Walking. With Degenerate Guardian Angel.

5:10 a.m. Morning Walk @ Cove Island Park.  471 consecutive days. Like in a Row.

77° F.  Light rain, high winds.  This climate change morphs into heavy rain with moderate winds.

Cloud cover 323%. Humidity, 933%.

I’m ready to fire, camera lens fogs up from the humidity. Hood cover can’t protect the lens from rain riding on wind gusts. I decided not to haul the backpack this morning. No rag to wipe the lens. Irritated.

I walk.

It’s dark. Up ahead, near a park bench, illuminated by the street lamp, there’s an empty take-out food carton on the bench, plastic forks, plastic knives, and napkins strewn on the grass. Highly Irritated.

Mind drifts back to Tuesday.  Man fishing at the point. He casts out into the Cove, his lure breaks the stillness of the water.

“Any luck?”

“No, but that’s OK. It’s just so peaceful and beautiful standing here, I can’t imagine being anywhere else at this moment.”

Gray hair, mid 70’s. He smiles, his white, straight teeth light up the morning. He stands looking at me. Me at him. He’s a kind looking man, a gentle man.

He reels in his line, and starts to pack up.

“I need to clean up a bit.”

“Clean up?” I ask.

He’s bending down to pick up trash discarded among the rocks along the shoreline.  An empty Perrier glass bottle. A fast food styrofoam container. Discarded cigarette box.

“It’s really disrespectful,” he says.

I had another stream of expletives for it but this man, so peaceful looking, possibly a man of clergy, didn’t deserve that, so I just nodded in agreement.

Dale’s post comes to mind. And then a vision of a degenerate Guardian Angel follows behind that. And there I float. Fifty feet above the shoreline.  Guardian Angel Garbage Vigilante. I’m holding a two-foot long, piece of rebar. I hover along with the wind currents, looking down, seeking an offender.  It doesn’t take long to find a defacator. I tap him (it’s always a him) on the shoulder, pointing back to his plastic cup. He looks up at me, and gives me the finger. I tap him on the shoulder again, asking “please”. He sniffs and keeps walking. I cock the rebar back (because I always carry rebar), it whistles through the air and crashes down across his left knuckles. He falls, writhing in the sand, reaching for his plastic cup.

“I did say please.”


Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 6:31 am, August 17, 2021. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

What amazed her was their persistent insistence on boosting the self when the world—and this country, in particular—was in disgraceful shambles. The progressing, ever-widening gulf of disparity in every sphere. And were we not also on the verge of an environmental apocalypse? People seemed more fixated than ever on notions of “self-tend, self-care, self.” In the current context, wasn’t naked pursuit of health obscene? The self-contemplation down to the microbiomic makeup of your alimentary system, yet such contemplation was divorced from any reflection. This seemed, now more than ever, the most American of myopias, this unapologetic—boastful, even—attention to the surface self. It sort of made sense, though. A retreat to the local. The hyperlocal and controllable: your heart, your lungs, your flesh.

— Dana Spiotta, Wayward: A Novel (Knopf, July 6, 2021)


Notes:

  • NY Times: “European Floods Are Latest Sign of a Global Warming Crisis.” BERLIN — “Days before roiling waters tore through western Germany, a European weather agency issued an “extreme” flood warning after detailed models showed storms that threatened to send rivers surging to levels that a German meteorologist said on Friday had not been seen in 500 or even 1,000 years. By Friday those predictions proved devastatingly accurate, with more than 100 people dead and 1,300 unaccounted for, as helicopter rescue crews plucked marooned residents from villages inundated sometimes within minutes, raising questions about lapses in Germany’s elaborate flood warning system. Numerous areas, victims and officials said, were caught unprepared when normally placid brooks and streams turned into torrents that swept away cars, houses and bridges and everything else in their paths. “It went so fast. You tried to do something, and it was already too late,” a resident of Schuld told Germany’s ARD public television, after the Ahr River swelled its banks, ripping apart tidy wood-framed houses and sending vehicles bobbing like bath toys.”
  • Photo: Trier, western Germany.  Ernst Mettlach / AFP / Getty Images via NBC News
  • Photo: Rachel, Selfie @ March 16, 2021, Yellowstone National Park

I want to believe.

I think in all likelihood this report will come and go, and with it the mainstream chatter around U.F.O.s, until definitive proof is exposed. A planet that can’t come together on climate change or a global pandemic might not pay much attention even if wreckage or an alien corpse is discovered. The culture wars alone might eclipse it, so rabidly are we in their grips.

But what if we had direct contact? With actual alien beings from an exoplanet who’ve traveled light years to seek us out? Who have answers to every question we’ve ever asked?

The result would unquestionably change the course of mankind. But would it change us?

I want to believe.

— Chris Carter, from “I Created ‘The X-Files.’ Here’s Why I’m Skeptical of the New U.F.O. Report.” (NY Times, June 25, 2021)


Image: IMDb

Hmmmmm….

Neither season after season of extreme weather events nor the risk of extinction for a million animal species around the world could push environmental destruction to the top of our country’s list of concerns. And how sad, he said, to see so many among the most creative and best-educated classes, those from whom we might have hoped for inventive solutions, instead embracing personal therapies and pseudo-religious practices that promoted detachment, a focus on the moment, acceptance of one’s surroundings as they were, equanimity in the face of worldly cares. (This world is but a shadow, it is a carcass, it is nothing, this world is not real, do not mistake this hallucination for the real world.) Self-care, relieving one’s own everyday anxieties, avoiding stress: these had become some of our society’s highest goals, he said—higher, apparently, than the salvation of society itself. The mindfulness rage was just another distraction, he said. Of course we should be stressed, he said. We should be utterly consumed with dread. Mindful meditation might help a person face drowning with equanimity, but it would do absolutely nothing to right the Titanic, he said. It wasn’t individual efforts to achieve inner peace, it wasn’t a compassionate attitude toward others that might have led to timely preventative action, but rather a collective, fanatical, over-the-top obsession with impending doom.

Sigrid Nunez, What Are You Going Through: A Novel (Riverhead Books, September 8, 2020)


Photo: Patty Maher, Light & Dark

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It was over, he said. It was too late, we had dithered too long. Our society had already become too fragmented and dysfunctional for us to fix, in time, the calamitous mistakes we had made. And, in any case, people’s attention remained elusive. Neither season after season of extreme weather events nor the risk of extinction for a million animal species around the world could push environmental destruction to the top of our country’s list of concerns. And how sad, he said, to see so many among the most creative and best-educated classes, those from whom we might have hoped for inventive solutions, instead embracing personal therapies and pseudo-religious practices that promoted detachment, a focus on the moment, acceptance of one’s surroundings as they were, equanimity in the face of worldly cares. (This world is but a shadow, it is a carcass, it is nothing, this world is not real, do not mistake this hallucination for the real world.) Self-care, relieving one’s own everyday anxieties, avoiding stress: these had become some of our society’s highest goals, he said—higher, apparently, than the salvation of society itself. The mindfulness rage was just another distraction, he said. Of course we should be stressed, he said. We should be utterly consumed with dread. Mindful meditation might help a person face drowning with equanimity, but it would do absolutely nothing to right the Titanic, he said. It wasn’t individual efforts to achieve inner peace, it wasn’t a compassionate attitude toward others that might have led to timely preventative action, but rather a collective, fanatical, over-the-top obsession with impending doom. It was useless, the man said, to deny that suffering of immense magnitude lay ahead, or that there’d be any escaping it. How, then, should we live?

Sigrid Nunez, What Are You Going Through: A Novel (Riverhead Books, September 8, 2020)


Notes:

Dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us


Who can use the term “gone viral” now without shuddering a little? Who can look at anything any more — a door handle, a cardboard carton, a bag of vegetables — without imagining it swarming with those unseeable, undead, unliving blobs dotted with suction pads waiting to fasten themselves on to our lungs?

Who can think of kissing a stranger, jumping on to a bus or sending their child to school without feeling real fear? Who can think of ordinary pleasure and not assess its risk? Who among us is not a quack epidemiologist, virologist, statistician and prophet? Which scientist or doctor is not secretly praying for a miracle? Which priest is not — secretly, at least — submitting to science?

And even while the virus proliferates, who could not be thrilled by the swell of birdsong in cities, peacocks dancing at traffic crossings and the silence in the skies?

The number of cases worldwide this week crept over a million. More than 50,000 people have died already. Projections suggest that number will swell to hundreds of thousands, perhaps more. The virus has moved freely along the pathways of trade and international capital, and the terrible illness it has brought in its wake has locked humans down in their countries, their cities and their homes.

But unlike the flow of capital, this virus seeks proliferation, not profit, and has, therefore, inadvertently, to some extent, reversed the direction of the flow. It has mocked immigration controls, biometrics, digital surveillance and every other kind of data analytics, and struck hardest — thus far — in the richest, most powerful nations of the world, bringing the engine of capitalism to a juddering halt. Temporarily perhaps, but at least long enough for us to examine its parts, make an assessment and decide whether we want to help fix it, or look for a better engine.

The mandarins who are managing this pandemic are fond of speaking of war. They don’t even use war as a metaphor, they use it literally. But if it really were a war, then who would be better prepared than the US? If it were not masks and gloves that its frontline soldiers needed, but guns, smart bombs, bunker busters, submarines, fighter jets and nuclear bombs, would there be a shortage?

Night after night, from halfway across the world, some of us watch the New York governor’s press briefings with a fascination that is hard to explain. We follow the statistics, and hear the stories of overwhelmed hospitals in the US, of underpaid, overworked nurses having to make masks out of garbage bin liners and old raincoats, risking everything to bring succour to the sick. About states being forced to bid against each other for ventilators, about doctors’ dilemmas over which patient should get one and which left to die. And we think to ourselves, “My God! This is America!” …

People will fall sick and die at home.  We may never know their stories. They may not even become statistics. We can only hope that the studies that say the virus likes cold weather are correct (though other researchers have cast doubt on this). Never have a people longed so irrationally and so much for a burning, punishing Indian summer.

What is this thing that has happened to us? It’s a virus, yes. In and of itself it holds no moral brief. But it is definitely more than a virus. Some believe it’s God’s way of bringing us to our senses…Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

~ Arundhati Roy, from “Arundhati Roy: ‘The pandemic is a portal’” in Financial Times (April 3, 2020)


Notes: Photo: Arundhati Roy via bbc.co.uk. Quote Source: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels

 

She always bats 1.000

As Rob Watson, one of my favorite environmental teachers, likes to remind people: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.”

You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot manipulate her. And you certainly cannot tell her, “Mother Nature, stop ruining my beautiful stock market.”

No, no, no. Mother Nature will always and only do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last,” says Watson, “and she always bats 1.000.”

Do not mess with Mother Nature.

Thomas L. FriedmanWith the Coronavirus, It’s Again Trump vs. Mother Nature  (NY Times, March 31, 2020)


Photo: Economic Times

Undermining the Ground Beneath Our Feet


Notes:

House on Fire


Photo: Wildlife rescuer Simon Adamczyk carries a koala out of a burning forest to safety on Kangaroo Island, southwest of Adelaide, Australia, on January 7, 2020. Photograph by David Mariuz.

The Atlantic: Animals Rescued From Australia’s Bushfires. January 9, 2020:

“The horrific wildfires that have been burning across Australia for months now have taken a severe toll on the animals that called the scorched lands home. Estimates of the number of animals killed by the fires range from hundreds of millions to more than 1 billion. Volunteers and crews from Australia’s National Parks and Wildlife Service have been doing what they can to help some of the kangaroos, koalas, lizards, and birds that can be rescued and treated. Ranchers and pet owners have been working to keep the animals in their care secure when possible, but many farm animals have been killed as well. As much as one-third of Australia’s Kangaroo Island has burned so far, with wildlife experts fearing that more than half of the island’s 50,000 koalas have been killed.”

At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this?

North American songbirds have been shrinking steadily in size over the past 40 years, according to scientists who measured tens of thousands of the feathered creatures from dozens of different species and attributed the changes to rising temperatures.

As the birds’ bodies got smaller, their wings gradually got longer, the scientists said in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Ecology Letters. The longer wings, the researchers said, may help offset the loss of body mass so the birds can fly efficiently on their long migrations. The changes were too small to be apparent to the naked eye, the scientists said, amounting to a gram or so in weight per bird and a few millimeters change in individual wing length…

Migrating birds in the modern world face many hazards affecting their growth and survival, from vanishing nesting grounds, dwindling food sources and pesticide use, to domestic cats, which kill up to 3 billion birds annually. Collisions with high-rise buildings kill another 600 million or so migrating birds every year.

~ Robert Lee Hotz, from “Songbirds Are Shrinking in Size, Study Finds. Scientists pin drop-off in size of North American songbirds on rising temperatures” (wsj.com, Dec 5, 2019)


Notes:

Post inspired by: “At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this? / And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow all this?”  by Ilya Kaminsky, from “A City Like a Guillotine Shivers on Its Way to the Neck,” Deaf Republic

And further inspired by: “But there’s something undoing about the dying light of mid-afternoon. In that empty old house on Marlborough Road all that had stitched me into this life came undone and I couldn’t escape the feeling that folded against my back were wings that had failed to open. ~ Niall Williams, “This Is Happiness” (Bloomsbury Publishing; December 3, 2019)

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