Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April Stars

May 1st, 2012

April is ended at last. I never thought I'd feel that way. At last! April is over!  Phew! Now I can move on to May...  April the loveliest and sweetest of months, the month of the birth of my two daughters, 8 years and 9 days apart, the month those alleged showers that bring May flowers (had quite a bit of a drought at first, it was a nail biter), and the month to celebrate Earth day, even though every day is Earth day.

Why the joy over the end of such a lovely month? Dear heavens! It was quite a busy and treacherous month for me! All those birthdays to celebrate and Transition events and Earth day events to plan and participate in and organize and lead and, and, and... And even during all that I managed to acquire a chicken tractor and four young hens.  I'm a new mommy!  Phew, am I pooped!

So, Sunday the 29th, I stayed in bed all day and did something only 12 year-olds usually do.
This 48 year-old mom played World of Warcraft (WoW)for the better part of the day.  For those unfamiliar with WoW, it is a virtual role playing video game on the internet where millions around the world get to interface with each other and battle it out in fantastic armor, magical robes and flying steeds. It's a terrific escape and I turned to it for some solace.  I ignored the doomsayers and the peak oil harbingers, the climate change mongers, the Nostradamusites and the 2012 Mayaners... I turned off the boob tube and the radio and ignored the phone (sorry folks).

 I was going away from it all for a little while and I was going to be a warrior and destroy all evil. I would be triumphant with any or all of my various  characters, with magic or steel.  Nothing could stop me from my quest to vanquish the cruel and base and help the weak.  And so, I played the Cataclysm patch on World of Warcraft and at one point during the play, when my character was really on a roll and I was all excited about getting to the next level where she would be able to do all kinds of new skills,  I entered a town called Menethil Harbor that was startlingly and completely flooded from recent cataclysmic storms... (Hence the name of the patch, Cataclysm)   There were even townsfolk filling sandbags to hold back the flood since the streets were completely under water.  People had to swim from one building to the other.   My jaw dropped as I stared at my lap top's screen and the rising waters and buildings sliding into the ocean, the people begging my character for help... My character stood with her two swords hanging limply in her hands... The waters rose.... Good grief!   Give me a break!

The last time I'd visited Menethil Harbor in the game it was a lovely harbor town where you could get some great clam chowder and crocolisk soup (A crocolisk, if you didn't deduce yet, is a crocodile-like creature), but that was a long time ago, before climate change hit the video game circuit...
I couldn't escape the dreaded reality even in a video game!   Oh irony of ironies! What's a 48 year old environmental activist mom need to do to get a break just for a day from it all?

Jesting aside. These are the "woes" of the comfortable and well situated, though I am certainly not unaware of the genuine plight of real people in the Maldives whose island is steadily sinking (or are the waters rising?), or of the drought conditions in Africa, or of the methane bubbling up in the Arctic Sea or the climate weirding all over the planet causing actual misery to actual people.  Everything I do, as I keep telling my youngest child, is for her and the other children of the planet. Unfortunately, everything I do is a pimple on the ass of a crocolisk, compared to the combined work that so many others' do to make a difference, to educate, to repair the damage or just to slow it down... Bill McKibben in his book, Eaarth, says that even if we all started riding bikes and slapped solar panels on our homes it would barely nudge the damage we've already done.  For the Earth to properly heal herself enough for our survival (remember the Earth is fine, it's us who are SOL), it will take all hands on deck as well as decades if not centuries to filter the CO2 that's acidifying the oceans and turning it into a cola drink.  Grab your straws! It's already bubbling!

The collective global agony that is taking place right now is hard to escape, if you're paying attention.  All the mini escapes work only for a short time; the video games, the music playing, the wine drinking, the dance flurries, the meditations, etc. are great to participate in and help keep our sanity.
Saturday  night I had a small group of friends over to play music and drum. We played and sang into the night to candlelight.  We warmed ourselves to the wood stove and celebrated friendship, food, laughter, life and hope and humanity.  For a little while we healed ourselves and salved our deep aches for the suffering world. We need to do more of that.

But back to being a powerless pimple.  
I couldn't even get some people to properly dispose of their napkins and cups at a showing of Journey of the Universe  that a group of my colleagues and I showed in our village's library.  I purposely brought cloth napkins and reusable cups and plates so we wouldn't have waste, and some people still chose the disposables first (I brought them in CASE we ran out of the reusables).  And then they threw the paper cups and napkins in the blue plastic and glass recycling bin.   Where's a crocolisk when you need one? Or a composting bin?  Sheesh...

If you haven't seen Journey of the Universe, you need to. This little film puts hope back in the picture, right where it belongs, with the main character to the rescue being us humans.  The film also brings into beautiful focus the deep, molecular relationship all living creatures and inanimate things have; from butterflies to stars, we are all connected in a universe of expanding beauty. Carl Sagan puts it most eloquently, I think, with That dot.  This film reveals how we, as stars, can choose to be stars that shine eternally or ones that just go out.  Think of Beethoven and Maria Callas, though gone their light still warms and inspires us.  We humans can choose to make a difference and shine forever, or step aside and be forgotten in the evolutionary record.

 We had a terrific turn out for the film which was followed by a facilitated discussion. We broke into several small groups and each of my colleagues and I sat with a different group as we discussed the film's meaning to our every day lives and what we could do as a community to address its concerns.   Then we shared our discussion in brief with the larger group. There were so many great ideas offered; community gardens, support groups, education, more movies, more talking face to face.  It was a terrific exercise in creating community and in building listening skills and that's why it made me so perplexed to find paper and food scraps in a plastic and glass recycling bin right after that terrific discussion.  I grumbled like a frustrated WoW goblin who can't get her flying trike to not explode on every single, darned takeoff!   As I scraped food slime and paper napkins out of the distinctly, and very deep, ocean blue, bag, traditionally indicating PUT RECYCLING HERE, I muttered to a friend who was watching me with a bemused look,  "WHAT was the movie we just watched about? Was that a waste of time?"  She smiled patiently at me and then said, "People just don't care."

And that, folks, sent me finally the next day to my bed and to a virtual world where video game designers apparently DID care so much that they even designed into a virtual world a terrible cataclysm, freakishly similar to climate change, that caused floods and fires and droughts and volcanic eruptions and storms all across that computerized world, depriving me of just a bit of escapism I so craved.   In that virtual world of destruction, of kids chatting, swearing and dueling, of adults flying and questing, of designers designing a virtual world vaguely yet comfortingly similar to our real world, I found hope for the real human race.
There was a sign!
As my character stood in the town of Menethil Harbor, the waters rising around her powerful, armored legs, she looked up at the sky and that's where I saw it.  Stars! Filling the virtual sky!
Millions of stars beginning to fill that virtual dusky sky as the virtual sun went down on the drowning village.  April Stars.   We both smiled. 

I know, even though sometimes I feel like it, that I'm not the only one learning and teaching how to grow food, or learning how to raise chickens, or how to reskill on a spinning wheel.  I know I'm not the only one keeping my lights off (I had a $17 electric bill last month), turning down the heat, getting an energy audit to see how much more CO2 I can prevent from spewing into the oceans. I know I'm not the only one who sees both of our potential futures as a fork in the road and lays in bed at night wondering which one we will go down, alternating between terror and joy. I know I'm not the only one who looks up at the stars and like the poet, wonders if they look back, if they love us, if they remember us.  We are, after all, related, at least for the past 14 billion years.  They are in our bones. Without them we don't exist.
I cared enough to look up the other night after tucking my new feathered children into bed, to gaze in awe up at the stars in the inky black sky shared with the crescent moon smiling her sideways smile.
I'll bet they cared enough to look down and wonder to each other: "Do you think they know they are our children?"

Post Script:
If you are considering getting chickens I recommend an electrified fence. Strongly!
Last night a fox came to my suburban home and screamed right outside my window, perhaps in frustration that he/she could not easily access my feathered ladies.  Thank you Nan and Peter Zander!
If you've never heard a fox scream at 2am through your partly opened window while you are in a deep slumber, I highly encourage it.   Get's the blood rushing!!