Weary

Fall                                                                    Harvest Moon

einstein-einstein-quotesWe’ve had a bit of snow today, lonely heavy flakes mixed in amongst cold rain. Still, for September 25th, it was, in fact, snow. The first snow of the season for us. Loveland Ski Area got four inches yesterday. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last three days and temperatures have hit the high 30′s.

Life at 8,800 feet in the arid west is different than sea level in the humid east. When rain comes like this, it’s unusual, noteworthy and downright helpful. Not ordinary or taken for granted. Thanks, sky.

Climate change has invaded the mountains, too, with more frost free days and hotter daytime temperatures in the summer. We do not, of course, face the sort of high profile danger hurricanes or tornadoes bring, though the fire threat is real and potentially as damaging. Drier summers, occasioned by shifting weather patterns, though not unusual here, are becoming more of a threat. Nowhere is safe when the atmosphere itself begins to heat up.

I admit to a certain weariness with climate change awareness, Trump watch fatigue, the increasing markers of social inequity like income gaps, degree gaps and gender gaps. Perhaps the next few months will find some surcease for me, not because these problems will attenuate, but because I’m taking a break. I’m glad not everyone is, but I need a rest from these matters right now.

A season or two with fires in the fireplace, a white mantle over the yard, some lights and holidays sound good to me.

 

Change

Lughnasa                                                           Eclipse Moon

20150927_073243The fall change has quickened. More and more gold on the mountains, aspens along the road have gone yellow. The air is cool and the sunlight changed by its more acute angle. Elk, moose and mule deer bucks have scraped off the velvet and gone into battle to promote their genetics. As temperatures go down, bears know the time to gather calories before hibernation wanes.

Fall has a certain purity here. It doesn’t mix its colors, green and gold dominate, a bit of yellow here and there, but none of the splashy palette of the humid east’s deciduous forests. At first I missed it, the sudden brilliance of a Minnesota fall, now I find the more restrained colors have their own beauty. It’s a different aesthetic here, more abstract, less cluttered.

I can’t imagine a world without fall and winter. If climate change ushers in such a world, I hope I’ve left already. This feeds my soul. That would weaken it.

 

Lunacy

Lughnasa                                                            Eclipse Moon

alpine glow during totality, Tetonia, Id.

alpine glow during totality, Tetonia, Id.

Fire. Wind and rain. Earth shaking. All under the Eclipse Moon, just after totality. Could this be the havoc wreaked by the black sun? As inferences go, it may show correlation, not causation, true, but in the long history of humanity this inference has been noted many times. “We’re all gonna die!” something like that.

Well, maybe not all of us, but a surprisingly large number have succumbed to natural disasters just here in North America over this lunar month. And, the month’s not over yet. Not to mention the billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses, roadways, other public infrastructure.

n263470Climate change doesn’t affect earthquakes. But, it does turbocharge wildfire seasons, heat up ocean water and increase the amount of available moisture in the atmosphere. These changes are happening at a level of climate change still considered very modest and not at all as severe as the level already “baked in” by both increased carbon emissions, now above the problematic 400 threshold, and the trapped heat in the world’s oceans.

We’ll learn, eventually, to live with the most dire of these changes through adaptation. Moving cities further inland, developing better fire management regimes, moving crops as the seasons change.

Without drastic carbon emissions reduction though, to near 100% by 2100, these impacts will be looked back on wistfully as the good old days. It’s no wonder that the Kingsnorth’s of the world have come up with dark ecology, how to brace for the ecocide. The odds against dramatic alterations to the climate have gone down as resistance to necessary changes has gone up.

The month of the Eclipse Moon is a harbinger. What will our world be like in 2024 when the next total eclipse crosses U.S. soil? Comparing those two months may lead to more inference like this month’s.

 

Ecocide

Lughnasa                                                            Kate’s Moon

86Dark ecology. I discovered it when reading this article, How to Survive the Ecocide, by Brian Calvert, editor-in-chief of High Country News. It led me to this article in Orion, the thinking person’s environmental magazine, Dark Ecology, by Paul Kingsnorth and this website, The Dark Mountain Project

Dark ecology looks the worsening climate change reality in the face and says, “We’re not going to change our ways fast enough.” Thus, ecocide. Driven by an aesthetic need to be honest, to say what is, not what we wish could be, dark ecology takes us away from the politics of fear-mongering toward a grim acceptance.

Politics is driven by hope, even when also motivated by fear. The situation is this-expensive health insurance, crumbling roads, a tyrannical regime (yes, I’m talking about D.C. and Pyongyang)-and we want to do something about it. Just raising this possibility means our hope, our expectation, is that we can effect real change.

Abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peaceThus, to eschew hope is to cut the political nerve, to mute its messages. Losing hope, attacking hope runs against the human spirit, yet it is built in to our finitude. None of us escape death. In that sense, bracket all the hoohah about life after death, life is hopeless. Yet. Acknowledging this ultimate element of hopelessness vivifies life, gives our lives color, piquancy, drive. Of course, yes, it can also lead to despair, a sense of futility. Which attitude colors our days depends on how we absorb the reality of death into our life.

My suspicion is that Dark Ecology is the planetary equivalent of acknowledging our own death. There is no question about the fate of the earth as a planet. It will die in the fusion driven expansion of our very source of life, the sun. Yes, it’s billions of years away, but this end is no less certain than our individual deaths. So the planet will not be saved, anymore than anyone of us will be saved. Note that this is not a moral issue, death itself is neither bad nor good, like life itself, it just is.

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 presetClimate change itself may bring about the demise of the human species, along with thousands, millions of other species, but the planet itself will survive our folly. For a while. Facing the possible death of the human race might vivify us, might inspire us in the same way our own death can. Or, it might drive us to despair and futility, as our own death can.

My sense today is that I will follow the dark ecology path, owning the probability of our capitalist driven lemming like behavior resulting in our extinction. The question, then, is what comes next? Read the articles. They have some ideas. Not sure any of them are for me, right now anyhow. Gotta come up with my own. A later project.

 

 

Scrambling Around.

Midsommar                                                            Most Heat Moon

eduardo_kohn_how_forests_think_lHere are the key conceptual elements I’ve already assembled for reimagining: emergence, becoming native to this place, the Great Wheel and similar sacred calendars focused on seasonal change, rituals associated with those changing seasons from many cultures, shinrin yoku and its relatives, Iroquois prayer and Iroquois seventh generation thinking, the Great Work, How a Forest Thinks, nature writers and their various approaches, paleoastronomy, original relation to nature and beyond the boundary thinking. These may require editing, probably will require editing. There may be, probably will be, deletions and additions, but these are my starting point.

After a quick scan of my Reimagining bookshelf, I noticed a couple of other elements: Romanticism and the idea of the self. Still not sure how to go about prepping for this work. I’m a fiction guy and I prefer to sit down, start writing, see what happens next. Suppose I could try that here, but it seems unlikely to produce anything coherent.

David_and_Goliath_-1700sMaybe, what, read a book or two from each category, see where that takes me? Rough out a reading plan and outline after that? Or, there’s that 200,000 word dump from Ancientrails. The posts deal in some way or another with reimagining. Read them all the way through, too? This is the sweat of the intellect, confusion. Not unexpected at this point, but still frustrating.

Guess I’ll just keep poking around for a while, see where that gets me. Maybe write summaries at least weekly, if not daily. Perhaps right here. Eventually it’ll come into focus.

Kairos

Beltane                                                      Moon of the Summer Solstice

Linneaous   Flower Clock

Linneaous Flower Clock

I last posted here after a trip to Tucson, Arizona in 2014. In retrospect it’s not odd that it’s been so long since I came back to this blog. It was in April of that year, in a spirit of reflection occasioned by the long drive and the inner work of the Ira Progoff Intensive Journal retreat I’d attended, that Kate and I decided to move to Colorado. The move took over our life together and the move itself didn’t really terminate until well into 2015  when we had both adjusted to the oxygen scarcity at 8,800 feet.

A bout of prostate cancer, an increasingly painful arthritic left knee, Jon and Jen’s divorce, total knee replacement and Kate’s rough time since then has distracted me. But now I’ve returned. My passion remains creating a sustainable human presence on the earth, following Thomas Berry’s conviction that this task is the Great Work of our generation.

Chambered_Nautilus_ShellI’ve imagined that my primary contribution to this work would be political, a strategy I’ve embraced for many years. Now though I’m focused on something less political, a reimagining of faith that can constantly remind us of the reverence we owe to the earth, the sun, the mystery of life. Reimagining faith will occupy me until I’ve written a short book proposing a way to reenchant our daily life, a way to find wonder in the everyday, to locate the holy not far away or in some ritualized observance, but in the here and now.

Baba Dioum

Baba Dioum

Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forestry scientist, wrote in a 1968 paper, ”In the end we will conserve only what we love…wiki  And so the question is how do we love the earth, the sun, the universe? They have conspired to bring us all to this moment when the survival of the human species may be in the balance. This is, after all, the critical reality: it is not the earth that is in danger, not the sun, not the vastness of our cosmos, but humanity. Our actions, unwitting until recently, have brought us to a moment of kairos: a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action, the opportune and decisive moment, as Merriam-Webster defines it.

Seasonal-roundKairos in its Greek origin is a counterpoint to chronos, our familiar and assumed understanding of time as sequential and linear: where past present and future separate cleanly and finally, moment by moment. Kairos is a sort of time when matters crystallize, when events are ripe for change, important change. It takes no special genius to see that our time is such a moment, a moment filled with kairotic potential.

Even with the spiral understanding of time that I embrace, seasons turning, pushing forward, but always returning to the same phase of life’s regularity, moments of kairos can occur. This one, when our most powerful elected official turns his back on global solidarity, when the CO2 in the atmosphere has passed 400 parts per million, when hottest years and biggest storms get surpassed often, when scientists suggest we have only a few decades to slow climate change (not eliminate it, but slow it), we have reached a moment of kairos. And it is our moment.

 

 

Bring the Heat

Spring                                                         Hare Moon

Spring and I met up this year in Seminole, Texas, Gaines County: #1 in Cotton, #1 in oil and #1 in peanuts.  When we began our Intensive Journal workshop here in Tucson, the leader noted that it was the beginning of spring, a time of birth and rebirth.  Yes.

Today, for the first time since I left Minnesota, I’m not pressed by travel and can reflect on the new season.  This is the culmination of Imbolc, those lambs in the belly (imbolc) now gambol on the green.  Or on the snow covered fields in the case of Minnesota.

And that’s a good thing to note.  Spring comes astronomically when the sun’s center lines up with the earth’s equator.  It come meteorologically with a nuance determined by your latitude.  At Minnesota’s 45th latitude, half-way from that equator to the north pole, meteorological spring comes when the bloodroot blooms. (at least one naturalist I asked defined the coming of spring that way.)  That could be well into April some years.

On the other hand, here in Tucson 32 degrees of latitude from the equator spring announces the upcoming dry season, aggravated this year by a persistent drought that has many southwestern parts of the U.S. facing another season of extreme wildfire danger.

In Manta, Ecuador which Kate and I visited in October of 2011 the equinox means the sun stares straight at you.  It was hot when we were there, only a couple of weeks after the spring equinox (which comes in September in the southern hemisphere).

At Artemis Hives and Gardens it arrived with a couple of feet or so of snow on the ground.  That means the activities of working the soil, planting the early crops will not come until well into April.  But the shift in the earth’s relationship to the sun does mean that the solar gain per square meter of ground has taken strong purchase and will one day warm even the soil.

That’s the true promise of spring. It brings heat.  Where the temperatures are moderate, this is a boon for agriculture.  Where temperatures are already hot, spring can exacerbate them.

As the heat begins to change the weather, I look forward to seeing more and more of our land.

 

Spring Journeys

Imbolc                                                               Hare Moon

We’re getting the slow melt so far.  I can see plants in the vegetable garden, among McMillanNorthernSpring90-130them raspberry canes that still need trimming and the remnants of a few herbs.  The beds themselves have become more clearly outlined as the mounds of snow shrink.  By the time I return from Tucson on March 31st we may have lost most of our snow.  The forecast is warmer, mostly above freezing for highs and in the last week of March above freezing for highs and lows.

This is the time when Kate and I took our honeymoon in Europe, 1990.  We began in spanish-steps-romeRome and traveled north as far as Inverness, Scotland by train.  Without intending it we accomplished a wonderful feat, following spring north.  That meant flowers and fresh weather welcomed us in Florence, Venice, Vienna, Salzburg, Paris, London, Bath, Glastonbury, Edinburgh and Inverness where the heather had just come into bloom.

(our hotel in Rome was the top of the Spanish Steps)

Looking back on it now, 24 years ago, I can see the perfect symmetry with the Great Wheel.  As our new life together began, we visited countryside and city after countryside and city where new life had just begun to emerge from the fallow time.

These visits had fewer cathedrals than you might imagine but more, much more art.  We visited the Vatican museum in Rome, Pompeii, Florence and the Uffizi, took in the Titian altars in Venice, the Kunsthistorische in Vienna, the Louvre, Musee D’Orsay and the Rodin museum in Paris.

In London we went to the Reject China Shop and bought our Portmerion table settings
basil street hoteland stayed in the quirky Basil Street Hotel which had a women’s club, rather than the usual men’s club.

I’ll be traveling south on Tuesday, driving toward spring, into it, and if I read the weather in Tucson right, back out of it again.  There will be many opportunities for reflection on the purpose of this blog.

 

March

Imbolc                                                                     Hare Moon

March began the Roman year.  No surprise then that it gets its name from the Roman god Marsof war, Mars. The Romans were relentless campaigners, always concerned that the border was insecure and pushing it out further just to be sure.  Many historians think this expansion caused Rome to fall, but it has always seemed to me that a death of natural causes is closer to the truth.  Rome had just run its course.

When you string together the Tigris and Euphrates civilization, the Egyptian civilization, the Greeks, then the Romans and after them Europe and after Europe, the U.S.A., you find a civilization with roots actually deeper than those of China.

The apparent difference of course is the longer continuity between the ancient Xia dynasty and the rule of the Communist Party in today’s Middle Kingdom.  I bought this argument for a long time, seeing China as a deeper and perhaps richer civilization than the one to which I am heir.

Now, though, I’ve begun to see the long continuities in the West, too, and the division of mdc_westciv_at_cour heritage into the large categories I used above as not a lot different from China’s dynastic history.  What I mean is that the “Chinese” civilization actually has it roots in several splintered entities roughly equivalent to Rome, Greece, et al.

The Shang were a rough and tumble group, practicing human sacrifice and, according to their successors, the long lived Zhou dynasty, “drunkards” who lost the mandate of heaven.  The Zhou broke down in its later years into many states, states different enough to have their own money, weights and measures, armies and governance.  It was these states who became the warring states, giving a historical era its name.

The Qin dynasty, short, only an Emperor (Qin Shi Huang Di) and his dissolute son long,download was the first instance of a unified China, but even the Qin dynasty failed to include much of what is now considered China.

The Roman Republic was at least its equal in physical size.  And remember that the glory of Greek civilization, Egypt and Mesopotamia had come and declined by then.

The Han dynasty, roughly contemporary with the Roman Empire’s early centuries, had a bit more ofHan China, especially extending west along the great Silk Road, but as you can see it still only covers a portion of contemporary China. I emphasize this point to draw a parallel between Western civilizations consolidation under the Romans and the shifting fortunes of China’s ruling dynasties and their geographical extent.  Later the Han will fall and the period of the Three Kingdoms will occur, again China splintered into warring states, not unified.

This pattern of consolidation and disruption continues and becomes even more pronounced when the Mongols under Kublai Khan and later the Manchurians capture China and rule it for centuries.

Yes, there is a central continuity in the Chinese written language, a storehouse of history and art.  Yes, there is a continuity of sorts in the imperial form of government, but its thread is broken many, many times.

My only argument here may be with myself, disabusing myself of the monolithic cultural rise of Chinese civilization, but I’m not sure this aspect of Chinese history gets much attention in Western learning.

I am also saying that Western civilization, though markedly different, brings its own riches to the table of the 21st century.  Hopefully these two great rivers of human ingenuity can come to embrace each other and create a global civilization neither Western nor Eastern, but Earthian.

If Candlemas be fair and bright

Imbolc                                                                     Valentine Moon

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.   an English Poem

Ground Hog Day.  Candlemas.  The Meeting of the Lord. (Serbian, on Feb. 15, same Hans_Holbein_d._Ä._Presentation of Jesus, Candlemasas Feb. 2 in the Julian calendar)  An ancient European tradition proposed either a badger (German) or a bear (Serbian), who would come out of hibernation, see bright sun and go back to sleep or see a cloudy day and wake up for the year.  The bright sun presaged six more weeks of cold weather.(Hans Holbein.   Presentation of Jesus, Candlemas)

Linked with Candlemas–the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple–on February 2nd, this ancient pagan tradition came to be observed on this Roman Catholic holy day created to displace Imbolc.  The Meeting of the Lord, the Serbian feast day of the Presentation, posits that if a bear come awake on that day and see the sun, then six more weeks of winter would follow. (see Groundhog Day, wikipedia)

The groundhog got connected to this legend in the Pennsylvania German community. The formal wear at the Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania event gives the whole tradition a satirical nudge that makes it delightful.  At least to me.

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