Grief

Last night I dreamt I was in some kind of group therapy situation where people were asked to sing out their grief.   People with hollow eyes got up one by one and sung tearful laments to loved ones that had died – husbands, children, friends.  It was heartfelt and deeply sad.

When it was my turn I found I couldn’t sing.   I couldn’t find any words and besides I wasn’t sure just which aspect of my grief was I meant to sing about.   Was it the personal grief I have experienced when key people in my life have died or been afflicted in some terrible way or was I at the group therapy session because I needed to express the grief that now gnaws at my heart?medicine-wheel-copy[2]

I slept fitfully for the rest of the night and woke with my mind full of thoughts about what I am currently grieving.   The air today is full of bush fire smoke – it’s not as bad here as in some other areas of the country but it’s still enough to significantly reduce visibility, to make the eyes sting and to induce coughing fits.   The health experts say to stay indoors as much as possible, particularly if you have existing breathing issues and are older.   Falling into those categories I choose to heed the warnings.   There’s nothing much to go out for anyway – the roads are clogged with huge 4WDs full of tourists, the shops are full of tourists driven off the beaches by the smoke, even in the tiny scraps of the natural environment left round here I can still here the sound of traffic.   At the same time many people have gone back to work (after their Christmas holidays – remember Christmas? – we had that a few weeks back – it feels like years ago). Many of these workers are now busily employed carving up this landscape into yet more housing estates, shopping malls and roadways.  It’s mayhem out there!

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Getting back to grief – it’s never far away – there’s the grief over the fires – over a billion animals dead they are saying now – huge tracts of the country burnt and, even though it’s cooler, the fires are still not completely out.   Here in Victoria, Australia our hottest weather usually comes in February and early March so who knows what fresh hell await.  Many people who have lost their homes in the fires are saying the insurance will not cover the cost of rebuilding because of new laws about building fire resistant houses.  Implementing all the new requirements is extremely costly.

The experts are saying recovery from all of this will take years.   The government is still procrastinating.   They have halfheartedly agreed that climate change is a reality and that they accept the science but just what they intend to do about that I have no idea.   I think they’re planning to look into using renewable energy sources or maybe they plan to buy carbon credits.    It doesn’t make sense.

There’s no talk about climate change mitigation.   There’s no talk of implementing any of the very worthwhile and effective measures proposed by the Climate Drawdown people…   and besides, there’s just too much talk and not enough action.

Meanwhile it’s business as usual.   The environment round here is still being carved up for more housing estates, shopping malls and roadways.   Trees are still being cut down at an alarming rate.  It’s not just here – habitats for native animals are still being destroyed  across the globe – trees are being felled so fast I’ve decided there is a global war on trees right now.  The seas are still full of plastic.   Babies are still dying of preventable diseases in poorer communities.

What is wrong with people?

Climate change is just the masthead of a much darker, more insidious problem.   Even if we could put in place measures to drawdown loads of carbon tomorrow we’d still have all the other issues that confront us.   The soils would still be depleted from the overuse of pesticides, the seas would still be overfished and full of crap etc. etc.factories1[1] - Copy

What gets me (among a myriad other things) is how celebrities can suddenly turn around and donate millions of dollars to the bushfire causes at some high class, high profile fund raiser and – most cynical of cynical – an Australian mining magnate donates $70 million when he earned that money carving up the environment and digging fossil fuels out the ground to sell to us so we can burn it and increase the carbon in the atmosphere – (this sentence is in dire need of punctuation) – so anyway all these people donate all this money while other people across the globe are struggling to feed their kids or buy the medicine they need or even live in adequate housing –

What kind of system is this?

So this is why I can’t sing my grief – it comes out in a heated rush that is anger as much as grief – this is why my words are blocked – my throat is choked with smoke – my heart is breaking.

What is the future of this planet?

No doubt people, if they bother reading this to the end, will offer me platitudes that are somehow meant to console me.   Please don’t.   This isn’t about me.   This grief I feel is a response to global events.    Just wait – this shit won’t just happen in Australia.   For some strange reason Australia, the oldest continent, is the first one experience what climate change really means.   It will happen where you live.   Maybe not a fire – maybe it’ll be rising seas, or storms or increased heat that makes it impossible to grow food…    this ain’t over yet.    It’s just beginning.

 

 

 

On the rocks

The photos in this post were taken at Dog Rocks, Victoria, Australia.   The traditional owners of this country are the Wathaurong aboriginal people.  I recognise and respect their continuing connection to this country and their cultural beliefs and practices.   This post is simply a reflection of how I felt when I visited Dog Rocks in October, 2019.

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The  last time I went out to Dog Rocks  was the day after Uluru in the Northern Territory was closed to climbers.   I felt I wanted to honour the occasion somehow.   Ulura is a very long way from where I live so I went to the closest rock formation I know of.  One of my daughters came with me.

It was an unusually warm spring day when we visited.   We climbed the hill up to the rocky outcrop and found a wide rock ledge to sit on.   We sat there in quiet contemplation  from some time.   A hawk appeared as if from nowhere.   It gave a loud cry as it flew over our heads then flew off in a north westerly direction.    It felt like confirmation that our presence on those rock at that time was not unwelcome.

As the heat mounted we decided to wander around the rest of the site.     Although Dog Rocks is considered to be a natural phenomena parts of it bear a strange resemblance to standing stone configurations in the northern hemisphere.

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We came across several arrangements of rocks that looked like alignments but to what we couldn’t say.   As we explored them I found myself wondering just what am aligned to?

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As we began to wind our way back down the slope  my daughter spied an ancient face in the rock looking out at us.  “Just what do you stand for?” it seemed to ask.

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At this crucial time in Australia and the larger world, I am questioning just where my allegiance lies.   Is it in continuing to act in ways that further the agenda of patriarchal capitalism or do I seek to align myself with new ways of being that are aligned with respecting the Earth, indigenous knowledge and the inter-connectivity of all life?

In choosing the latter just how do I go about re-aligning myself to the new? How do I release the old cultural conditioning and work with others to find the way forward?  I can see that things must change, both in the outer world and within my own heart and mind, but I don’t always know just what to do.    I feel like I am exploring new terrain where the old markers I am accustomed to are no longer relevant.

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This post is written in response to Sue Vincent’s prompt -https://scvincent.com/2020/01/09/thursday-photo-prompt-presence-writephoto/

 

 

 

2020 and it’s time to get real

Here in Australia bushfires rage across large swathes of the country.   People have lost their lives;   well over a thousand homes have been destroyed (many areas are currently inaccessible so no one really knows how much damage has been done);   millions of animals have died – it is feared entire species are being wiped out; thousands of people have been stranded on beaches as fire rages all around them – this includes the very sick, the very young, the elderly, and single mums with  several little children to look after.  The military is in the process of evacuating people by ship and helicopter.    In some places further inland the helicopters can’t get in to rescue people because the smoke is so thick.   Access roads to many rural areas are cut because of fire and falling trees.

Power is cut in many places and the internet is down.   Many places currently have no mobile phone coverage.   The  fires are so intense they are generating their own weather – that means  they are created lightning which is setting off more fires.  This can happen so quickly there is no time to warn people.

Heavy rains are unlikely to fall for weeks.    The smoke plumes are up to 14 kilometers high (nearly 9 miles) in some places.   More intense heat with many days over 40c (104F) are predicted over the coming  weeks.   The heat is often accompanied by fierce winds which fan the flames and make the fires spread quickly.  This is our summer and the fire danger period is likely to last well into March across much of the country.

Meanwhile our Prime Minister prays for us, commends us on our spirit and tells us to watch the cricket.   People are calling for investigations into the link between the fires and climate change.   Others are calling for the PM to step up and lead the country.   He isn’t listening.

No one knows which area of the country will burn next.    Many areas have been in prolonged drought and are tinder dry.    The Fire Chiefs tell us many of the fires already burning are likely to burn for several weeks.

Who knows what the outcome will be.   This country will never be the same again though.

I’ve decided to disappear from WordPress for a while.    I have old friends in many of the fire areas.   I have lived or had holidays in many of the places that are now on fire.   I know people who have lost their homes.  I have lived in bushfire affected areas in the past so I have some idea of what it’s like.   I will never forget the orange red sky I saw during the Black Saturday fires of 2009.    180 people lost their lives in those fires.   Fortunately, due to the valiant efforts of volunteer fire fighters there has not been such a terrible death toll from these fires to date.

I can still recall the fear I felt during those fires.     My heart goes out to the people who are suffering so much now.

  This current situation is all so deep, so intense and so REAL my words have dried up.   I don’t know what to say.   I’ll be back when I do.  

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Goodbye to 2019

I was going to link this post to the ‘favourite photo of the year’ challenge that many people are doing right now but then I realised I don’t really have a favourite photo for this year.   For me 2019 has often been  moody and introverted.   My photos have reflected that.

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For a while, mid year, I felt quite haunted.     I had a strong sense of something ending – certainty perhaps –   the outer world in political chaos – climate change warnings becoming more and more dire – horrific documentaries on TV of the plastic waste clogging the oceans…   ghosts from the past whispered to me in my sleep and sent me out on strange photographic adventures through old cemeteries and across lonely windswept hilltops.

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Then there were times of confusion where I wasn’t sure just what I was meant to be doing with my life or even where I was meant to be:-

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Inexplicable feelings of sadness would sometimes sweep through me.   It wasn’t personal – my private life was busy but there was no great personal tragedy or anything like that.   I think, looking back, I think I felt sad for the world in a generalised, global kind of way.

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At the same time, at unexpected moments, I have felt a sense something quite different – a hard to define feeling that something new is beginning to emerge.

-something magical hovering at the edges of perception –

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Well – some much for 2019…    Making this post I’ve been quite stunned to see how many old photos from throughout the past decade have made it into blog posts this year.   I seem to have posted more old photos than new ones.    I did consider doing a post summing up the decade but I think the process of trying to sort through my WordPress archive and then work out how to align all the images into some kind of format would drive me nuts.  One thing is for sure – my blogging style is in dire need of renovation – a complete overhaul is called for.

I’ll be back when I figure just how I’m going to blog in 2020 –

– HAPPY NEW YEAR – 

Here’s to greater clarity and a clear sense of purpose in 2020 – some 2020 vision…

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What lies ahead…

The future is the one place we can never visit. We can only guess what form it will take but whatever lies ahead for us a species I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say we are in for a rocky ride. Climate change, rising oceans, changing coastlines and more severe storms are likely to occur. Political, economic and social upheavals seem inevitable.

It’s also probable that many people will cling to the current system and act in self interested ways until they are forced by circumstances to change. Some people may never change their behaviour.

During these times of change I think it’s important to remember that the greedy self interest that dominates human behaviour now isn’t the only way we can behave. We live in a system that promotes it but humanity also has other behavioural traits and attributes. We are capable of altruism. We can feel empathy. We can show respect for each other and act in compassionate ways. We can live in ways that honour the Earth and that nurture ourselves and the communities we live in.

I think that now more than ever those of us that have the capacity are being called to remember these traits and to find ways to embody them in our own lives.

Cultures can and do change over time. There is currently a groundswell of awareness occurring that is finding form in many new and innovative community groups and ventures across the planet. All kinds of initiatives are happening across a broad spectrum of activity – waste management, the sustainable fashion movement, community produce gardens, transition streets and towns, repair shops, the ‘Food is Free’ movement – the list grows longer all the time.

Many people are realising that one of the fundamental causes of our attitude to each other and to the planet is the way we educate our children. There are movements happening that seek to address this by teaching young children to love and respect the natural environment. Bush playgroups, Forest Schools and school kitchen garden programs are springing up everywhere here in Australia.

All of these groups and initiatives are like seed hubs where new ideas are incubated and shared with the wider community. At present they are piecemeal and localised.

Beyond them the vast machine of global capitalism rolls inexorably on towards political, economic and environment disaster.

I think that for a time it’s going to feel like we live in two worlds. On the one hand the old exploitive system will continue to imprison us with cage bars made of glittery consumer goods and distracting entertainments that are available at our finger tips. On the other hand new organic, grass roots groups that are inclusive, hands on and face to face will continue to flourish.

This is the paradox many of us are facing on a daily basis. While our hearts and minds may align us with new ways of being we are still bound to the old system. We still need to drive cars and heat our homes with energy derived from fossil fuels. We still need to go the supermarkets, the pharmacists and the clothing stores that sell us goods that are often produced in environmentally damaging ways and that exploit workers in poorer countries.

I think this where the idea of core values comes into play. By embodying more empathetic and holistic values in our own lives we can have an influence on our immediate environment. Just how we choose to do this will be different for everyone.

The future is uncertain. These are intense and critical times. Many of us may not live to see how it all pans out by the year 2050 and beyond yet we are here at this crucial time in history.

Many of us are feeling the need to make big personal changes in our lives. Many of the things we thought we believed in are being shown to be falsehoods. Also too aspects of the ways we have lived our lives in the past are no longer relevant. While the old is ending the new isn’t always apparent. It requires a leap of faith into the unknown.

I’m one of those who feels the need to make such a leap. While I’m not sure where my future lies many of the things I need to leave behind are becoming obvious to me.

One of those things is this blog. It seems to have wound it’s way to a natural conclusion. Through writing and reading I’ve come to understand that the new stories I’m seeking will grow out of the values I embody. These new stories are not necessarily stories I will write down in words. More and more it seems to me that they are stories I will create through my own actions. I will probably visit WordPress from time to time and may start another blog in the future but for now my path is leading me elsewhere. Thank you for reading and for your ongoing support. Goodbye and good luck to you all. May you find ways to embody the future you would like to see.

Frozen

prompt and photo: – https://scvincent.com/2019/08/29/thursday-photo-prompt-frozen-writephoto/

Frozen
Stuck in place
losing hope in political solutions –
frozen in knowing that the top 1%
of the top 1%
continue to exploit the Earth
and exacerbate climate change.

Frozen
the ice in my heart
reflecting the burning forest in the Amazon
in central Africa
Australia
and the Arctic.

Frozen in my own life
stuck in place
no real options
getting more isolated
feeling that I can’t write or create
for I have no new ideas.

Frozen in thinking
that maybe it’s true
– as so many have reminded me –
that the greed of humanity
prevents any real action
on climate change
or even
anything
that changes the status quo.

I went to the library yesterday. There I found a book by George Monbiot called “Out of the Wreckage”. When I got home I began reading it. I read until my eyes got too sore to read another word. I’ll read some more today, and the next and the next. I’m reading so quickly I may have to go back and re-read the book when I finish. The reason I’m reading so compulsively is that the book contains new ideas. Reading it I feel the frozen depression I’ve been locked in shift and start to thaw.

Long term readers of this blog might recall that late in 2018 I resolved to look for new stories – new narratives that could shift the way we think and take us to places where constructive action for positive change can occur. I’ve been exploring this one way or another all year but have increasingly been feeling that the stories I find aren’t solid enough or new enough.

Along the way I have discovered many others are also exploring this idea. George Monbiot is one of them. In “Out of the Wreckage” he writes that stories are based on values. He is particularly interested in the political narratives that shape our world. He writes:-

“I believe the trend towards social breakdown is driven by the dominant political narrative of our times. This narrative is a reiteration of the story told by the philosopher Thomas Hobbes in 1651. He asserted that the default state of human relations is a war of everyone against everyone else.”

Monbiot argues that this idea is the text or subtext “of much of the political thought and media commentary to which we are exposed.” He says the idea is the cornerstone of the ideology that now shapes the western world – neoliberalism.

Personally I only heard the word neoliberalism when one of my kids was studying politics at university a few years ago. While the ideology has obviously been shaping politics and economics for decades the word to describe it had escaped my attention. I think many of us are in a similar position. Monbiot’s explanation for this is:-

“So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian faith describes a neutral force – a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.”

Neoliberal ideas lay behind the political actions of Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reaghan in the USA. From there they filtered out through the western world and now underlie the political and economic scenarios we are seeing here, there and everywhere. The ideology is so pervasive it has permeated our own value systems:-

“It was not only among political parties that the doctrine spread. We have all internalised and reproduced its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.”

Monbiot believes we can only dismantle the insidious influence of this ideology by thoroughly understanding its values. His exploration of how these values impact us politically, economically, culturally and socially is what has kept me avidly page turning.

He proposes that we can only shift the dominance of this ideology through creating compelling narratives for change that contain completely different values. He calls for narratives that rebuild communities through the ‘politics of belonging’.

I haven’t read enough of the book to know exactly what he means by this. In theory I like the idea but any community I would seek to belong to now would have be inclusive, compassionate and expansive. Strong ecological values would have to lie at its core. Nevertheless the book is rekindling the hope that we can create new stories and re-discover values that nurture and sustain us and the world we live in.







Mirroring #writephoto

The old woman sat by the pool soaking up the peace. Her years were many and she was bone weary yet it was deeper weariness that gnawed at her heart. Often she found herself wondering just how much more bad news she could take. Just that morning she’d heard the Amazon rainforest was burning. The day before she’d read the permafrost in Siberia was thawing.

All her life she had loved the Earth with a passion. Now it seemed the Earth was dying yet the reptilians in human skin suits who ruled rich and powerful nations continued to develop policies that hastened the climate emergency. Although the voices of dissent were loud the rulers laughed them off.

Like many others the woman had lost faith in politics. Now she sat silent and alone. Perhaps she could just give up altogether. Her tiredness was more than physical. It touched her very soul. It overwhelmed her.

Sinking into it the woman slipped into a trance like state where she journeyed deep into her body. The aches and pains she felt grew so strong she felt they might consume her. Unconsciously she gave a deep guttural moan. All hope, it seemed, had left her.

Still she sank deeper into herself. Her words dissolved and the boundaries that separated her from the environment became permeable. The light coming through the trees and setting the pool asparkle seemed to pierce her skin. It flowed into her like liquid. She felt the rainbow colours of it coursing through her as if they had merged with her blood. Her senses heightened and she became more aware of the trees around her. On an instinctual level it seemed the light pulsed with a life force that flowed both into her body and into the trees and plants around her. Everything was pulsating with it.

It came to her then that the long southern winter that had chilled her bones was nearing its end. Already the first green shoots of spring could be seen shivering against a blue sky as soft and fragile a wren’s egg. Despite the bad news on TV and the internet life was going on. Cyclic renewal was happening all around her. Life was proving once again that it was a regenerative force.

The woman drifted up out of her reverie. Yes spring is in the air, she thought, but it’s still bloody cold. Pulling her winter woolies close around her she lumbered to her feet. Stiff from sitting too long in the cold she gave a little gasp of pain as she forced herself to stand upright. Her right knee was giving her curry these days.

Still, she thought, I am standing. Maybe I need to be more like the trees and figure out the trick to cyclic renewal. Of course all things must die in their own time but mine’s not just yet. I’m still alive. Maybe in some weird way I don’t understand I am connected to those burning trees in the Amazon and that thawing permafrost in Siberia. Maybe we all are. What was that idea from chaos theory? Something about a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon and causing a storm in Europe. Maybe it can work in reverse. Maybe if we all start figuring out how to live in a regenerative way within our own lives we can affect the world around us.