Anything Else?

Yes, Talking Writing will publish another from the etymology-based series for the Women and Faith issue, “Ellipses.” At its core, another climate change poem.

For those of us who believe the dire warnings of scientists and who agonize over ongoing weather disasters, this is a surreal period. The Nero-fiddled- while-Rome-burned syndrome. It is especially difficult for scientists involved in climate research, who are supposed to remain objective and emotionally detached, yet they, more than anyone, understand the weighty import of their research results. A couple years ago, Esquire published an article about the existential angst experienced by climate scientists with the provocative title, “When the End of Civilization Is Your Day Job.”

Throughout this period, the number of climate change deniers mysteriously grows. Researchers have uncovered a scary paradox: that the more definitive the scientific research, the less concerned the public in most Western countries become. How can this be? I submit that this denial then contributes to the feelings of powerlessness and advancing doom that non-deniers experience, and so the vicious cycle proceeds.

Eco-anxiety, pretty much as the word suggests, an anxiety disorder focused on climate issues, is a recently recognized psychological disorder. A field of professionals is emerging to help— eco-therapists who work with clients trying to restore a lost connection with the earth and its systems. In my June 1, 2016 post, I wrote about a climate poem I had written that veered on the sentimental, “Go Ahead.” That poem will soon be reprinted in an anthology of poems, all of which reinforce the value of that essential connection.

I don’t know if I could write that poem today. “Ellipses” is darker and resonates more deeply with me at the moment.

Here is the backstory. I attended a panel discussion which included Clark Strand just prior to the publication of his book, Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age (2015). I found him so insightful. He opened up how holy the darkness can be and how terrible its loss has been in our light-obsessed world. But that’s not what made me order his book. He also talked about a Mary figure who visited him, analogous to Black Madonna who has always fascinated me, and a prayer she communicated to him. Although reluctant, he said he’d share the prayer at the conclusion of the panel. When the time came to read it, he refused. Seemed it was too sacred and/or too personal to be read at this gathering of very lovely, open-minded people.

Aha! This was a prayer I wanted to know about. I ordered his book, read the prayer, and let me hide behind a cliché: my hair stood on end. I copied the prayer and say it most mornings. And if this Mary has ever met Mother Earth, what shall we say? They are of one mind about climate change. Like the old commercial said, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Words from this prayer flit in and out of my mind frequently. Ellipses is one such word, ellipses, ellipses, and then came the rest of the poem.

Does "A Rose Is a Rose" Ever Bloom?

For June Cotner, who has edited over 30 anthologies of inspirational prose and poetry, the answer is yes. In her latest, Earth’s Blessings: Prayers, Poems and Meditations, published by Viva Press, she chose “pieces that authentically speak to the earth and to the intricate ties that bind us to it.” Three of my poems, “Doxology,” “Go Ahead,” and “Says Mother Earth,” are included, and in the foreword material, June graciously mentions me and several other poets whose work has appeared in her previous anthologies: “we go back for two decades!” How sweet is that!

And how sentimental! William S. Burroughs purportedly said, “In deep sadness, there is no place for sentimentality.” While I’d consider myself deeply sad about climate risks, I must not have hit bottom. I must still be hoping for significant reversals in current trends or for climate change deniers to be vindicated after all. In fact, I’m full-out in favor of bringing sentiment to bear on the topic. 

Haven’t we all had some of our best moments in nature, unbidden? Not an orchestrated moment, but a sudden feeling of intense presence. A surrealness to the real. Awareness of existence extending beyond our petty concerns. These moments, remembered and cherished, can continue to guide us.

Go Ahead

Imagine a baby, mother and father.
Have them sit together on a bench
in dappled sunlight, or lie, playing
on a blanket. Let them hear birdsong.
Let them breathe loamy earth,
the wafting scent of pine.
The day is coming to an end.

Don’t discard the sentimental
image. It won’t hurt you.
It may even cast its lightness
on you. Befriend beauty
and innocence and simplicity. 
We owe it to ourselves; 
we owe it to that baby.

 (from Earth’s Blessings: Prayers, Poems and Meditations)