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

Sunday Morning

The natural world is not, to me, a fabric of stuff that gleams with revelation of a singular creator god. Those moments in nature that provoke in me a sense of the divine are those in which my attention has unaccountably snagged on something small and transitory – the pattern of hailstones by my feet upon dark earth; a certain cast of light across a hillside through a break in the clouds; the face of a long-eared owl peering out at me from a hawthorn bush – things whose fugitive instances give me an overwhelming sense of how unlikely it is that in the days of my brief life I should be in the right place at the right time and possess sufficient quality of attention to see them at all. When they occur, and they do not occur often, these moments open up a giddying glimpse into the inhuman systems of the world that operate on scales too small and too large and too complex for us to apprehend.

—  Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020)


Photo: Mand. “We had hail one day and I noticed that one hail stone managed to get trapped on a single web strand.”

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:

Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there.

Meanwhile, on afternoons and on Sundays, Surrey lay open to me. County Down in the holidays and Surrey in the term — it was an excellent contrast. Perhaps, since their beauties were such that even a fool could not force them into competition, this cured me once and for all of the pernicious tendency to compare and to prefer —  an operation that does little good even when we are dealing with works of art and endless harm when we are dealing with nature. Total surrender is the first step toward the fruition of either.  Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been there or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come at all.

— C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (Published in 1955. Describes his life from early childhood in the late 1800s to 1931.)


Daybreak. September 6, 2020. 6:02 am. 63° F. Humidity: 84%. Wind: 4 mph. Gusts: 8 mph. Cloud Cover: 5%. The Cove, Stamford, CT

Walking. With the World all right again…

It’s been a month.  I first wrote about them in a post here: Walking. One Short. From Wing to Wing.

Each morning I look for them, and I just see her.  And the heart sinks a wee bit… Was he hurt? Predators? I shudder to think…

See her above. That’s yesterday morning. Alone. Head down. (And her Head is blurry. That’s not her tears. That’s the idiot photographer who still can’t get it right, but it’s the best shot of her that he had.)

For most of the last 30 days, she’s off on her own on the edges of The Cove, mostly sleeping. Grieving, I’m sure.

So, this morning, I’m off on my walk, expecting a replay.

I’m halfway on my 5-mile loop, and my eyes scan the water for the snow white coat.  [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly

I worked at a falcon-breeding center. In one room were banks of expensive incubators containing falcon eggs. Through the glass, their shells were the mottled browns of walnut, of tea-stains, of onion skins…These were forced-air incubators with eggs on wire racks. We weighed them each day, and as the embryo moved towards hatching, we’d candle them: place them on a light and scribe the outline of the shadow against the bright air-cell with a soft graphite pencil, so that as the days passed the eggshell was ringed with repeated lines that resembled tides or wide-grained wood. But I always left the incubation room feeling unaccountably upset, with a vague disquieting sense of vertigo. It was a familiar emotion I couldn’t quite name. I finally worked out what it was on rainy Sunday afternoon. Leafing through my parents’ albums I found a photograph of me a few days after my birth, a frail and skinny thing, one arm rings with a medical bracelet and bathed in stark electric light. I was in an incubator, for I was exceedingly premature. My twin brother did not survive his birth. And that early loss, followed by weeks of white light lying alone on a blanket in a Perspex box, had done something to me that echoed with a room full of eggs in forced-air boxes, held in moist air and moved by wire. Now I could put a name to the upset I felt. It was loneliness.

That was when I recognised the particular power of eggs to raise questions of human hurt and harm. That was why, I realised, the nests in my childhood collection made me uncomfortable; they reached back to a time in my life when the world was nothing but surviving isolation. And then. And then there was a day. One day when, quite by surprise, I discovered that if I held a falcon egg close to my mouth and made soft clucking noises, a chick that was ready to hatch would call back. And there I stood, in the temperature-controlled room. I spoke through the shell to something that had not yet known light or air, but would soon take in the revealed coil and furl of a west-coast breeze and cloud of a hillside in one easy glide at sixty miles an hour, and spire up on sharp wings to soar high enough to see the distant, glittering Atlantic. I spoke through an egg and wept.

— Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020) 


Notes:

  • Photo: Incubator
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
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