Caught Shoplifting

The mere fact that I sit here at my computer and write into a blog….. that’s an amazing but scary thing. The air conditioner purrs along, keeping me comfortable and my machines free of humidity. The milk for my morning coffee remains cool in the refrigerator and the microwave will reheat my leftovers for lunch in thirty seconds.

Ranger is sitting here looking over my shoulder.

Ranger: “Why is that scary? I kinda like not getting wet in a rainstorm, and don’t mind at all sleeping through the night in a cool bedroom.”

Me: “Yes. Me too! Darryl and I will not blow up the air conditioner or stop doing laundry just because we’re scared of the ecological disaster happening everywhere in the world. But we constantly remind ourselves of our shoplifting habits, and resolve to do better each day.”

Ranger: “Come on, lady. Enough of this talk. Knowing both of you, you’ve never so much as lifted a pack of gum from a store!”

Me: “Right. What we are shoplifting are resources that rightfully belong to my great-grandchildren. American lifestyles, which I suspect are the envy of most of the planet’s nine billion people, would require somewhere around seven extra planet Earths in order to satisfy. Let’s imagine going out into the Universe and lassoing seven other planets and tugging them into our orbit so they can be utilized and colonized by all the folks who want to live like us. Or, if we can’t find seven, we could find three and then tell all those aspiring up-and-comers that they can only live like Europeans. BUT, if we can’t find those extra planets, we’ll have to come back and just tell everyone, even ourselves, that we need to live like people in what is called the developing world.”

Ranger: “So what does it really matter to you? Why not just enjoy what you can, and be thankful you were born an American during a period of prosperity and increasing technologic knowhow. Why not just trust that that same technology that allows you to put all those words out on the internet will figure out either how to find those extra planets or transform food production so that presto…. everyone really CAN live like us.”

Me: “Unfortunately, once we know about the issues related to climate change we cannot turn our backs. We are at a tipping point. What I desperately want to know is this: if we can find other planets to lasso and tie to Earth, will they have Yellowstone parks? Will the Grand Tetons, or something close, be found? If so, good, because Yellowstone restores much of what we are longing for, and we’d be the first to sign up for the move.”

Early morning on the Yellowstone River.
Early morning on the Yellowstone River.

Market or Mystery?

Darryl and I have been in Wyoming for two weeks, deep into Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We are back in Florida now, and the shock is difficult for both of us. Ranger, who stayed with a good friend, was more than excited to see us, which mitigated our angst a bit. He insists on a therapy session right way.

Ranger: “So I can feel in both of you a mourning…. would you like to talk about that? Isn’t it enough that you get to hang out with me again? Why the long face?”

Me: “Do you realize that Florida has a million interstate stops and street corners….. and they all look alike? The strip malls in Tallahassee look like those in Ft. Meyers…. well mostly…. the ones in Ft. Meyers look a bit more upscale.  Here in Florida Earth is generally viewed as “Warehouse,” a marketplace where the land is fit only to serve up commodities for humans looking for things to buy or to pave over with theme parks that might just as well be in any other location.  Same motels, same restaurants, same big box shopping. It’s really hard to experience a sense of place here.  Roots do not go deep. Eyes  don’t feel a home. There are few community markers of history. Florida is anemic, providing so few places worthy of love. We’ve been in Wyoming where Earth is mostly “Wilderness,” a mystery to be discovered, where there are no fast food restaurants in small towns, where all of our senses were challenged with the unique. And people who live in a big box place seem homogenous as well. Neighborliness is sadly absent, stories do not flow, finding friends difficult.”

Me (continuing to rant): “I think of Florida as a giant Amazon warehouse, where forklifts and automated systems package goods and experiences for the masses. Now, of course Wyoming has Interstate 80, and you can find prepackaged food and Walmart stores if you look hard enough, but mostly it’s a “Wilderness” experience.”

Here is a photo I took of a trumpeter swan, gracefully paddling along feeding herself. She had no fear, was just doing what she does naturally. She produces a sense of quiet wonder. Ranger and I mourn together, and our mourning is profound. Together we look at our small urban lake, with neighbors close at hand but so distant we do not know who they are. They are snowbirds or busy young families intent on getting through a work week. We do not share stories with them. There is little community here.

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Ranger: “I am going to remind you that you and Darryl talk often about just doing what you can in the time and space you have. Your hearts are in the right place. You calculate your own footprint on Earth constantly, calculating your own use of resources. ”

Mountain sheep. Perfectly suited to the environment, perfectly at peace.
Mountain sheep. Perfectly suited to the environment, perfectly at peace.

Me: “Yes, we do talk about that. We will try to keep the image of this young mountain sheep in our minds…. just chomping along interfacing with the environment as a natural being. Humans, we realize, have the added burden of consciousness… we worry, fret, plan, exploit, make laws. But humans have pushed consciousness to a place of separation from Earth. We live in Earth’s bleacher seats, watching shows about life rather than living it. Darryl and I want to be on the playing floor, experiencing first hand what swans and sheep are doing… and mindful of what we are doing.  Ranger, you are so much closer to that place, being who you are. I envy you.”

Ranger: “Ha. You think my life is enviable? Being with the two of you is the best place I have ever been. But most of my life has been a misery. Further, I am completely at your mercy for food, bathroom needs, peaceful rest, veterinarian visits…. you name it. I’m not in charge. You are. But I suspect your point is that humans may not be in charge very much longer, given how depleted Earth has become. Earth has a way of getting back, and that time may be sooner than many can imagine.”

Me: “Well, this therapy session has been good for my perspective. Today my job is to be as conscious as I can about the environment, taking it in with all my senses, and then trying to help others out of the bleacher seats. I need to do whatever I can to build community here, share stories, challenge those who propose more destruction to Earth in any way I can.”