July’s Heat/August Debrief

Direct eye contact with Ranger. A source of hope and love.
Direct eye contact with Ranger. A source of hope and love.

It’s so hard not to be discouraged. We’ve just experienced the hottest July ever, since records have been kept… and probably in the last 4,000 years. Even Ranger gets winded after playing in the yard. I head out to my preferred walk on the Celery Fields as early as I can see each morning, and I’m still dripping wet by the time I finish. Yesterday I witnessed a county commissioner meeting where they decided that hunting would be permitted in the county park system. It felt like the heavy hand of privilege (commissioners are all hunters and clearly privileged) had struck at nature again. That decision echoes what the Florida Wildlife Commission decided recently when they instituted a bear hunt on state lands. I just learned that a huge Arctic glacier has calved a significant chunk the size of Manhattan. The “Chasing Ice” project filmed this. Ranger and I sat here at the computer and watched in disbelief.

Yet my air conditioning hums along. I am cool in my car. The parking lot at the mall is packed by early afternoon most days. Presidential candidates talk about job creation.

Ranger: “Focus on the places and events that provide breathing room for you, even though you are holding your breath at the catastrophes you see happening in the world.”

Me: “Many days I feel I have lost the stamina to stay in this hard place of transformation.”

Ranger: “My question for you: what choice do you have? These are the times you need eye contact with nature, disconnect from the craziness and find the joy of being in an unplugged world.”

And so we have eye contact, the two of us. He is steady, never looking away unless he is called by Darryl. I return to a position of hope and love, knowing that this is all I can do, all I am called to do.

Ranger: Get Over Yourself

Harsh words from my therapy dog today.  Yikes.

Ranger starts out happy. We just played ball in the yard. It’s his favorite game. He knows that I throw the ball hard for exactly 10 throws. When I get to 10 he stops to acknowledge that he’s tracking on the count. We go in, where he carefully deposits the ball into the kitchen sink so it can be washed and put away. Then he stands by the other counter where we keep the treats, waiting for his milk bone treat. Late this afternoon we’ll repeat this exercise, but with a frisbee. He knows the times of days for ball and frisbee. If we miss on the timing he reminds us by bringing the frisbee or ball, pushes it into our laps and barks insistently.

It's 4pm.... must be frisbee time.
It’s 4pm…. must be frisbee time.

In this routine he is happy because he feels he has done his job by making us happy. He validates each of us by doing the thing that he believes makes us happy, and it does.

Now he is insistent about talking me through this matter of making happy.

Ranger: “I know that these little routines meet a need for both of us. Now I want to push on you by asking what else you need to feel happy?”

Me: “As usual, you go directly to my present ache. Are you sure you want to open that can of worms?”

Ranger: “Yes. Start talking.”

Me: “I have lived most of my life with a mismatch between what I am validated for and what I long to receive. I got validated for being slender, having curly hair and dark blue eyes, being a ‘good’ mom, making fabulous homemade bread/lasagne/apple pie, being a hard worker, conscientious, always  showing up on time…. But all that validation was missing something, and I’m only now beginning to understand the big hole I didn’t get filled.”

Ranger: “What does that have to do with climate change?”

Me: “I think I am in a particularly good place to understand how mismatched our present culture is to Earth. Earth is in emotional pain because we just don’t get it… we don’t listen to Her, we abuse and overuse Her. In my case I longed for intellectual validation. I wanted my friends and relatives to honor the ideas I put into writing. I wanted discussions of those ideas, not long sentences of praise for my carmel sticky buns. I won’t bore you with the long list of things I wrote but got no validation for…. ”

Ranger: “So now what? Are you just going to give up writing and caring just because people are not kissing up to you? Maybe you need to really grow up. You want to be loved and recognized even though you have notions that are counter to the very ideas and beliefs held by the very people you want the validation from. You need to get over it, keep addressing topics of intellectual concern to you, even though all you get in response is silent disapproval. Become your own validation, your own best friend. In doing so you become a better friend of Earth and of yourself.”

American Consumerism…. Healing in Myakka

Ranger and I are thinking our recent brushes with illness stand as proxy for our entire species.

My oldest friend has a grandson who suddenly is diagnosed with a nasal carcinoma. The news shakes me and I am so far away. I grope for what to say, how to say it.

So this day is a reminder that is is not just me, or Darryl, or my friend, or her grandson, although that takes center stage right now. Truth is our whole culture is very sick. We mostly don’t admit it, do we? We somehow have come to believe that we will survive forever. Many of those who are religious pin their hopes and understanding on the gift of an eternal afterlife (can you imagine anything so hideous?)…. in heaven!  Those who can afford it, and want it, can embrace a body made forever young. “Why would I not look as young as I can?” is the question someone asked me recently, as he arranged for a facelift and a neck restructure.

Our society as a whole has signed up for a facelift. Our personal standard of beauty, set for youth, robs us of appreciating what is happening to our bodies in our 60’s. We somehow believe that the deepening lines and the cellulite must be erased. In treating those things, we rob ourselves of our fine lines and wrinkles, and the appreciation of being “crones,” …  I use that term in the most positive of senses, knowing some of my readers would not appreciate it, but I use it anyway. In the same manner, we have come to believe that our world (Earth) will be forever young, completely immune from the ravages of overuse. I am haunted by my own garbage and recyclables… somehow we expect them to disappear and never impact us again.

The cultural fracelifts? We expect to be free of insects, living in a world of strip malls, with our debris gathered from our pristine doorsteps, our very hygienic children dressed in Gap clothing and our movies telling cute truths or absurd other worldly make-believe stories.

In the WW III that looms, our enemy is not ISIS, or Al Qaeda, or even Russia. It is ourselves. With our insistence on consumption we tire of a garment and then toss it… it’s cheap enough, after all. We drive to the mailbox. We make the extra trip for that rare ingredient for our meal rather than making do. Yesterday my grandchildren were flying to California for a vacation, and I scurried from store to store gathering material for a “goodie bag” that they may never have opened. So I am guilty as charged, scurrying around trying to placate these little children. The truth is that their generation is the one which will manage (or NOT manage) the situation, and I just contributed to Earth’s misery by purchasing stuff in crazy packages, starting my car over and over going from store to store. I am stricken with guilt.

Then I have an opportunity to go to Myakka State Park, where there are no theme park rides, no fancy restaurants… nothing but nature to watch. A hawk stares calmly at me from a great oak tree. A baby gator is doing a solo run without his mom on the flooded section of road.

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Baby gator… exploring his world. Then there is the hawk, below, calmly staring me down. These things heal me.

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