Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. ~ John Muir
Tomorrow I “trek” to a cabin in the Pisgah National Forest. The owner, a writer like myself, assures me it is quiet and its spring water the best tasting in that country, the Appalachians. There is a stream with trout and waterfalls; a big porch with rocking chairs and forest. I can’t tell you how much I need this time to refresh in nature, how much of my natural rhythm (if I even have one left) may remain in tact after mind and body numbing technical writing in an isolated office at a university writing other people’s dreams. The art is perception, some might say. But I wonder now if that is just a fool’s strategy to drink the undrinkable.
But I am blunt in my ability to judge; worn from forcing that which goes against my grain. Weary, foggy, and unsure…I go to the mountains to listen to a stream passing by, making melodies from the stones it must traverse on its journey. I will learn something from the river full of trout outside the cabin door and maybe follow it for a while to see where it goes.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose the fairest one of all?
The Washington Post carried a good review of events at the 20-year convocation of the Rio Summit on the Environment. Before it opened, an agreement was signed by world leaders that most experts and advocates of the environment agree was milk toast when it should have been garlic toast! However, some leaders are not daunted by this outcome, accepting it as par for a world focused on short-term economic crises. Others – leaders of less developed countries, many which harbor the world’s richest biodiversity – are outraged that the leaders of the U.S., China, India and other blockbuster economies are not properly assuming responsibility for the pollution of the atmosphere, massive use and diminution of resources, and impacts on people in countries that were historically conquered and colonized in past centuries.
I tire of these repeated dramas; regular as waves on a beach head. Hunger rages on where despots reign or small subsistence communities have been disrupted by “progress” or capitalization.
The point made by less developed countries is well taken: we are more culpable than other countries. As human beings, when we take time or get a chance to look another human being in the eye, compassion generally emerges, the altruistic side of us homo sapiens. Its human touch that grounds two people to the realization they are linked by each others’ happiness and welfare. Go a step further to take time to commune with nature. Not hunting or running or hiking or even nature exploration. I am talking about something as simple as sitting outside to watch a sunset, taking in a deep long breath, and thinking nothing. Just feeling. The heart is beating in your chest, your skin prickles in a breeze. Again, the moment reminds us that we are not separate from the earth beneath our feet.
Can we really expect to make important very long range decisions on the run, multitasking, stimulating every neuron and orifice?
If we look into the Rio Summit Mirror, are we the fairest of all?
Everyone should be blessed with a father like mine. At nearly 95 he is still active, alert, caring and very, very good company. I am nearly 67 and my “little sister” is 53. We spent a pleasant lunch with Dad discussing everything from outhouses to computers. Born in 1917, he remembers no indoor toilets, rigging up a shower (bucket on a rope slung over a barn rafter), and when his farmhouse home in rural Tennessee was first wired with electricity – a bare bulb hanging on a wire. How did he span from there to flying bombers, to living independently as a septuagenarian whose online chat group entertains friends and family? He is a man who has continually reinvented himself and he is a man who has overcome great periods of difficulty and disappointment. I believe my Dad’s daily routine of getting up at dawn, flinging back the drapes, opening the door, lighting up a pipe, making a good cup of coffee and sitting by the window to watch the sun rise, the birds at the feeders he has managed for decades, and his quiet meditation on the gift of another day is the ground from which he draws such steadfastness. Dad is gentle in spirit, mischievous in nature, and loving and compassionate in his heart. He never harmed anyone in his entire near century of living. That is saying something. But mostly, he has loved me and my sisters when we probably didn’t deserve it – through the vagaries of life – he has been a rock. Our children have also found a loving grandfather and refuge whenever they have needed him. My gratitude is great today.
Natasha Trethewey was named the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate today. Her volume of poetry, Native Guard, which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, focuses on the black guard, a group of ex-slaves, who fought for Union forces on Ship Island offshore from Gulf Shores, Mississippi where she was born. These men were the first black troops to fight in the Civil War for the U.S. Trethewey wrote about them because the Daughters of the Confederacy had eulogized the confederate POWs imprisoned on the island, but did not remember the Native Guard. She explains how her poetry is about bringing “erasures” in history to the public’s attention.
Ship Island is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore which stretches to Pensacola and Ft. Pickens and on to Ft. Walton Beach. All along this barrier island chain are remnants of forts that were the early U.S. coastal defense system. When the Civil War broke over the nation, these forts were fought over for strategic military positions. From Ship Island the Union forces struck New Orleans and destroyed the city.
Threthewey is a thoughtful poet whose writing plays in shades of gray that define the present day South I have personally observed—a region where the civil war is not really over; the voices have just been subdued by law. At the slightest provocation they emerge as rough and emotional as they must have been when the nation was openly divided. We are like a couple that has said too many bad things; making up is just a temporary truce because the wounds do not heal but smolder underneath the dry branches.
I am looking forward to a year of studying her poetry, and listening to her read hers and other poets works through the Library of Congress Poet Laureate pod casts and lectures. I will create a link on this site that you can grab whenever you next visit my blog, which I hope will be soon!