Rambling Post about Something, maybe Mindfulness?

We humans make a lot of choices — and pursue hobbies, interests — that, by their nature, silence the jumble in our minds. I’m not a climber but I’ve known enough climbers and done enough boldering (sometimes a little more) to understand how climbing pretty much eliminates anything from your thoughts except getting up safely and back down again (safely).

What I loved about hiking in the days when I could hike for hours and hours was that after a while something happened in my head and there was nothing left in there but the trail, whatever was happening in the natural world in those moments and my dogs. A lifetime of hiking habits has trained my mind so that even though now I don’t hike 12 miles a day, I can get into the “zone” pretty quickly, even riding the sainted “bike-to-nowhere.”

Several years ago, back in California when I had a shed that was a little art studio, I discovered that painting was the same thing. Out there — away from my house (only 10 feet or so) and focused on a canvas, panel or paper — all that mattered was the work I was doing and where it was taking me. Writing a good story can be the same.

It’s such a relief from all the stuff that clutters the inside of my head.

Yesterday — a cool, cloudy day, presaging fall — we headed out for a walk. I decided to take the trail along the Rio Grande. It was the first time this year because the pathway in was very overgrown in tall grass and weeds. I noticed yesterday that a few people have trodden down the plant life a little bit, so I parked, took out the dogs and made them walk behind me, single file — a new “trick” for Teddy.

I love the Rio Grande, and it’s fascinating to watch throughout the year. I have never lived beside a mostly-wild river before. The trail along the river is wide enough for an ATV cowboy to ride along which is good for me and the hounds. Most of the way the river runs alongside it. The sound fascinated Teddy who had never heard a river before — it was a little difficult to keep him where I wanted him, next to me. It seems like rattlesnakes are not very common down here on the floor of the San Luis Valley along the river, but years of hiking with them as an ambient part of the environment has made me very vigilant about the nether parts of the bushes lining a trail.

The cottonwoods are still mostly green. The wild asparagus is beginning to turn the glowing gold of fall. The milkweed is between seasons. It was a sweet walk. In the act of observing the natural world and noting the changes, the jumble clears.

We even have a word for this nowadays, “mindfulness.” I hate that word and all that is behind it, one more thing to add to our list of “shoulds.” I hate the way the outside has come to be regarded, too, like it’s someplace to go because it will “heal” you. To me, that turns nature into just one more commodity. Nature isn’t a “commodity” and it doesn’t exist to “teach us mindfulness” or heal us. Conceptually that’s one more step in the distancing of humans from the reality that WE are nature. It’s not “out there” it’s INSIDE, and that means we — consciously or unconsciously — play an active part.

I recently read that the elk population up on Vail Pass has declined by a drastic percentage not because of hunting or predation, but because more people are “going into nature” in elk habitat.

“…there’s been a dramatic increase in backcountry use in the past decade. Bertuglia noted that trail use in the Vail area has doubled since 2009. There’s 30 percent more overnight use in the same period.” Vail Daily

All this human traffic disturbs the elk’s breeding grounds. Without “privacy” in an undisturbed world, elk don’t breed. Wildlife managers close the area, but people ignore the closures believing, I guess, that their “right” to go into nature trumps nature’s right to be alone.

My wildlife area closes in March and doesn’t re-open until mid-July. Those are beautiful hiking months, and I wish I could go there but I don’t. The water birds nest there during that time and have for millennia, I imagine. I don’t doubt for one minute that just one person — just me — with two leashed dogs, could be enough to disturb that. It seems to me that “mindfulness” more properly means being aware of the consequences of our existence.

Chamisa, cottonwoods, fall approaching…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/rdp-monday-jumble/

Mowing WHAT???

Lawns. Everyone around here has one and it looks to the uninitiated observer that I do, too.

But I don’t. 2/3 of my yard — everything west of the little sidewalk — is wild asters. If I didn’t mow them it would be a little ocean of lavender flowers and clover. I didn’t plan it, but during years in which watering was a challenge, the dry loving plants took over. Among the non-lawn plants in that part of my yard is a tiny alfalfa field — one plant. I have a sprinkler system, but if I use it I face two problems — I don’t know how to turn it on and off myself so I have to pay someone, and using it results in a high water bill.

I like the idea of a wildflower yard. It makes sense to grow things that WANT to grow here. I am thinking of buying an immense packet of wildflower seeds, scattering them out there this fall and then waiting to see what wonders I get come spring.

Which brings me to the poem that drifts into my mind at the sight of wild asters.

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows my relationship with my mom was problematic. Still, maybe even the weirdest mom leaves us with some treasures, and among those she gave me were the love of nature and a love for poetry. My life would have been greatly diminished without those two loves — I would be someone else. That goes a long way to ameliorate the damage and confusion her sketchy parenting caused.

She was elementary school teacher who started out in one-room schools on the Crow Indian reservation in Montana. One of her things was teaching poems to her students. Back then people learned poems “by heart” (is that not a beautiful phrase?). In her day, school started in September and the first poem they learned was this:

September

The goldenrod is yellow,
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curing in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges haunt their harvest,
In every meadow’s nook;
And asters by the brookside
Make asters in the brook.

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes’ sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all those lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.

Helen Hunt Jackson

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/06/rdp-friday-ameliorate/

Serenity?

Nature is often called “serene” but it’s only serene because somebody said so. Nature has (also) often been called “harsh” and that’s a lot LESS in the eye of the beholder than is the serenity. The battle between humans and nature is as old as humanity, but it’s a silly battle. Nature WILL WIN, at the very least against every individual human.

My life in the destination we call nature has involved lots of small negotiations. I live in a house. 😉 I carry a stick to warn snakes. I wear warm clothes in winter. Because there are legitimate foes out here, I leash my dogs. Now I will wear bug repellant at the slough. I accepted that if I did see a mountain lion someday (I did) it might not go so well — did I still want to? (I did) Lucky for the lion and me it was a happy meeting. If the lion had attacked me, it would’ve been killed by a ranger or something. Most important, staying alert. I know if I take Bear out in a thunderstorm it might hail. Can I get to shelter along the way if that happens? And what about lightning? There’s a long list of accommodations like these that I can’t even think of now; they are second nature. I think the most important thing is knowing my limits (also nature) and, if I want to expand them, knowing I can’t do it in a day (nature seldom does anything ‘in a day’).

I think that the one lesson we can get from nature that might lead to serenity is the lesson of humility. A horsefly is small, but it brought me down.

“When men lack a sense of awe, there will be disaster.” Lao Tsu

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/08/19/rdp-monday-serene/

Trail Confidence Marker

“I’m uncertain whether to comment. Again. I want to know do we all feel this? Why? Take your time.” Tracy

Yesterday I wrote on the prompt “Transitions.” The post turned out a lot deeper than I thought it would when I commenced writing it. Then Tracy asked me that serious question after she read it.

Damned chain reactions (Neils Bohr)

In the post I talked about myself and how, as a young person, I was extremely uncomfortable with uncertainty and confusion, how I wanted to know answers to my questions RIGHT NOW. The whole thing (post, life) culminated in the understanding that letting things be is often the only rational “choice,” not even a choice because that’s what’s going to happen anyway.

I learned, finally, beginning in the late 1990s, that what I was really seeking was reality. Life as I had always known it was built on lies. I didn’t know the whole story. All I knew was that on some visceral level, I was aware that things weren’t right. I wanted to stand on solid ground, but I didn’t know where it was and why I wasn’t standing on it.

So what’s the story, Morning Glory?

I think everyone feels restless sometimes and wants to know what’s going to happen, like “What’s Santa going to put in my stocking?” I’m not sure everyone is continually apprehensive. I think, in my case, it’s probably something shared by other children of alcoholics.

Why?

In all my reading 20 years ago or so when I first began to come to grips with this, to comprehend this, I learned that the people in families like mine have “roles” and my role was to keep things going in a semblance of normalcy. The alcoholic parent is a puppet-master, giving and withholding love as a way to retain control over his/her life. The “keeping-things-going” (KTG) kid has to be constantly working to earn that parent’s love or the KTG might (good god we can’t let this happen) relax and see reality for what it is.

An added factor in the unreality of life with my mom was that no one knew she was an alcoholic until she was a month or two from death in 1996 (she was 74) and the hospital, trying to figure out the sudden onset of severe dementia, did a brain scan. The brain scan found masses of lesions and scar tissue consistent with long term alcohol abuse. I did not even have the chance some other children of alcoholics have of KNOWING my mom was a drunk. I couldn’t even say, “Well, she’s been drinking,” because I didn’t know. Part of the strategy she employed was making sure I couldn’t see what she was doing. Why?

She didn’t want to stop? She was ashamed? Only she would know why, but the upshot was that until that phone call with her doctor, I had no idea about the truth behind my uncomfortable life.

My mom was a master at keeping me off balance. One day I was her best friend, the next day the worst thing that ever happened to her. All I wanted was to know — for once and for all — that she loved me and that I was doing OK. Naturally this affected every aspect of my life. Regardless of what happened, all the bad things were my fault. Mean childhood friends, “You have to learn to get along with people. Go to your room.” Abusive first husband? “What did you do to make him hit you? You married him. You stay there.”

And the good things I did? She refused to notice other than to say, “You think you’re so great, but I know who you really are.” Or, “I have no use for art. It’s a dirty word.” Or, at a dinner put on by the Rainbow Girls group of which I was a member, “You have these people fooled. They don’t know you like I do,” accompanied by a hard pinch to my upper arm.”

She was a mean bitch.

What’s more important, a healthy sense of self and the ability to accept love do not grow in a family agar culture like that.

The journey to reality has been long and I’m still on it. It began with therapy in the late 90s when I began to learn about the dynamics of the alcoholic family and heard from someone else how the mechanics of such a family work. I was shocked to the core by what I heard from my therapist, by its accuracy. She explained why I never knew what I really FELT. I didn’t. I didn’t recognize feeling, emotion, as information I could use, a color that completed life’s painting.

There was a moment — 2000? or so — when, having met Goethe, I got the “answer” that allowed me, has allowed me, to at least “fake it until I make it.” He said to his secretary, Johann Peter Eckermann, who was pondering whether to take a teaching job that had been offered him and leave Goethe, “Hold your powers together for something good and let everything go that is not for you and is not suited to you.”

That became my mantra(?) It was clear instruction about what to do until I had a better understanding of life, the universe and everything. It told me, simply, what to do until I understood, until I found solid ground. My lifelong instinct to get away from the family madness into the woods, hills, rocks, rivers, mountains was sane. I was looking for reality at the very source of reality.

It’s been a long journey and I’m still traveling. A few years ago, when “the man” first expressed his feelings, I was shocked and confused and, well, felt like a moth trapped in a light. I didn’t respond for a long time. I had understood that I needed to think about it, about our sketchy past and where I am now. After a while, I reached a conclusion about love — all love, friendship, romance, whatever — that it demands consistency and kindness. I saw that is what love is. I finally responded and from that began a long correspondence that covered all the mistakes and blindness of the past 25 years that we’ve known each other. At this point, I’m just amazed that two people could successfully communicate about feelings and build a relationship. For me that’s a huge step and measure of personal growth.

I think on all our journeys we reach trail markers. Sometimes they are clear and give us direction; sometimes they’re obscure like the markers on the mountain bike trail at Penitente Canyon that are just a number and the words “Trail Confidence Marker.” But clear or obscure, they are information.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/08/03/rdp-saturday-commence/

Under the Inverted Bowl…

One thing I’ve learned from being older and less pressured by life in the daily sense (godnose the ultimate deadline is closer) is that when I give something time, I’ll reach a better understanding of it. I imagine some people get that when they’re young, but I didn’t. I often thought I understood something, but I didn’t, really. I wanted answers to my questions NOW and never thought that maybe the other person didn’t have answers at that point. It never occurred to me that they might have been as confused and uncertain as I was. This was a problem especially in relationships — love relationships and work.

I also remember feeling all the time that I had to get somewhere. I had no idea where that somewhere was, or what. I still don’t know. I wonder what inspired that constant feeling of pressure. I remember closing doors arbitrarily just to have some certainty, only to learn that the door was never closed and the room into which it led was exactly where I needed to go. That’s a pretty good summary of the story between the man in my life (7000 miles away) and me. Strong-willed and scared, both of us slammed the door over and over again only to discover we live in the same room.

It’s taken me a year to understand and accept that.

When I was younger I thought confusion and uncertainty were temporary states, and I’d solve whatever was keeping me awake and move on to a life that was clear and comfortable. But now I know. Transition after transition (most of which I could not control or even make decisions about) has shown me that confusion and uncertainty are life.

Running on all those trails — where I went often to get some relief from confusion and uncertainty — I was able, at least to bide some time. I didn’t realize that I was learning how nature bides its time. It knows that it is in the power of the sun, and where that flaming ball sits in relation to our planet determines what nature does. On top of that? So many variables — Earth’s movement, the Gulf Stream, on and on and on…humans.

This time last year, my Scarlet Emperor beans were 7 feet tall, blooming and making beans. This year they’re barely 14 inches. This time last year, the crabapple trees by City Hall were laden with fruits for jelly-making. This year, there is nary an apple. BUT last year farmers and ranchers had to go outside the valley to buy hay. This year they will get three cuttings.

None of this is negotiable. My visit to my yard just now, dog inspired, intersected with the flight of a large formation of Sandhill Cranes. Early? Maybe but they have had nearly 2 million years to get in tune with the celestial imperative. I think they know better than I will ever know what time it is.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/08/02/rdp-friday-transition/

Reading a Friend’s Reflections

I’m reading a book written by a friend. The book is about some of his solitary journeys, mostly in Alaska. The writing is often beautiful and sometimes I’m able to perceive its beauty. The thing is, he writes in Italian.

In one of the stories he writes about arriving at the cabin he leased for several years and where he will spend five weeks. To get there he has to hire a hydroplane. In this segment the hydroplane has two other passengers. When they see that he is being dropped off in the middle of nowhere, they begin to caution him about the dangers of being in the wilderness alone.

One of the things I KNOW about this person is that would piss him off. We hiked in Arches National Monument very late one afternoon through dusk into night. Our destination was the Delicate Arch overlook. The road to the Delicate Arch was closed, and we wanted to see the arch, so we walked and ran. We had to hurry. On our way, a man tried to stop us telling us we’d never get there in time to see it and we’d never find our way back in the dark.

I thought my friend was going to belt the guy for interfering and slowing us down. I was pretty sure we’d find our way back in the dark. As for the Delicate Arch? NOT seeing it was not as important to me or my friend as trying. Did we get there? We did. You can draw your own conclusions about whether we got back.

My friend has written in his book that the last thing he needed to hear when he’s dropped off in the actual middle of true nowhere is a couple of strangers cataloging the risks. He knows the risks, and he is apprehensive, but how useful is fear when he’ll be there for five weeks alone?

As I read my friend’s words, I thought about Reinhold Messner saying in his film for Outside Magazine “My Life at the Limit,” that it wasn’t climbing Everest without oxygen that scared him. Doing it alone scared him. Solitude scared him and that was what he was conquering, not the mountain, not the lack of air to breathe.

I’ve never had to confront solitude like that, but my whole life has been pretty solitary, mostly by choice. As a kid I was constantly trying to get out by myself somewhere, the woods, the bluffs, the hills, the mountains. That and wanting a dog seem to have been the consuming forces of my life. When I got my first REAL dog (Truffle) I understood what the combination meant for me. Freedom. I could go ANYWHERE with a big dog. It was a liberating partnership.

My friend has described himself as a misanthrope. Maybe he is. That’s something no one but him can possibly know. I’m not. I like people, but there is a difference between solitude in nature and experiences in nature with friends. I like both, but probably I like solitude in nature (with a dog) best (though I never turn down a chance to hike with a friend because it is fun). I have been stopped on many trails by people asking if I were afraid to hike alone. My answer was always no, that I was more afraid NOT to hike.

Still, I have no experiences that compare with being dropped by a hydroplane at a remote Alaskan cabin where I will stay for five weeks, except, maybe, my whole life. That’s something to reflect on as I continue reading these stories.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/07/28/rdp-sundayreflection/

My Demonstration

It turns out that the great love of my has been nature. Nothing and no one has given me — or asked from me — anything comparable. The photo above is of me, Dusty and my tree — it’s been my tree since I was fifteen. That tree taught me pretty much everything I have needed to know about faith, perseverance, beauty and survival. A tiny bit of it went into the ground with my dad when he was buried in Montana in 1972.

Me and Cody and my tree

Cody O’Dog and I at my tree in 2010

 

Back in the day, when people were marching against the War in Vietnam and all manner of things, the only demonstration in which I participated was that of the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.

I was a senior in high school in Colorado Springs. I had my mom’s car (I don’t remember why). I ditched school with a bunch of my friends and we went to Colorado College in the center of the city. The demonstration was small compared to what I saw on TV in places like Chicago or Detroit or San Francisco. There were a few signs “Save the Earth!” and a banner painted on a sheet. It was a beautiful morning. Some people gave speeches and I don’t remember what they said. I was thrilled at the idea of a movement to clean up the world. I’d chosen the topic of my speech because I didn’t think any other issues really mattered. I’d even had a letter to the editor published in Look Magazine.

When it was over, I drove everyone back to school, doing things in my mom’s car (riding fast over dips and humps in the road trying to catch air) that probably should not have been done in a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500.

At that time, I was also wandering around the State of Colorado attending speech meets, competing in Original Oratory. In this event, student write and present 10 minute original speeches on topics of their choice. Mine was the Earth. Back then there was no EPA, and regulations on companies to protect nature did not exist. A typical day in LA was so smoggy people could not see the sun. It was feared that Lake Michigan was a dead lake. Gas was not yet unleaded; the catalytic converted had not been invented — or was being invented. I wasn’t privy to the latest news on automotive technology at the time. My speech — among other things — taught me that the best way to overcome terror of speaking in public is to believe in your message and its importance to others. It was (in part) wry and ironic, with the kind of sophistication only shared by 17-18 year olds. For example:

“Blue sky does get monotonous. The public spirited people of LA and New York have provided their populations with the opportunity to enjoy something new — a brandy colored atmosphere. Green is a dull, drab, and ugly color, and, since the Grand Canyon is such a lovely place to vacation, why not let everyone live there? Don’t plant grass and support your local bulldozer. Our recreation facilities and National Parks are getting better all the time. It’s much easier to catch a fish if it’s already dead, and with all of the beer cans scattered around Yellowstone Park, everyone feels like he’s back in his own living room.”

I took second place in the state. I was beat out by a kid with an anti-Vietnam war speech.

And I thought this song was GREAT!

 

But the best part of my little speech was not the part I wrote, but a quotation I took from a speech by Adlai Stevenson. I still think it says everything, and beautifully.

We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from anihilation only by the care, the work, and the love we give our fragile craft.

IMG_0134

Butte Falls, Oregon

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/earth/

Damn!

Sometimes flight doesn’t go as planned. I’m pretty sure this Canada goose wasn’t counting on the raven, the hawk or the fox that brought him down. I let the dogs examine the feathers in the snow. There wasn’t much left of a carcass and no revealing tracks, so he must have fallen before the snow did.

Two meters from him are the feathers of a red tail hawk. This makes me think both birds fell victim to the “team” of ravens who hang out in the tall cottonwood trees. I’d like to think it is “my” fox, but the thing about nature is I don’t write the endings. The image of my fox jumping for a diving hawk is beautiful, but I think the hawk dived for a squirrel, the ravens went, “Dude! Two for one!” and descended like, uh, ravens.

Downed Redtailed Hawk

It’s pretty harsh out there for all its beauty.

Homegoing

“Home” isn’t a place any more, well, other than my house. There was a moment when I realized that I am a snail and home is a thing I carry with me all the time. Even now — in what I believe will be my last house — I feel like a tenant and I’ve been slow to unpack.

When I moved back to Colorado, I learned something about what home means to me by what I chose to put in the rented van I drove over the mountains.

I packed a box of art supplies, another of winter clothes (because, coming from San Diego in October, I would need them), my dad’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and my three dogs. Were those things — and animals — “home?” The animals, definitely.

My goal as a young person was to be “at home in the world” rather than tied to a place. I’m not sure I managed that. If “home” is a feeling, well, I’m home when I’m outside with my dogs experiencing whatever happens to be going on when we arrive.

Nature is not “out there.” It’s right here all the time. In my case, it’s literally a block away in winter. Now that the crepitus of arthritis has been diminished through surgery (I still have it in my left knee), my days are centered around the time when we can go out and see what’s happened in REAL reality while we were sleeping.

We humans with our towns and cities have just carved out little bastions of human safety in the midst of it. All animals do this for themselves one way or another, and all of them are destructive to some extent though I don’t think they regard nature as a foe or friend. I think they get it in ways we humans have forgotten. I like it very much when I’m out there and have to adapt to something I cannot negotiate with like cold, rattlesnakes, heat, whatever. For me there’s liberty in that depth of reality.

I hope this summer to have even more chances to go home. It’s a little difficult now without a 4WD car, but that’s OK. I’m making plans.



Clean Up Your Room, Dammit!

I woke up early this morning with a throbbing migraine that I didn’t anticipate. Usually my migraines are the visual kind and might make me a little nauseous but nothing awful. And tired. They make me tired, but this was more than that.

The air is worse today. I can only imagine how it is for people in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California, Washington… 😦

When I walked the dogs last evening at sunset, the sun was a ball of red. Smoke from the thousands of  fires to the north and west had obscured the views of the mountains on both sides of the valley all day. Clouds traveling in front of the sun broke the light into what my ex-husband called “Bible beams” which, in the normally clear, clear, clear air of the San Luis Valley, I seldom see.

My first thought when I finally really got up, the migraine having retreated, leaving only a numb feeling and a mildly upset stomach, is that we did this.

When I was a kid there were no fires like these. Sometimes there was a forest fire. We know this from Bambi and Smokey the Bear, but they were never EPIC in proportion. There were hurricanes, but they did not register on seismographs (for the love of God). It snowed a LOT more than it does now in all the usual places that get snow.

When I was 5, 1957, my parents, my brother and I were traveling in the South where my dad was to be giving papers and teaching seminars in Florida. As we went through Mississippi and Alabama, heading toward the Gulf Coast, we were in a hurricane. It was a lot of wind, a lot of water, sandbags and waiting. It was NOT like Houston and sure as hell not like the hurricane approaching the Bahamas looks like it will be. I remember when we went out for breakfast and the waitress said, “It’s just that time of year. What do y’all want to drink?” I got cocoa.

I don’t think it even TAKES a scientist to say, “Whoa, this is WAY TOO FAST for changes like these in the climate of the Earth.” I’m not a scientist, but if this has happened in a mere 60 years, Houston, we have a problem.

When I was in high school I was determined to overcome my terrible fear of speaking in public. First I joined theater, then my theater teacher told me to join speech club. I did. I traveled around Colorado doing competitive speaking and did surprisingly well. My first year I won prizes for Humorous Interpretation of Oratory. The next year — my senior year — I won second place in the state of Colorado for Original Oratory. My speech was political, but it was not about the Vietnam War. It was about the thing I cared most about.

The speech is mostly written in a tone of bitter irony, the kind 18 year olds love, along with lots of big words, but even then, even in 1970, I was worried about what was happening to the one thing I could depend on in my life to love me. I wrote:

The human race is racing toward total annihilation, with, at last, no exceptions made as to race, creed, gender or nationality. Man abuses the air he needs to breathe, the water he needs for sustaining his life, and he is brilliantly devising technologically advanced ways to destroy the delicate food cycle of which he is the ultimate beneficiary.

The Environmental Protection Agency was founded the same year I won my award for this speech. It immediately set about finding ways to slow down the rate at which pollutants were being thrown into the air and the water. It did a good job; it has done a good job. Maybe it has written many irksome regulations. Maybe it’s required mitigation when land is developed. Maybe the regulations are long and hard to read. Maybe what it requires is expensive, but dammit. Lake Michigan is no longer dead in places and LA (when the mountains aren’t on fire) has a clear sky and breathable air.

But… It’s possible to ignore regulations; it’s possible to fake compilance; it’s possible to put greed and momentary financial interest ahead of simple good sense. Houston was built on a flood plain. And the plain flooded.

The Harvey-wrought devastation is just the latest example of the consequences of Houston’s gung-ho approach to development. The city, the largest in the US with no zoning laws, is a case study in limiting government regulations and favoring growth—often at the expense of the environment. As water swamps many of its neighborhoods, it’s now also a cautionary tale of sidelining science and plain common sense. Given the Trump administration’s assault on environmental protections, it’s one that Americans elsewhere should pay attention to.

Nature knows what it’s doing. I walk with my dogs frequently along the Rio Grande in a wetlands area. It’s a little annoying in summer because of the bugs — this year in particular because it has been a wet summer — but I’ve seen the slough at work. The high river of spring had channels into which it could drain and from which farmers could draw water for irrigation. It was almost as if the river said, “Here, dude. For your potatoes.” It works great and nature built it for herself (and us; we’re nature, too).

Climate change denyers can deny all they want, but it doesn’t change reality. It doesn’t change the fact that 60 years (the time between my hurricane experience in Mobile and now) is a very short time for what has happened to our climate to have happened. Yes; climate cycles happen to the Earth, but sixty years?

Lamont and Dude know that from their many incarnations, including Coelecanth and Woolly Mammoth, but they would probably be the first to agree that — with the exception of the meteorite which made things happen rather quickly, ending their time as velociraptors — the changes were eons in the making. Lamont’s belief is that humans have acted on the climate of the earth in much the way the meteorite did.

I love nature. In my whole life when things in my life have been too sad or too glorious,  I’ve gone to trees, open spaces, the sky, water (if it’s there). I’ve never been unwelcome, misunderstood, or even lost. In nature is ALWAYS an answer to the question, “Where am I?” Thousands of times it’s pulled me up and out of whatever catastrophe has been my life in those moments (and sometimes it was really a catastrophe, such as my dad dying, or my brother dying, my house under threat of foreclosure…) and shown me something. Last night on my simple, short walk with the dogs,  it was the call of a Coopers Hawk from a cottonwood tree. There is always something.

Beyond nature’s personally redemptive powers, it provides everything we need for life. Seriously. As I watched some very fucking stupid people yammering on TV in Houston I thought, “They have no idea.” I get it that they’re worried about where they’re going to live, how they’re going to live, where their children are going to live, how they’re going to eat — all of that. I’ve been through a natural disaster; I know it’s terrifying and the ordinary details of life are suddenly NOT to be taken for granted, but they think in terms of their landlord not calling them back (not that their landlord might be in his own shitstorm and unable to call them back).

But it’s a good metaphor. Extrapolate from that to REAL LIFE. Earth is our apartment building. Nature is our landlord. Without it we have no place to live, nothing to eat, no where to raise children. We do not even exist.

In my high school speech is a quotation from Adlai Stevenson. He compares Earth to the satellites that were orbiting our planet.

We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable rserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love with give our fragile craft.

 

 

 

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