Anthropocene

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Day after day dawns clear and warm. On Monday Fern and I ride the bike to the beach. On Tuesday, we do it again.

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We cycle through Golden Gate Park, illusory in its greeness and biodiversity. Oak forests give way to Monterey Cypress and Japanese Maples. An artificial waterfall cascades down and I can feel ancestral memory ignited, but then it sparks out.

The sprinklers overshoot, watering the sidewalk.

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At Ocean Beach it is high tide. Incoming waves have a silent sneak. A family watches one approaching, but instead of getting up they wait until the last possible moment, acting too late to save their picnic. We all laugh. And I also don’t like the metaphor.

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The ocean is a vast expanse and here I can almost trick myself into smallness, falling back into belief that the world is infinite, ecology unbreakable. In the tidal “lakes” left on the shore, Fern and I find tiny jellyfish, floomping about. One gets stuck in the shallows by the edge and my daughter conducts her first animal rescue. Holding her sand tin gingerly with its fragile being in the bottom, Fern hikes out to the middle of the puddle and sets the “goopyfish” free.

There she says, turning back around. Now it has room to swim.

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I can’t shake an image from my mind, that I saw last Friday. A slide from the most updated information on climate change. North America in 2065, entirely red. Desertification. The inside scoop from climate scientists, says our presenter, is that it’s too late. With a caveat that maybe if there is radical action in the next 10 years, we can buy ourselves some time.

I know all that already. I really do. But sometimes still I find myself holding a little parasol of hope. When I fold it up with a sigh, I find myself free falling. I think of this quote by Hafiz.

This sky where we live is no place to lose your wings so love, love, love.

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I live in a city so it would make sense, but what really gets to me is when I “go” out to nature and I find it there too. The silence. The absence. The Cape Ivy covering forests in a livid and sterile green, the central California meadows quiet and prickly with Star Thistle. Partly a product of so much personal research into natural history, I can’t help but notice the stark contrast between knowing what used to be fully functional, riotous ecosystems and witnessing ones that are now hushed and barely hanging on.

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Always I have dreamt of living far away from it all. Once, in the rainforest wilderness of British Columbia, I met a man who lived in a small homestead two boat rides away from any civilization. When I first saw him, he was sitting on a log, feeding a Chipmunk. He told me that he went days without seeing or speaking to another human, but that he didn’t mind at all because he was friends with all the animals that also called his plot of land home.

It’s another early Spring here in the lower haight, and already the Finch People are back and singing their songs. At the beach, all the Ravens were in pairs. I watched two dive bomb a Cypress and flush out a Red Tail. We go to see houses and turn in applications and make nice connections and don’t sign leases. I am wondering if I should muster up the enthusiasm to plant another garden downstairs. I find myself grieving a Winter that never happened and realize how much stock I put into taking Seasons for granted. There’s nowhere to run.

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I tune into the present moment, making contact with what abides. I am delighted by Hummingbirds along the bike path, the White Crowned Sparrows answering each other across the buffalo paddock. Blackbirds set up a ruckus further inland and the Now is woven into the tapestry of memory of Other Springs. I tap into a fierceness of dedication, of loving and protecting, come what may.

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At the Zoo a week ago, I watched the Giraffes and the way their necks danced impossibly slow through the air. Such giant creatures, such weight upon the ground and yet almost ethereal and dreamlike. I had to adjust my eyes, the way I find I often do, after so much time in the city. So used to looking at a world lacking in vitality, my vision at first is dizzy when confronted with a landscape that is alive. I hungrily witnessed the dance of the Giraffes, and felt the way my own blood spirals through its veins. I felt the way I sometimes do when having deja vu from an old memory. I realized bittersweetly that this primal connection was passing out of history, that we were truly entering the Anthropocene.

I surrender. But I don’t give up. I will love, I will fight for and I will protect. To the very last.

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16 thoughts on “Anthropocene

  1. Mary,
    Sometimes I hate to read your beautiful words because they only serve to give credence to that nagging, terrified voice in my head. These days I wonder about how I will impart skills upon my boys that will help them
    live in the world to come- skills I don’t have. And I’m not talking about speaking Mandarin or mastering new technologies, I mean survival. Any thoughts on this?

    XOX,
    Veronica

    1. veronica, that question of how to prepare our children for an unknown and potentially chaotic future is an important and frightening one. straight up skills like self-defense, non-violent communication and mediation, emergency survival (as in how to respond and what to do in days after) as well as an understanding of not only how to grow food but also how food and water is distributed, and how that might change in the future, is important for the whole family to undertake. beyond that, i think raising our children to be emotionally and physically resilient is the best we can do, so that they can face whatever comes from a place of sanity and internal stability, and be capable of compassionate, yet fierce, response.

  2. The weaving of your words makes tears sting in my eyes. I live in BC myself, on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, and even though we are still wrapped in our scarves and winter jackets, it’s alarming to see the first of the cherry blossoms blooming pink and to wonder if these little hints of spring are normal (have they always bloomed THIS early?), or if this is truly a sign of something more serious (what I’m afraid is the case). It makes my heart ache.

    M.

    1. megan, our cherry blossoms used to bloom on V-day, and now they bloom mid-january. it’s not your imagination. i envy your scarf and jacket and am buoyed to know that there is tender heart up north.

  3. every time i feel panicked, and ill,
    i want to come to you.
    i know you know.
    and you are so kind.
    “other springs.”
    our other springs.
    the ones our children will never know.
    our new springs, and our wet and green
    winters that went extinct.
    this is happening.
    little birds are building their nests.
    and it’s as dry as it was last summer,
    just dragged along.
    and we live in perpetual temperature pleasantness.
    (that keeps me wild with unease.)
    and we will bake this summer.
    and the next.

    let the wild fires begin.
    and the coast lines swallowed by the sea.
    my favorite cousin’s bf’s name on fb (mouth full) is anthropocone extinction.
    he sat in redwoods. and is now hunkered down in the NC hills, with natural springs and far out of the reach of nuclear fallout.

    this drought leaves me dry, sad and low to the bone, wishing for a wetter home with moss, trees, herb spirals, solar panels, and rain catches.
    i gotta make do right here, right now.
    and pray for love,
    pray for the Earth, for forgiveness.
    xo

    1. “this is happening” sums it up indeed. it’s dismaying, a sense of “oh no, not this, not now, not this way”. and i too feel sorrow about those springs that i took for granted, that my daughter may never be able to take refuge in the perennial. keep talking to me, dolly. talk to your neighbors, your family, keep up the conversation. you are not alone and everyone is feeling this, this drought…it’s hitting hard and people are scared. “this is happening” which means it is also time to step up our game and put into play what we’ve thought about for years. pray for love, and i would encourage you to BE love. my hope (there it is again) is that this is an opportunity to come together with our neighbors, now that we have common ground. xo

  4. You pretty much summed up how I feel about life. I’ve been trying to figure out if it’s just part of growing up, or if I’m working too much, but I really do feel like everything is overcrowded, over-polluted and dying, and there’s nowhere to hide from what’s happening. This nonexistent winter is SO disorienting and I find myself grappling with a feeling of total powerlessness every day. Experiencing a resource literally drying up without any knowledge of when or how it will recover makes all the other bad news seem so much more tangible and frightening.

    1. this state of unknown carries with it a sense of impending doom, and it makes sense to me that as someone who works to restore habitats, that you are confronted, daily, with causes for concern. i think it IS part of growing up, a growing up that is accelerated for everyone right now. our big cozy comforter of denial has been ripped off and we are shivering in bed. it feels stark. i’m with you.

  5. This was beautiful and heartbreaking to read. I am with you all the way: saddened, frustrated and worried, and also in love with the big, wild world. Maybe showing Fern how to love what remains is a way to keep engaging with the hope and goodness that is still available.

    1. rachel, i count you as an ally of big wide world lovers. i find it even more heartbreaking, that i am teaching my daughter to love what may also be destroyed, perhaps sooner than later. part of me wants to shield her from that pain of a broken heart, but from a dharma perspective, which i know you know, that broken heart is exactly what is important to embrace. it’s hard to be a mommy in these times. xo

  6. thank you for being vigilant, for always loving and protecting and cherishing. you are a vanguard of truth and the rightness of the natural way.

    it has been so hard, i have been complaining since september about the dryness and little did i know what was in store. it breaks my heart and it threatens to make me a mean, nasty, bitter little person. i try to keep my bones and blood alive, to keep full of hope, to breathe on and feel the sunlight on my face and thank it even though i want clouds, storms, thunder more than ever. i thought i’d have a “winter babe.” i still pray that we’ll get our cozy burrow of love and milk while the weather rages outside. i need that order of the seasons. i feel it more than ever, the need.

    thank you for describing our dilemma and our position as human beings so perfectly. you build my resolve.

    1. heather, i don’t think it’s possible for you to become a nasty bitter person. i think your inner jubilance will trump it, every time. i hope too, that we have a miracle march, that storm clouds gather and have a party, right over your little nest.

  7. As a strange balance, here in Quebec the winter is more fierce this year than ever. There is usually around seven really cold spells each winter, lasting approximately three days, and we’ve already have three that lasted a week or so. So don’t loose hope, maybe the air currents are mainly shifting their seats, so to speak.

    Yet, experiencing a warm, sunny weather lingering in January is a very palpable way to feel the actual global warming in your body and heart, so I’m sending you faith and light from under my three sweaters :o)

  8. it’s so weird to see poppies in the field there. yes, let’s keep our wings as long as we are in the air, how beautiful is that? love love love.

    your photos consistently conjure up my magical pure love of nature. as do your words. you are doing your part so well, you know. reminding us all of the mystery like you do. while throwing in a bit of stark realism. but really, it’s the reminder of the mystery that is the medicine. once we know we love something dearly, we tend to take really special care of it. (i can’t write ‘stark’ without thinking of game of thrones. if u don’t watch it already, you should.)

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