Trusting the voice Inside

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“If you agree with me I may yet be wrong. But if the elm tree says the same thing, I know I am right.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I chose not to watch the first debate of this election cycle between the first ever-female presidential candidate and the archetypal Male Chauvanist Pig we railed against in the 70’s.
Instead, I commit to speak up on behalf of rooftop solar energy at the public hearing to be held by my state’s regulatory commission that is scheduled for the same time.
Meanwhile, this campaign season has reactivated all my old feminist angst and sent me back into my own book of writing exercises for women, Finding the Voice Inside. Now I am being challenged to not only trust that voice within me, but to risk putting it out there into the public arena.
For clean, renewable energy has become a political issue, with Nevada Energy pitting us rooftop solar prosumers against our non-solar neighbors, claiming that we’re causing their energy bills to increase. Apparently, net metering rooftop solar into the grid decreases the revenue needed for long-term fossil fuel infrastructure projects. BINGO!
The point is to transition away from any use of climate changing fossil fuel consumption ASAP if the planet is to remain at all habitable for our species and way too many others.
So I shall try to explain that my going solar was never about saving money; it was and is about morality. I could no longer bear knowing that every time I turned on my lights I was poisoning my Paiute neighbors downwind from the coal ash generated by the power plant at the edge of their reservation.
Shifting the plant over to natural gas evokes images of my family and friends in Colorado fighting the ravages of the hydraulic fracturing in their neighborhoods and across the state.
Putting human values in competition with corporate profit feels utterly hopeless in a culture where consumerism is next to godliness, and the poster child for run-amok capitalism is running for president at the top of the ticket of a political party that denies climate change is real and blocks all efforts to deal with its reality. Why bother to put myself out there?!
As if in silent answer, I suddenly remember Emerson’s elm tree, whose wisdom he trusted more than his own knowing and that of others. So I reach down deep inside, deeper than my own voice, and find my beloved columbine.
This delicate wildflower, named for bird of peace (Columba is Latin for dove), has been my spiritual guide for a quarter of a century, beginning with one I sketched for the first cover of the women’s writing book, before I’d seen a real one.
Nowadays, I get to hike into the high country of Colorado each summer to my favorite field of blue-purple columbine that are already fading and thinning due to global warming.
Now this columbine connection becomes commitment, and of course I will find, trust and use my voice on its behalf.
Thus I defy the anxiety that has been building in my being all day, and drive away from the T.V. framed debate arena towards one of my own. It is the only way I know to send positive energy to the woman candidate facing off against the sexism and misogyny that is deadly not just to us human mothers, but to our Earth Mother as well. Blessed be.

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Red Line of Commitment

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Alongside the shoes placed in the Paris plaza by demonstrators forbidden to march on the day before the talks, we place booties to signify the still to be born generations whose quality of life depends upon the outcome of the United Nations’ twenty-first conference on the changing climate.

For while the international agreement being reached is a true milestone,  it is too little too late. Limiting greenhouse gas emissions to two degrees of warming will still create a planet in crisis and complete the sixth mass extinction that is already underway.

Now we place a red line in solidarity with the demonstrations planned for the day the talks end, whether allowed or not.

What is the red line that I/we will not allow to be crossed by today’s powers and principalities…the fossil fuel industry and their paid-for politicians who put power and profit above people and planet?

What ‘boots on the ground’ climate actions will I/we commit to beyond Paris in order to “to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans will be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner,” as Thomas Berry describes the Great Work of our Era?

A new year is now dawning upon us……

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to the Future

If you are reading this, dear ones, it means that humanity matured in time to not go the way of the dinosaurs.

Please know this did not come to pass without massive effort on the part of people you may never know about.

Hundreds upon thousands of us woke up and worked frantically to avert the ‘asteroid’ of our own care-less creation.

Each in our own way, we faced our horror at what was happening to the planet, reached down through our grief into layers of gratitude for all life, and touched-in with the cosmic grace at the core of being; then we transformed our sense of hopelessness into activism on behalf of all that we cherished.

Personal responses (rooftop solar, electric cars) quickly became political response–ability as we strove to move public policy away from extracting and burning greenhouse-gas emitting fossilized sunlight. But we not only envisioned a more sustainable future, we relentlessly struggled to create it.

Yet as we began to change how we fed ourselves, heated our homes, moved around, invested, communicated, and lived more simply, the consumerist system we were embedded in undermined our efforts by denying and outright lying about the problem. Anger that could have destroyed us empowered us instead! Rather than remaining isolated, we joined together.

Children and elders, students and retirees, scientists and clergy, mothers and fathers, authors and activists, indigenous peoples and environmentalists, we the people studied, testified, organized, formed coalitions, lobbied, wrote letters, petitioned, demonstrated, marched, prayed, preached, tweeted, voted, sued, protested, got arrested…and escaped into Nature to cry with the thinning columbine. Then we came back and kept at it.

The 2015 Paris Climate Talks should/could/would have been the fruition of our concerted efforts to secure and ensure a viable future. The rest, as YOU will see and say, is history.

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Columbine Paradox

We all have those moments, those ineffable moments that are the birthright of every human, those fleeting moments when we know with Emerson that we are ‘part or parcel’ of all that is and was and will be.

Standing in an alpine meadow, I reach out to a translucent blossom of the Colorado blue columbine luminous in the sun’s light. It is like touching the sky. For one extra-ordinary moment, all is right with the world as I touch in with the star stuff with both come from.

But then the ‘buzz and din’ of another reality comes over me like the summer clouds being created by the up-thrust of the Rocky Mountains: I have only made it up to this splendid field because a friend has a four-wheel-drive SUV.

I plop down on a boulder of granite to ponder the paradox.    IMG_2430

The pale purple of a pollution-bruised sky, these wild ones are already thinning and fading from the impact of a changing climate. They look like a flock of doves taking flight and I worry where they will go from here.

There is no more land bridge over which to retrace their migration;          the open water is expanding ever further, making space for oil rigs to add insult to injury. Our human beliefs and behaviors are endangering all the other species that we share the planet with.

On behalf of the columbine I have changed my light bulbs and life ways: rooftop solar panels power my home and electric car, and I have become politically active around the unfolding crisis. I guest preach and lead workshops on climate change.

Yet today I have ‘slipped’ into old patterns, rationalizing that, although I burned carbon emitting fossil fuels to reach these columbine,  it is through my writing about them that they’ll become immortal.

And that in this unrepeatable moment we are blessing one another.

 

Holy Habitat

Green! Everything seems so green this spring as we head towards the Red Rock Canyon loop road. The Joshua Trees are long past blooming, but the yucca is just starting, amid a carpet of globe mallow orange and yellow desert marigold. As we climb in elevation, white cliff rose and red penstemon greet us. Only when we set out on the dirt trail can we see the belly flowers, those tiny fuchsia blossoms that you have to get down on the ground to fully appreciate.

But it is the green that amazes me: the whole landscape seems to have been colored from a box of crayons containing only hues from sage to juniper. I am mesmerized, until a shock of red gets my attention: spears of Indian paintbrush poke up through the sageexactly where we saw them last year.

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This must their niche; they’re spread out, like a cheerful celebration, a rite of spring scattered across the sand. We search for more patches as we ascend the trail. They stop before we do. That humans are the only species not limited to one niche has been both a blessing and a curse for the Earth.

We cut our hike short to return to the paintbrush habitat, its legend tweaking my imagination as I follow Little Gopher’s story. When this Plain’s Indian child could not keep up with his peers, he learned that his gift was different: he was to paint their hunts, not participate in them. Yet he longed to do more: he felt called to reproduce the colors of the sky at sunset. But his paints were too dull.

Then one evening he found brushes filled with red and orange and yellow lying on his favorite hillside. After painting the sunset, he left the brushes where he’d found them. They took root, multiplied, and now bloom every spring.

Standing on this holy ground, the sight of Indian paintbrush invites me to trust that human creativity can redeem our human caused climate crisis.

Walking It Off

“I need to get out into the desert,” I announced to my partner at the end of a particularly aggravating week of trying to do the right thing on behalf of the planet and its people.

“I don’t like who I was yesterday….I need to get away from the phone and computer, for my sanity and your safety.”

No argument there! The only question was where to go: I’d deliberately chosen a home in the northwest corner of Las Vegas so there was easy access to Red Rock Canyon’s hiking trails. Nevada has more publically owned land than any other state, and ‘we the people’ savor and work hard to save it.

As ‘locals,’ we have our favorite places, usually outside the high volume visitor areas, that we rate according to how much time we might have the day we head out for a hike.

Today I’ll need Time to ‘walk it off.’ “Don’t take me home until I’m civil again,” I make my partner promise, adding, “I might be calling you from Denver,” where we spend summers.

Strapping on a water bottle, I step onto the dirt trail.

Ahh! I can finally breathe as I begin to get my bearings in this wide-open space of sand, creosote, sage, and prickly pear. A 380-degree view of the horizon is blocked to the north by a wall of rock: Cambrian limestone overtops Jurassic sandstone. Their broken off boulders are strewn across the rising desert floor and we can’t resist stopping to examine them for fossils.

A mile or so in and up, another trail joins the one we are on and I think to take it while my partner continues up to and over the saddle, a favorite place for us to pause and turn back. But today I want to wander alone into unfamiliar territory, so we set a time to meet back at the car and go separate ways.

Beyond the first knoll, the trail winds across red, orange, and maroon shades of slickrock that give this area the name Calico Basin. I let go and follow the unfolding mystery of an unknown path. But although I can see the parking lot and access road, the county road, and even the city itself shrouded in its ozone, there’s no guarantee that I’ll find my way back to the car in a timely way. More than one desert hike has proven the adage ‘you can’t get there from here.’

Knowing this adds a tinge of excitement that wakes up my senses. The silence and solitude feed my spirit and clear my mind; the glow of light from the rain-washed sandstone flows through my being, flushing out the frustration of the week.

Soon enough, clarity cuts through the confusion of living in a culture that consumes rather than communes, where devouring the planet’s resources for pleasure, power, and profit is normative instead of just plain nuts.

The ancestry of the landscape embraces me as I plop down upon a rock to remove a pebble from my shoe.

The figurative pebble in my shoe this week has been the newly elected Senate’s first bill, a payback to the fossil fuel industry that funded their campaigns: force the president to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to carry tarsands oil from Canada across the continent to refineries on the Gulf Coast, an act that could enable such an increased release of carbon into the atmosphere that it would spell ‘game over’ for the planet.

Beyond protesting about this pipeline, training up for non-violent civil disobedience, and submitting a personal comment on the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement, I have most recently signed a contract for rooftop solar. Moving away from dependence on fossil fuels has become a planetary imperative. But NV Energy, which runs on coal and natural gas, is doing everything possible to subvert and sabotage my solar.

Why is trying to do the right thing so frustrating and infuriating? How did the scientific reality of climate change become such a political football, with the people in power refusing to pay attention to its reality ever since it hit the world’s radar screen half my lifetime ago?

I need to let go of this aggravation for a while, be healed by my hike. But as I set off on an extra long loop back to the (electric) car, I mentally begin to draft a personal letter to the President in support of his promise to veto the KXL pipeline.

Birth Day Knowing

Winter’s child, I choose to commemorate my 71st year touching in with snow. Growing up in New England, snow was always my silent birthday guest, and this year record-setting snow has shut down my birth city of Boston. But though I’m a desert rat now, something pulls at me and won’t let me go until I head up to the local mountain 60 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Snow defines its peak throughout the winter months, affirming that Nevada indeed means ‘snow clad.’

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To reach snow levels means traveling through several eco-systems, from the desert’s floor of creosote, to the Joshua Trees that are starting to bloom, through juniper and pinion pine, until ponderosas and aspen mark the trailhead. The bristlecone pine level beyond is best left for summer hiking.

Feeling more like we’re in the high country of Colorado than the Mojave Desert where we spend our winters, we head upward, seeking snow. There is precious little for a long while.

 

 

We finally do come across some shadowy grey patches of ice that blend in with the grey boulders strewn along the path. Remnants of Cambrian coral and crinoids dot the rocks and remind us of the deep time that’s embracing this moment.

Will our human moment be like the little ball of snow I now hold in hand, then crush and let slip through my fingers?

As we start back down the trail, whole families of humans are hiking towards us. The children lag behind as if stuck fast to the patches of iced snow, not unlike the fossils in the rocks.

Naturally I find myself wondering what we humans are here for: surely it must be for something more than polluting the planet, changing the climate, and disrupting the eco-systems. Clearly the Earth doesn’t need us, and shall go on long after we’ve been the architects of our own extinction.

Out in this pine-refreshed air, I know that the answer is echoing in the voices of today’s snow-struck youngsters.