Ack. As if getting a verb yesterday wasn’t bad enough, today’s prompt had to be an abstraction. I mean — really? What are the options? There’s always the stand-by of Pandora’s box/jar; the potter could be throwing the container for the legendary woman who supposedly was endowed with all the gifts necessary to make a perfect woman. But I dislike the misogyny of the story.
Then there’s Emily Dickinson’s famous poem that seems to show up on home decoration plaques everywhere these days:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.¹
But the current ubiquity of the poem made the bird option seem trite. So I decided to go ahead and try an abstract representation. Right now, hope seems to me to be a fragile, fragmented thing, an emotion that is bright, but on the verge of disintegrating, rather like the lacy ice that forms on the edge of a pond or frost on a window.
1. Poetry Foundation, 19 October, 2020. Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)
Back in April of this year, the National Geographic magazine for Earth Day was a double-sided issue. One cover bore the title, “How We Lost the Planet”; the flip-side offered “How We Saved the World.” The issue pretty much embodies how I exist these days: in a constant state of flipping between despair and hope.
Today, here in Colorado, the smoke from our own fires mixed with that from California. Early in the afternoon, the air reminded me of growing up in L.A. in the ‘sixties and early ‘seventies. We had “smog days” when we couldn’t go outside, when recess was held indoors and we played “Thumbs Up, Seven Up,” sitting at our desks with our heads down and a thumb up while a classmate would go around and tap a set of kids on the thumb. Once these children were chosen, we would be allowed to pick up our heads while the selected seven tried to guess who had tapped them. It was every bit as exciting as it sounds.
But even on the days when we allowed to play outside, our chests would hurt and sometimes we couldn’t get a full breath. We didn’t think too much about it; that was all we knew. But our parents did and for a while there were effective efforts to mitigate air pollution. The air in L.A.got better, as it did in other cities in America.
Today, my lungs thought they were right back in the L.A. of my youth. Breathing ached; my throat felt scoured; my head ached; my stomach turned sour. And however poor the conditions are here, they are fractionally as awful as California’s.
My husband and I had planned a drive today, just to get out of the house. We made it up high enough to be away from the smoke briefly, but most of the time the cab of the truck was smoke-imbued.
It was difficult to come back down where the smoke blanketed everything like fog, and nothing like fog.
By early afternoon, I was no longer thinking of Los Angeles; I was thinking of Pompeii.
Wildfires are far from the only disasters caused by global warming. Plastic is raining down across the country, including in our delicate, protected preserves; hurricane season is far more dangerous now. The disdain for science so proudly promulgated by politicians and voters will cost us our lovely planet and guess what? There’s not room for all of us on the International Space Station.
In addition, a lot of us are going to be denied the opportunity to be grandparents because of climate change. The next generations are reluctant to bring children into a world that might not be around long enough for their children to live to old age or that will mean they have to live in a wasteland. I don’t have an effective counter-argument for them.
The setting sun and the moon have been orange and lurid for weeks now.
But this evening was the sun was new kind of eerie.
And tonight — tonight the moon is red, a mourning red, an angry crimson.
So vote for our lives, for our home, for our environment, for the continuation of our species, for leaders who will push us to evolve into stewards of the Earth. Vote. Please vote.
Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Connection Between Climate Change and Wildfires.” Updated March 11, 2020.
Gavin Newsom on climate change and California’s wildfires. August 20, 2020.
Well, I am sure everyone had a sleepless night, worrying about the peach tree. I am pleased to offer a bit of good news: I think the lights may have worked! Take a look:
Not only do most of the blossoms that were there before seem to be there still, but there are even some new ones:
The foreseeable future offers some dips down to freezing temps, but no hard freezes. But then there’s the rest of April, squirrels (who literally will take one bite of a peach and then throw it as far as they can), bugs, birds… Kinehora, all!