Weaving a Shroud

I write this reflection after reading the headlines on my phone this morning, since we are not doing telly this month and maybe long after.

One of the feeds announced that scientists have determined that we are well into the Sixth Mass Extinction. This news weaves together many other news stories, a personal story and two well-known personalities that are linked to me in this heart rending announcement.

The stories:
Trump pulling out of the Climate Agreement and its ripples through policy and the latest G20 meeting.
The media fought battle by the parents of Charlie Gard.
The push to find ways to ark us off Earth to another planet when we have destroyed life on this one so it is not worth being here any longer.
The intervention of the Pope and Trump into this nasty battle for one small life that is beyond repair.
The end of life for a dear friend’s feline companion.
The news of the 6th Mass extinction.

The Personalities:
Trump
The Pope
The collective Rest of Us
Myself

How does this warp and weft combine in my mind and perception to weave a shroud? That seems obvious to me, but I will share how I see the weaving in any case, if for no other reason than to off load and let go of the news that sends me into despair and sadness.

The pulling out of the Climate Change agreement sends a signal that the environment doesn’t matter much to the policy and policy makers of the, for now, world’s largest economy. The roll back on environmental protections and the silencing of the EPA. The insistence on bringing back coal and fracking and oil all point to a determination to hasten the ongoing and accelerated degradation of our planet.

The battle by the anguished parents of one small boy, who are in denial that their child is irreparably damaged and has no chance of a life with any quality, to try any means to extend their and his facing what will surely be his death. They have skilfully manipulated emotions and the media and the public. They have rallied those who believe that only human life, is worth such extreme efforts to save. In my opinion, they have used their son in a way that is shameful and exposed themselves to more heartbreak, in part because now they will not be able to grieve when the time comes in private. They have become wounded celebrities and the public seems to want more and more. The consumer public is greedy for vicarious experiences whether of joy or sorrow to fill the void of real experiences in lives lived in front to televisions and gaming consoles and social media, which is really, and I mean a very real way antisocial in regards to proper human to human interaction.

The recent stories of people investing massive amounts of money into finding ways to build rockets and so forth to lift us off of Earth before life here becomes untenable. What they forget is that they want to build arks to take the same humans, with the same greed and the same propensity for waste and destruction, not only of each other but any other beings, to another place/planet/satellite/Moon where the same forces will still be present. So far none of the religions of the book have managed to purge human beings of their what seems to be innate desire to control, overlord, destroy and/or lay waste to the environment around them let alone each other.

Both Trump and the Pope have weighed in to offer help to the parents of Charlie Gard. Trump in his usual flippant way, fake empathy lite, and the Pope who it seems will do anything to try and save the life of one sick child. The problem is that as stated above, Trumps policies are helping to doom all the other children to slow death on a planet that will within a century or so will be nearly uninhabitable. The Pope, as long as he and his male dominated and dominating institution, refuse to see the problems caused by too many people fighting for what are infinite and scare resources and promote policies that actively encourage reduction of human populations show, in my view, an unbelievable level of hypocrisy. For the Pope to go on any context about Climate Change, without looking at a policy in his own institution that adds to the current crisis has, for me, no moral authority.

You may wonder where the death of my friend’s cat comes into all of this, and rightly so. It placed me in a position to grieve the loss of a non-human creature. It allowed me to feel the pain of those Wise Ones, The Patterners who shape the framework of creation, in my personal understanding, when another and another of our fellow beings fall to the poachers, the chainsaw, the accumulation of plastics. I believe that there are those, and I don’t mean here the impersonal gods of the three book religions and any other religion where text supersedes real engagement with Creation and those Created, who mourn these losses. If we listen we can hear their sobbing in the background. But we are the ones who have caused much of this.

My hurting with my friend at her loss, mirrors my hurting with the Wise Ones and The Patterners who feel such losses moment by moment. Another elephant or rhino taken spuriously for their ivory or horn. A tiger taken for its pelt and whatever so called medicine is derived from its body parts. An amphibian poisoned by water too toxic to live in. A whale bloated by plastics it thought were food or a seal or dolphin caught in a web of discarded fishing paraphernalia. The lemurs and orangutans whose homes are clear cut for palm oil (so ubiquitous it is almost impossible to personally and quietly boycott its use). The bees who pollinate our now quite compromised crops grown on increasingly poisoned land, who can no longer find their way to and from their hives because of pest control necessitated by the use of pesticides and monoculture agriculture and the greed of petrochemicalagribusiness. The innocent humans caught in the cross fire of wars between religious factions one of whom wants to be the only right way to worship a god who tells them that what really matters is not the life you live here but the one you will earn as a reward for following blindly its rules here whilst the world heats up an burns around them.

And finally, the news that the Sixth Mass Extinction is well underway. I find this news, which the announcement only made ‘official’ the hardest of all. It was one thing when it sort of felt that way, but now it’s been said. Not that it is likely, but we are living it. We are in large part responsible for it. That there may well be very little we can do at this point to stop it. We are the ones who have done this. We who insist on wanting more and more, because we are taught that wanting more and more is what keeps our various economies alive and growing. We who keep on saying that it’s someone else’s problem. We who keep on having more children, not only that often we personally can support but that the planet surely cannot. We who think we have more of a right to be here that small frogs in the Amazon, Snow Leopards in the Himalayas, Elephants in Kenya, Hen Harriers in Scotland. We who put our personal comfort ahead of thoughts for the future. We who elect, or allow our elected officials to appoint, individuals who deny Climate Change, who want to bend over backwards to help their wealthy supporters maintain a life of monetary prosperity at the cost of the rest of us. We who do not act to find a way to live equitably with the land and our fellow citizens, human and non-human.

We are, and that means that I am as well. And right now I don’t know what to do to make a difference. I no longer eat animal products. We drive a hybrid car. We use green energy to heat our home. We meter our water to keep a check on our consumption. We are growing our some of our own vegetables and sharing them with the bugs, if it is safe for them then I feel it’s safe for me. We feed the birds in our garden and our cats who might possibly consider going after our garden visitors go out under harness to sit with us and soak up the sun, the one who is not bothered, and too lazy and slow to hunt, and our visitors know this can go out on his own. We buy most of our clothes from charity shops and support a few groups that work to maintain the woods, make wetland habitats, look after birds and other wild places. We are looking for ways to deal with our pensions in ways that are ethical by our standards, though not necessarily by the standards of so called ethical investment funds, this is a mine field through which one must carefully tread.

But it is not enough. Clearly, it is not enough that individuals take such steps, and we are not the only ones. But it is not us who make the policies. We vote. I sign petitions. I write letters. I express my gratitude for and to the gods, the ancestors and the spirits of the land. I allow myself to grieve. I make myself carry on. I write the pain out of me and share it, hoping others will come to share it as well and maybe in our shared pain something will arise from it whilst there is still some time left.

We made a large part of this problem. We therefore have a large, the largest part, in doing something about it not only for our physical and spiritual descendants, but for ourselves now and in the lives we may yet lead in another manifestation on this planet, the only one we have to call home.

Motherline

I broke the line.

From your fragile genes,
Wilma Darlene
transfigured
into
Judith McGraine
there will be
no more daughters.

Your motherline is dead.

I broke the line.

From your history
of loss and misery,
of anger and surrender,
there will be no more
women carrying
your burdened story
into tomorrow.

Your motherline is dead.
It dies with us.

I broke the line.

Never wanting to carry it forth,
even at five years old
I knew I’d be no nurse,
or teacher or mommy,
and though I have nurtured
others’ souls and selves,
they were the souls and selves
of other motherlines,
and those of fathers too.

Your motherline is dead.
It dies with us.
No daughters follow me in procession.

I broke the line.

Feast, Wild Ones

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you.

Know the healing
of your essential self
as your soul moves
between the worlds,
even as the molecules
of your physical self
seeks once more
their place in the reservoir
of elements supporting
the life and beings of our world.

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you,
who wait your arrival amongst them.

Treecestors
Lioncestors
Elephantcestors
Squirrelcestors
Badgercestors
Bluetitcestors
Hibiscuscestors

Those of the clan and kind
of any wild being,
animal or plant,
who this day makes
the perilous and liberating journey
across the divide between
life and death,
living and dying.

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you,
who wait your arrival amongst them,
who know the trauma of leaving life.

Go free each of you,
those poached or trapped,
those culled or hunted,
those lost to disease,
to accident,
to predation,
I mourn your loss;
each of you was part
of a place, a pride, a family,
a herd, a sett, a nest,
and your absence will be felt
by those who will not see you
again in this life.

Feast, wild ones
in the halls of those
who have gone before you,
who wait your arrival amongst them,
who know the trauma of leaving life,
who now welcome you to the place of healing.

Pivot Points

This week I’ve been pondering the pivot points in my life. You know the ones where you went somewhere, did something or met someone who changed the course of your life.

That’s what I’ve been doing. I looked back not only to my actions, but to others, to decisions my parents made about what to name me, where to live or go to church. If I think about who or what I might have been or been doing now had any of these events not occurred or choices made I see a very different me. For all I know there are those other mes out there in some parallel reality right now living those other lives, but not they are not the me sitting here writing this blog.

Now and again I ponder the one about the other names I might have had, and it might also help to know that I changed my name on the Autumnal Equinox in 1977. Changed the lot, all three names. What I am sure of is that had my name remained that which was given me at birth and affirmed at my baptism I would not be sitting here in the UK living the life I am now.

What triggered all this reflection on pivot points is remembering my first wedding day on 26th May 1974. The man I married that day eventually, after 25 years, divorced me and seven years later died. But I was thinking more of all the steps that led me to the altar that day and whether some pivots are stronger in effect than others. What such pondering does for me is put pay to the idea of life as a linear progression. My view is of a spiral, but even that is far from a simple image when looking at radical, life altering pivotal moments.

I thought of all the people, friends and family, lost to me over the years through death and relocation. There have been many, many losses and many, many relocations over the years. It is poignant to think back on them, who though not thought of often bring a smile to my face and tear to my eye, even today. The experience of our lives, using mine as an example, is a story with gentle curved turns and sometimes sharp angular twists. None of them foreseen, each of them fundamental to who we are and how we become that person.

The trajectory of an individual’s life as it is lived everyday contains small points of possible change, a decision to go somewhere may mean a meeting someone who upends everything and every plan hard thought out over years of patient endeavour. Going to certain place on a whim may mean finding one’s soul home and the ramifications that causes not only to oneself, but everyone else in one’s circle of connection, human and non-human.

What I ended up doing as I thought of the people and places, the names and faces of the people was to say thank you to them. To silently express gratitude for the part they have played in my life, into enabling me to be who I am, and where I am. Although some of those pivoting times were excruciatingly painful, yet were it not for them I would be someone else, somewhere else. Not necessarily in a worse place, though there are aspects of that, but in a very different reality, leading a very different life. The life I live now is mine and I embrace it with joy and gratitude, for though I can imagine others, this is the one in which I am invested in making the best and fullest that I am able.

So, as I whisper all those names and places here and now, I say again: Thank you ________ the time we shared together in the making of me.

A Troubled Relationship

With you sweet Summer
I have a deeply troubled relationship.

Since I was a child
when you meant three months
away from school,
which I loved and missed
during the long hiatus,
and later as an adult
when you meant
long hot hours in the afternoon,
and the challenging blast
of your heat when leaving
the relieving artificial cool
of air conditioning at work,
and the thunderstorms
breaking as I ran from
bus stop to home safety,
never ave I been easy with you.

Then there was the horrible
dry year lived in Phoenix,
where like today
I had a migraine,
but that one lasted
the whole of my desert time,
parched, desiccating, light,
ah, the light way too much
for me almost as harsh
as the interminable heat.

Though now I can seek
respite in a shady garden
or a dense green wood,
the physical discomfort
is not diminished,
for I find your extremes
punishing and cruel,
for even in the night
when darkness descends
the temperatures and humidity
do not always follow.

I have a long way to go
to make my peace with you,
for though I know we need you,
were it not for what you alone offer
we would starve,
still I continue struggling,
after all the decades we have shared,
with the gifts you bring
in abundance of light and heat,
to fulfill the promises of Spring.

With you sweet Summer
I have a deeply troubled relationship.

After Manchester

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

You claimed to have taken down the crusaders,
yet these young women and men
were not responsible for the acts
of those long ago who were in a battle
perverting three religions
by staging bloody acts of horror
engaging in atrocities unspeakable
self-righteously acting in the names
of their war-blessing gods,
where there could never be any gain
and still today precious little hope of peace.

No, these were innocent children,
these were youngsters and teens
who had yet to learn the hard
cold lessons of adulthood,
despair and disappointment
scuppered dreams and latent wishes
for more and better ways to be,
who would never know
the tender touch of first love,
the delicate holding of a first baby,
the exhilaration of a double first.

Instead,
they rest in morgues in bits and pieces,
or in hospital beds balanced
between life and death,
with shattered limbs and mangled organs,
numbed by drugs sheltering them
from awful truths of agonising realities
they should never have had to learn,
yet to wrestle with the guilt of living on,
stealing forever the survivors’ innocence.

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

Reunion

Near enough to twenty years
since last we saw the other,
first sighted in the shadow
of old Salisbury Cathedral’s
twisted spire with a chill breeze
yanking the flowers
from a short row of horse chestnuts,
extinguishing their candles
under a grey clouded sky,
arms flung out as suitcase dropped
a long-holding hug and whispered tears
melting away time
retracting distance
renewing connection.

Sitting in the cloister
introductions made between
her and my new partner,
three cups of different teas,
mint, hibiscus, camomile,
and then he excused himself
leaving us to reminisce,
indulging in nostalgia
washing between us like tides,
revealing in our sharing
the good days and the dark times
we have each lived
in places far from where we met.

Time stood still,
distance evaporated
stories merged
interests twined,
whilst we sat together,
speaking punctuated
by shared tears and laughter,
hands reaching out to comfort
and affirm deep connections
yet exist between us,
stronger today than we had before.

Alas, our brief time together
came to a close marked by
the striking of the Cathedral’s bells,
and walking to the place of our parting,
we both knew that what we had
will remain and what we have now
will continue to grow
as yet more years tumble behind us,
for our reunion revealed
a deep abiding friendship,
neither of us will leave behind.