Sunday Morning

I love the natural world and I never ceased to see it. The beauty of trees and fields, of hills and streams, of the changing colours, of the small creatures so busy and occupied. My long hours walking or sitting in the field with my back against the wall, watching the clouds and the weather, allowed me some steadiness. It was because I knew all this would be there when I was not that I thought I could go. The world was beautiful. I was a speck in it.

Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Grove Press, March 6, 2012)


DK @ Daybreak. 6:00 to 7:05 am. September 19, 2021. 68° F & Breezy. Nantucket, MA.

Miracle. All of It.

Stop. If you’re inside, go to a window. Throw it open and turn your face to the sky. All that empty space, the deep vastness of the air, the heavens wide above you. The sky is full of insects, and all of them are going somewhere. Every day, above and around us, the collective voyage of billions of beings.

…There are other worlds around us. Too often, we pass through them unknowing, seeing but blind, hearing but deaf, touching but not feeling, contained by the limits of our senses, the banality of our imaginations, our Ptolemaic certitudes. […]

They had heard about the butterflies, gnats, water striders, leaf bugs, booklice, and katydids sighted hundreds of miles out on the open ocean; about the aphids that Captain William Parry had encountered on ice floes during his polar expedition of 1828; and about those other aphids that, in 1925, made the 800-mile journey across the frigid, windswept Barents Sea between the Kola Peninsula, in Russia, and Spitsbergen, off Norway, in just twenty-four hours. Still, they were taken aback by the enormous quantities of animals they were discovering in the air above Louisiana and unashamedly astonished by the heights at which they found them. All of a sudden, it seemed, the heavens had opened.

Unmoored, they turned to the ocean, began talking about the “aeroplankton” drifting in the vastness of the open skies. They told each other about tiny insects, some of them wingless, all with large surface-area-to-weight ratios, plucked from their earthly tethers by a sharp gust of wind, picked up on air currents and thrust high into the convection streams without volition or capacity for resistance, some terrible accident, carried great distances across oceans and continents, then dropped with the same fateful arbitrariness in a downdraft on some distant mountaintop or valley plain. […]

On August 10, 1926, a Stinson Detroiter SM-1 six-seater monoplane took off from the rudimentary airstrip at Tallulah, Louisiana. […] [O]ver the next five years, the researchers flew more than 1,300 sorties from the Louisiana airstrip […].

They estimated that at any given time on any given day throughout the year, the air column rising from 50 to 14,000 feet above one square mile of Louisiana countryside contained an average of 25 million insects and perhaps as many as 36 million. [Read more…]

It is a one-way trip

It is a one-way trip.

Each moment of life is a an irreplaceable jewel. If we could carry death on our left shoulder the way Carlos Castaneda suggests and treat every moment as the treasure it is, we would never waste our lives being angry, or petty. We would treat each encounter with a person or a place as the last one. Life continues to change, and with that change we evolve into something new. It doesn’t make what was before wrong but it is gone forever…

I think living here has for me been an opportunity to see this cyclic nature of seasons and yet every season is different. Certainly, I am different with each season.

At the end of my long life what I have discovered is that there are no ordinary days.

—  Jean Aspen, Arctic Daughter: A Lifetime of Wilderness (2018)


Find Documentary Video on Amazon Prime Video

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

the great chain of life


“Expeditions like these teach us why we need to increase our efforts to restore and better understand marine ecosystems everywhere — because the great chain of life that begins in the ocean is critical for human health and well being. Check out just a small portion of some of the amazing encounters that were experienced via Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) SuBastian during the expedition.”  (Thank you for sharing Christie!)

Walking. With Chernobyl.

305 consecutive days. Like in a row. Cove Island Park morning walk @ daybreak.

I dress. Full winter protection. I’ll leave it at that. There will be no she-wolf-pack piling on today. Lori, Kiki, Dale and all you others and your mocking. Sad, really. Find some other old dog to kick.

Back to the story.

It started last night. I wash down two Tylenol PMs.  Twist right earbud in. Cue up several Youtube videos. And cover up and listen. Because one needs a distraction from the Mind…drip…drip…drip.

First video. What scientists discovered in the Chernobyl forest years after the Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986. Worth a watch here.  Video ends and moves to the second. What sort of human cues up a Chernobyl disaster documentary as a bedtime pacifier?

I wake, thinking about Chernobyl.

I walk thinking about Chernobyl.

I pass a Dunkin’ Iced Coffee cup, half full, sitting on park bench. Plastic top discarded behind the bench. I scan the area, no trash can. Disgusting.

I walk.

I pass not one, but two baby blue surgical masks at the base of a tree.

I walk.

I pass a empty Fritos chip bag.

I walk.

I pass a single mitten, wool, wet and dirty.

I walk.

I pass a plastic Mountain Dew bottle.

I walk. Damn, this is pulling me Down.

[Read more…]

sound and silence moving through space and time, like music

For half a century, philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore has written about the natural world, her work shaped by the homes she’s made in Corvallis, Ore., and Chichaghof Island, Alaska. It’s also indebted to the conservationist and writer Rachel Carson (1907-1964), best known for “Silent Spring,” the landmark 1962 book in which she envisioned a world eerily hushed by pesticides. “I imagine,” Ms. Moore writes of Carson, “she called the book ‘Silent Spring’ . . . because it was the loss of the birds’ music that would grieve her the most.”

Ms. Moore adores birdsong, too, though in “Earth’s Wild Music: Celebrating and Defending the Songs of the Natural World” she details the threat of a broader quiet across the planet if humanity fails to heed warnings about the extinction crisis and other environmental challenges before us. “In the fifty years that I have been writing about nature,” she laments, “roughly 60 percent of all individual mammals have been erased from the face of the Earth. The total population of North American birds, the red-winged blackbirds and robins, has been cut by a third. Half of grassland birds have been lost. Butterflies and moths have declined by similar percentages. As individual numbers decrease, species are being lost, too. As many as one out of five species of organisms may be on the verge of extinction now, and twice that number could be lost by the end of the century.” […]

Ms. Moore considers the possibility of an even wider loss—the souring of seas, the withering of forests, and the wholesale disappearance of many kinds of life, which she regards as a form of spiritual impoverishment, too. “My nightmare is that before we lose the Earth’s life-sustaining systems, we will lose its soul-sustaining system—the Earth’s wild music,” she writes. […]

An abiding insight of “Earth’s Wild Music” is that to save the world, we must truly see and hear it. “How can we be fully alive,” she asks, “if we don’t pause to notice, and to celebrate, all the dimensions of our being, its length and its depth and its movement through time?” […]

“We, all of us—blue-green algae, galaxies, bear grass, philosophers, and clams—will someday dissipate into vibrating motes,” she writes. “In the end, all of natural creation is only sound and silence moving through space and time, like music.”

Danny Heitman, in a Book Review of Kathleen Dean Moore‘s “Earth’s Wild Music’ Review: Listening for Nature’s Melody” (wsj.com, January 27, 2021)


Photo: DK, Cove Island Park, January 31 2020, 6:51 am. 13° F.

Three of my best friends

Having just read “The Overstory,” by Richard Powers, I was delighted to learn more about Suzanne Simard, an inspiration for Patricia Westerford, who despite derision and opposition, proved trees communicate among themselves. When I was a child growing up in Marblehead, Mass., three of my best friends were trees: two oaks and a white pine. I named them, climbed them and talked to them knowing they recognized me and enjoyed my company. Now, at 88, all my two-legged friends are gone, but my tree friends are still standing. I visited them last summer, glad to see them tall, strong and healthy.

—  Cynthia Baketel Systrom, Stuart, FL in a reader’s letter to the editor in response to Ferris Jabr’s “The Social Life of Forests in the NY Times Magazine 12/6/20 issue (New York Times Magazine, Dec 20, 2020)


Photo: DK’s 3 Sisters. Cove Island Park. 6:56 am. January 6, 2021.

Sunday Morning

In a May 1952 paper for her religion class, “Religion as I See It,” Plath laid out her “basic tenets”: man was “born without purpose in a neutral universe,” without inherent morals, and was responsible for his own destiny. There was no afterlife. “His mind may live on, as it were, in books, his flesh may continue in his children. That is all.” God was not to blame for man’s evils or triumphs. Plath claimed that she could “never find my faith through the avenue of manmade institutions,” and called herself an “agnostic humanist.” She happily admitted she was a pantheist at heart: “For my security, I resort not to the church, but to the earth. The impersonal world of sun, rocks, sea and sky gives me a strange courage.” For her, the vital world was earthly and present.

— Heather Clark, Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Knopf; October 27, 2020)


Notes:

  • Plath was 19 years old in May 1952.
  • Photographs: DK @ Daybreak. Jan 10, 2021. 6:43 to 7:20 am. 28° F, feels like 18° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT. More photos from this morning here.

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

%d bloggers like this: