I haven’t written in a while. Not here, and not really anywhere. Sure, every once in a while I’ll try out a haiku, but I recognize that for a while now, I’ve been slacking. Do I not have the words? Is there a lot on my mind? Writing always happens for me when I recognize I have something to say, and magically I seem to have the ability to put together the words to say that in the exact way that I want to.
I haven’t felt that spark lately. Sometimes I come home and have a glass of wine or two instead. Sometimes I’m gripped by the terrible anxiety I think we’re all feeling. I dream about friends and family and have to call and make sure they’ve not suffered some terrible emergency. Last night I dreamed that Anna, a teacher I work with, was helping me pick out shoes. And like much that is going on at the moment, that didn’t make sense, except that she does have good taste in shoes.
Last week I reread the book Last Chance to See which was written by famous fiction writer Douglas Adams and his biologist friend, Mark Carwardine. It chronicled their trip around the world in the 80s to see some of the rarest animals left on earth and also the efforts being made at the time to save them. Rare in this case meaning not quite extinct, but going that way. The writing in this book always takes my breath away because it does such a wonderful comedic/anthropological job of poking fun at human folly. The ways in which we continue to not learn our lessons, for instance. I always finish this book feeling entertained, saddened and also a bit out of hope since that was thirty some odd years ago now and what has changed? Species are going extinct at the rate of 150 to 200 per day. That happens to be a lot faster than was happening during the 80s, so yes, I’m just a bit alarmed about it.
We are alarmed about a lot of things right now. Different people are alarmed about different things. And yet, and yet…we all have this one thing in common. That we know of, we have this one home we are all sharing. If you feel you have nothing in common with the people around you, nothing at all….if you feel like a fish out of water. You do have that one thing in common with everyone. And when it comes down to it, its really the most important thing to everyone on the planet (without which we wouldn’t exist).
I’m not sure what’s brought us to this great disconnect with reality that I feel humans are experiencing on a giant scale. What has brought us to thinking our waters can take whatever we care to dump into them and still retain life? What has brought us to think that our air can suck up all the exhaust of all the many transportational machines we’ve got moving us hither and yon, and still support life? What has brought us to think that the earth itself can suck up any manner of poison that we’ll carelessly dump and still support life?
I’ve been riding Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Charlotte NC daily for the past six years. I’ve ridden past paint spills, I’ve ridden after floods when all the garbage washes up onto the bridges and and sidewalks so that you end up riding an obstacle course. I’ve ridden when there was a rainbow sheen of oil floating across the water. It’s my daily “drive” so I notice. I noticed that evening in December a few years back when someone leaked a massive amount of diesel into the creek and the smell as I rode home was sickening. I noticed when for months after when nothing could really live there. And i noticed as life started trickling back. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, seeing life back in the creek, but I’m not naive enough to think that dumping doesn’t still happen down there. A few weeks ago the water was cloudy again, and I saw that rainbow sheen, and I felt helpless.
There are days I absolutely wonder how we survived this long. A few years ago I took my daughter on a road trip across northern Illinois to see my hometown. It’s a visit that still sticks with me when I remember it. We came across the bridge that crosses the Fox River in Ottowa Illinois and separates the South Side from the North side. We came up next to the square, we passed my grade school. As soon as we crossed the bridge I started sobbing. I hadn’t really been home since the age of ten, not there, to my hometown. When I was little we wandered the town on our own. We walked to the library and to school and rode bikes to the quarry where the boys would do jumps and I would look on in worry. In the summer, my mom would take us to the square, and for at least a few years we’d get on a bus and go out to Starved Rock, to participate in a Nature Camp. We walked those woods and checked out every indigineous plant that was pointed out. We bird watched and listened to short lectures, and once we tie dyed shirts by the river. I went to a lot of camps over the years but that was the best one. It taught me to recognize my home. When I went home a few years ago, I was stunned at my reaction to being back in my homeland (it was like a child finding it’s mother after being lost), and I wondered about humans. Were we meant to be indigineous? That’s what it felt like going home, even though I haven’t called that home in 40 years. That I was indigineous to that place and had just been lost.
When I think about the Great Climate Strike tomorrow, I think about my hometown of Ottowa, and of coming home and realizing that square, that school, that quarry, that library, those streets, and the map in my brain I could remember after all of these years…that home was loved by me. I realized how important it is to our human nature to belong to a place…to love it with our feet and our toil. And I realized all that is lost when you distance yourself, when you disconnect, from that homeland.
We have already lost so much. 200 species per day…some of them trees, some of them birds, some of them tiny bugs we’ll never see or care about. We’ve lost the Northern White Rhino, which was one of the featured “rare” animals of Last Chance to See. I keep wondering when it will occur to us as humans, that we are a species in the middle of a mass extinction.
Tomorrow is the climate strike and I’ll be there. I’ve come home.