all participate in an ecosystem of shared wealth and nurture. Robin Wall Kimmerer describes them in Braiding Sweetgrass:

… The ancient rainforests spread from Northern California to southeastern Alaska in a band between the mountains and the sea. Here is where the moisture-laden air from the Pacific rises against the mountains to produce upward of one hundred inches of rain a year, watering an ecosystem rivaled nowhere else on earth. The biggest trees in the world. Trees that were born before Columbus sailed.

And the trees were just the beginning. The numbers of species of mammals, birds, amphibians, wildflowers, ferns, mosses, lichens, fungi and insects are staggering. It’s hard to write without running out of superlatives, for these were the greatest forests on earth, forests peopled with centuries of past lives, enormous logs and snags that foster more life after their death than before. The canopy is a multilayered sculpture of vertical complexity from the lowest moss on the forest floor to the wisps of lichen hanging high in the treetops, raggedy and uneven from the gaps produced by centuries of windthow, disease and storms. This seeming chaos belies the tight web of interconnections between them all, stitched with filaments of fungi, silk of spiders, and silver threads of water. Alone is a word without meaning in this forest. (277-8)

We have cut down most of those old growth forests in our haste to raise cities which have been torn down and rebuilt many times: But can we be like old growth forests in our embrace of our communities, in the resources we share for the good of all? The forests may be gone but our songs can be part of their timbered choir.

For this challenge, write of SLOWNESS

— Brendan