On the Eve of Hurricane Florence

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Hurricane Florence from BBC

By Kateri Boucher

It’s so easy for me to still think of climate change as some kind of amorphous, future-tense crisis. Something I’ll have to deal with, for sure, just not right now. But what’s happening to our planet is not a future crisis; it is a living, breathing, current reality. Millions of people around the world have already come face to face with their personal nightmares of “climate dystopia,” and many of them haven’t made it out alive. Monsoons in South Asia; drought in East Africa; heat waves in India and Pakistan; hurricanes on the US Atlantic coasts. And here is the thing that we must keep reminding ourselves: those who are ALREADY most marginalized, oppressed, and exploited by global systems of power are those who will continue to suffer the most.

Right now, as I type, South Carolina’s MacDougall Correctional Institution (a privately owned corporation) is holding hundreds of inmates in their cells, despite a mandatory evacuation order from the Governor. For those prisoners, this current moment is a living “dystopia” in ways that many of us can’t even begin to imagine. The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons has organized an informal phone zap (link in comments) to pressure SC officials to evacuate all prisons in the flood zone. I’m not sure of its status right now, but if anyone else knows of other ways to support the prisoners please share more info in the comments.

In the coming days and weeks (and months and years and decades), many many others will need support as well. And looking ahead, here are the questions I’m holding in my heart: How will we find ways to support those most affected by this storm? Can we see this storm as a symptom of a much larger sickness — and what will we do to address the root causes of illness? How would it feel to actually sit with the heaviness of this collective global moment? Who are my neighbors? Who are your neighbors? What would it actually mean to love our neighbors as ourselves? Like, actually actually? What would we have to give up if we do? What would we have to give up if we don’t?

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It’s okay to let yourself mourn.

Ecological Grief

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PC: Michael Raymond Smith (www.michaelraymondsmith.com)

From the conclusion of “Hope and mourning in the Anthropocene: Understanding ecological grief” by Neville Ellis and Ashlee Cunsulo in The Conversation.  Ellis and Cunsulo define ecological grief as “The grief felt in relation to experienced or anticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species, ecosystems, and meaningful landscapes due to acute or chronic environmental change.”

Ecological grief reminds us that climate change is not just some abstract scientific concept or a distant environmental problem. Rather, it draws our attention to the personally experienced emotional and psychological losses suffered when there are changes or deaths in the natural world. In doing so, ecological grief also illuminates the ways in which more-than-humans are integral to our mental wellness, our communities, our cultures, and for our ability to thrive in a human-dominated world. Continue reading

Learning from Laughter and the Trees: The Gift in Their Voices

IMG_2589.JPGBy Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

My mom died New Year’s Eve when I was 19. We knew it was coming so that Advent as we sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” each night before dinner, I paid attention to the voices. I knew them so intimately- the tones and harmonies that our four voices made together. It was the sound of home and I ached to imagine how our singing would change with just three voices. So each night I zeroed in on the sound of my mom’s voice- desperate to not let it be forgotten. Memorizing deep within, in hopes that whenever I sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” that I would always hear her voice within it.

Continue reading

Learning from Laughter and the Trees: Under the Apple Tree Again

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Grandpa, Cedar, and Isaac digging the hole for Scatters under the apple tree.

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

The rain is pouring down with periodic rumbles of thunder. It is cold and the sun has set, but we can tell that there is a need in Isaac’s heart to make this trek. We put on hats and shoes and give into the rain as we walk down the street and into the backyard of my dad’s house.

It’s too dark to see the loosened soil, but we bend down low and Isaac says, “This is where we buried Scatters.” Cedar, who is almost two, bends down too and after a minute looks up at Erinn and says “Meow” and points to the dirt. Erinn says, “Is this where Scatters is? Did he die?” Cedar responds, “Meow die.” Continue reading

Don’t Forget to Feed the Loas

The Light of the WorldFrom Elizabeth Alexander’s grief memoir The Light of the World (2015). This is the conclusion of the final lecture she gave to her “African American Art Today” class, just one week after the sudden death of her husband:

“Don’t forget to feed the loas” serves as an entreaty or opening salvo and refrain in Ishmael Reed’s great novel Mumbo Jumbo. The phrase articulates the imperative to remember to honor the deity-like ancestral forces that guide us through our contemporary lives. The offerings on their altars may be fruit or flowers, chicken or wine; when taken metaphorically, offerings may also be found in the form of art and the calling of names that honors our dead and keeps them near… Continue reading

Dad and Dan

bill r.jpgBy Bill Ramsey. May 1, 2016.

Dad and Dan, an unlikely pair
to walk across heaven’s threshold
a week apart, a world apart.

Way back when Dan’s burning action
kindled my conflicted conscience,
radically realigning my course,
Dad foresaw impending danger,
a tableau of “G-men” ascending
his steep suburban driveway
in pursuit of his willful son. Continue reading