15-15-15 interview with Laura Muñoz

My sincere thanks to philosophy scholar,  Laura Muñoz, coordinating editor of 15-15-15, Manuel Casal Lodeiro, Professor Jorge Riechmann, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid , and my daughter Gracie Battson for her Spanish translation skills. Please click on the image for the link.

Biophilia, Fluminism, Symbiocene. An interview with Ginny Battson – 15/15\15 (15-15-15.org)

On Climate as the Dominant Meme.

Rain shapeshifts the trees and their unseen communities through glass. Photo by me.

I’ve come to realise, friends, that even some of the most influential speakers and writers of words on climate do not understand even the basics of Earth as an entire dynamic system of systems.

I go further and say that a repetitive use of the word climate as the dominant meme is now serving LIFE poorly. LIFE is mutualism en masse, symbiosis as a continued wave down deep in the rock to surprisingly high in the atmosphere. This is why I have coined the word symbioethics

Please, think about how you use the word climate, despite the big crowds in high politics going on and on because of pressure to “do” something as opposed to “nothing”. They aren’t system thinkers. Their goals are linear and flat. In terms of Earth Crisis/es, they are the Flat Earthers. Neoliberalism is particularly exploiting the situation; it’s raw like drawing blood. To these people, carbon and carbon dioxide are exchangeable units to trade, and mass electrification means Business-As-Usual in all other aspects of LIFE. There’s blood all over the place, and more to spill.

All aspects of modern life, I’m almost afraid to say it, are what led to the invention of fossil fuel exploitation in the first place, and hence the unfurling, energized, continuing nightmare that is Earth Crisis. Climate change is a symptom, not the disease. You have to recognise this, surely, because those politicians and capitalists may have less of a clue than you.

Earth is different as a planet because of LIFE. I’m animating LIFE in capitals, so as to know and perhaps feel your way into how things really are. I don’t care much about these competitive and anxiolytic obsessions with targets and meeting them, just please stop for a moment and take this in.

LIFE came about because of LIFE.

Sure, it took long-gone, variable qualities of non-organic systems, the chance events of matter, including water, reacting and compounding billions of years ago until an opportunity existed for the emergence of early RNA-like substances, DNA, viruses, and bacteria and cells. In certain conditions again, perhaps under a newly generated organic methane shroud, like smog to deter ultra-violet violence, these basic cells merged again, forming metabolizing and photosynthesizing cells, and in more than one place in similar timescales (symbiogenesis).

LIFE then really took off in this swirling flow of abundance, and when these earliest colonies of dazzling (Lynn Margulis) living matter grew into and around others, more cells found novel roles and began to coalesce in the form of more complex organisms. You only need to understand lichen to realise how it is LIFE that changes the conditions for LIFE. Lichen turns rock into soils; soils are hotbeds for LIFE. And that’s just one example we can all see with our own eyes.

Since those magnificent Earthly points in time and space, LIFE has gained strength by manipulating those very same inorganic and organic systems that produced them, changing them to suit more LIFE (Gaia Theory, even if weak). LIFE has evolved for billions of years subjecting, and being subjected by, the conditions of Earth as a system (Lovelock).

Fast forward three billion years—and five previous extinction events—and here we are, and every living being is still a colony among colonies.

Climate is just one of many interconnected systems that sustain LIFE, though inescapably critical. Its power under change is rage, but the rage should be ours because members of our own species created the volatility, and a minority still pursue it ~ for cash. Climate, on the other hand, simply describes the weather conditions that prevail in general or over a long period. Climate does have the power to let LIFE thrive or die out. But even the atmosphere is largely a product of everything else going on in the world, chiefly… LIFE. Climate is a symptom. As such, it isn’t just physics. The neoliberals, the corporate capitalists, deny it. They may have begun to engage under pressure, at last, but it is only on their terms ~ cash.

Let’s look at LIFE instead.

What are the LIFE supporting systems?

LIFE on Earth is symbiotically related to several Earth and cosmological systems, which are mainly energized by the Sun, our aspect towards the Sun, but sometimes by sources from within the Earth itself. These are all intimately related in flows. We can try to separate them for the sake of study, but the reality is a giant existential, moving system, full of subsystems, cycles, and processes. All is relatedness, flow.

On Earth, the main sub-systems are as follows.

Hydrosphere
Geosphere
Biosphere
Atmosphere

Each one is interconnected to the other by processes and cycles, transforming and exchanging matter and energy over time from the nano-second into deep time.

Evaporation, erosion, convection currents, transpiration, photosynthesis, weathering, erosion, rock formation, ocean currents, climate…no beginning nor end. Carbon, sulphur, salt, food, nitrogen, water, energy, cycled on into LIFE and back again, including human LIFE, which can’t exist without them all.

There are even more systems and processes, macro and micro, even sub micro and meta macro, many of which we have no understanding nor measure. But we know the consequences of them – LIFE on Earth. Sometimes, we have to imagine. Or simply trust in them. But this means leaving soft imprints everywhere we go, or none at all.

SIXTH Extinction Event – Humans.

Scientists relay via peer review evidence that we are into Earth’s sixth extinction event. This includes leviathan climate change.

The five previous extinction events we know about because of the rock record, have been initially caused by activity outside of the organic experience. We know there are historic “orbital” rhythms to climate, which we call the Milankovic Cycles, named after the scientist who mooted the theory, and we know that vulcanicity, tectonic drift, and even giant comet strikes have all altered the stasis of Earth’s spectacularly unified systems that sustain a gradual flow of LIFE.

The problem is that we humans have so manipulated all four of Earth’s main systems that we are changing global stasis and therefore climate (for the sake of argument, the conditions of life as we understand them) earlier and faster than it would otherwise do so. And it is happening so quickly, driven by a power-crazed minority that wrongly perceives accumulation of wealth as the aim. Climate is the global feedback as are ocean currents slowing due to melting ice, displacement of bacterial and photosynthetic drivers of certain cycles, including changing salinity. Yes. Climate change IS heating and weirding and will create more torment and suffering to LIFE, because of the feedback loops in linked systems, like the hydrosphere (flooding, drought, etc).

Existential LIFE on Earth is inherently magnificent. It is so even without humans considering it merely here to serve our needs. But that magnificence is being killed off by humans through overreach in all aspects. All kinds of human development block the flows of LIFE, the processes, and relationships that sustain communities. Climate change so far (no nuclear winters just yet) is a result of the destruction of living and geological systems that trap carbon in long cycles.  Significant anthropogenic (human-caused) changes have happened since the emergence of human agriculture and cities, but sky-rocketing because of the industrial revolution, wide-scale fossil fuel emissions, and a rapid greenhouse effect. Smothering soils with tarmac and concrete, burning peat, harvesting woodland, churning out pollution and waste, fragmenting all kinds of ecosystems with hard infrastructure and agriculture, killing sea LIFE ~ all effects the carbon cycle. Space Capitalism is exacerbating all. This is not just about climate!

Kill off LIFE, and we kill off ourselves. Remember, we are all communities within communities. Nothing is separate.

There are signs and signals everywhere that something is seriously wrong with the systems that sustain LIFE as we understand them, the global COVID19 pandemic in humans being simply the latest. Many more exist beyond the human realm if only more of us understood.

Words matter.

Human words are critical in how we relate experience to one another, but are also significantly powerful over all other LIFE forms because that’s the state of play right now ~ human dominion over all LIFE. I’m sick of people suggesting to me that words do not matter, despite them using words to try to communicate that fact. Your words, my words, act as communication capsules fronting deep memory, transformation, emotions, belonging and doing. They can be used as weapons, salves, or instruments of new ways of thinking. Words do matter, especially those repeated and repeated in the public sphere. We should be way more aware of their power.

I’d like to hear the word LIFE just as much, if not more, than the word CLIMATE. It is LIFE that is ultimately of profound worth, even though a clement climate is ideal for life in different regions as we understand it now. To avoid LIFE and its diversity in our language allows human power structures to focus only on CO2 in the atmosphere like a currency and climate as if it were still dissociated with all those systems that sustain LIFE.

Climate this and climate that. Even critical areas such as justice and equity aren’t adequately served well by its narrow framing. Just look at water and food supply, and the terrible inequities of pollution streams. Some solutions to fit the climate narrative even go so far as to kill more LIFE when LIFE is the evolutionary response to climate warming. Curtail LIFE and you are doubling, tripling the problem.

Systems thinking, please, and in the use of language. To continue isolating the language of climate is a folly. It is a kind of othering, something difficult to handle for almost everyone else. Too big, too ethereal. Something only for learned and passionate experts, or politicians.

The way we live our lives in community, as community among many communities (human and teresapien), is the change. This will help steady the symptom of climate change, though we know the genie has already let rip. It will critically help LIFE in mutualisms and flows. Teachers can be a huge part of facilitating that community change by example. As can any local government, library or hospital officer with responsibility for public buildings and grounds. I’ve little faith in private, competitive interests (at the heart of Capitalism), but maybe there is some hope here. I will wait to see if the practice of locaceding is accepted. Meanwhile, Governments can help or hinder, but the change must be a groundswell. At the moment, voting records still show contempt and apathy from the ground. They will take heart from this, and carry on ignoring LIFE.

It is my greatest hope that Fluminism, on the other hand, is a positive word from the get-go. As a symbioethic, it relates easily to all flowing mutualisms, processes, cycles, and systems that sustain and proliferate LIFE in diversity and abundance. As a word with meaning, I use it as a resistance to those Earth scarring ways of perceiving, being, and doing in this world. It’s a treatment of the disease and the symptom. Perhaps you might use it too. Once understood, it is do-able by everyone equally and daily, and a perception of the world that is then very difficult to un-know.

~~~~

 

Capler

The Wye, South Herefordshire. Photo by me.

 

Hey you, who abandoned me at life’s worst moment; who lied to all of us. Who told me of a love, un-encounterable to most. The path that cut steep down through red soils was lined by light. Tiny stars of wood anemone watched over my eager feet as I moved down through the bluebells having their first conversations with the early bees. All seemed so narrow, a weight, but with an unfurling canopy of shock-green saving me from a complete molten, lead sky.

 

But at the base, where woods fall literally into the river, the sky came in with a bright summer blue, and I stopped to take a deep breath. Breaths are gold, each one, even on ventilin. The river moved like a sliding plate of silver down the table, pausing by me, almost stationary, to hear an ornicophony of riverbirds, and the faint shriek of peregrine somewhere high above. Remember, you asked me to write a poem.

 

Everything opened up to me at this place, Capler, and to everything, flowing through my veins and into my lungs and to the lips. This was what I came for. To try to heal.

 

I’m suffering again, not in your arrogance, in your image fixed into the eye of red-bellied black snake (poor snake), but a realisation that a lifetime of my own difficulty here at my desk, might be a neural difference, an unbidden mindset, unseen and unfelt by all who have tried to help me until now. I don’t like the terminology (this is a symptom too), though I sometimes give too much of my attention, and am hardly inattentive to others. But it only takes a hairline fracture to let the light into pitch black.

 

The DNA-flow of great grandmothers, grandmothers who died by their own hand, mothers (me), daughters who swim beautifully but who still feel they are drowning ~ I just thought this is what it meant to be a woman. To be let down by men.

 

Apparently, only a few are weighted by this “attention deficit”. The anxiety that has ripped through all life’s traumas—there have been many, about as many men in our lives—I just thought we were sensitive. Perhaps, that’s just all we are. It’s hard to contemplate another turn of mental anguish ~ I’ve only just come off the pills.

 

So the path swings left as the river widens into the most exquisite vista to the south, the Wye leaning into a high slope of woods, carving the opposite bank where thick Herefordshire farmland sits heavy. There’s a grandmother over there, with her granddaughter, and they are throwing pebbles in the stream. Bredwardine memories stop me still and then empty me.

 

Butterflies filled me up ~ at least six species; little flighty wings got my attention. I sat among them for a moment, down in the undergrowth, smiling with them. How do you tell a butterfly she is beautiful? Then the path sunk into the bedrock cascading in steps to where the salmon try to run old Ballingham, where the proto indo european rip of riparian—that deep climatic tear—is plain for all to see. More butterflies lay prone on the rock, soaking in the heat. I felt lost there, truly lost in that most profound, good sense.

 

When I came to my other senses, where dream-brain switches into task-brain (as I am now told), I followed a bee into a wide holloway, pushing up into the steeps under Capler Hill Fort, and into a vast auditorium that would have blown your mind.

 

Ravens sounded their wings in circles above me (put that sound in my pocket and save it for later). Giant red-tailed bumblebee queens looked like tiny ants as they rustled their buzz under dry, tongued ferns. All the passerines from all over the Earth were here it seemed, super-high among the quarry-top trees. One oak lay crashed down at the bottom of the cliff, fallen from the topsoil that looked so thin at the top. Another big tree that looked small because of the scale dangled precariously, its roots like tentacles feeling the air. All life is so reliant on that thinness.

 

Then, to hear a slow-rising noise, the shallowest anthrophony of cessna above, of brightly coloured canoe-shouters in the channel, and a sit-on-lawnmower droning slowly towards me. Here, at this place! I could hardly contain my anger. I talked to him later when I’d cooled down, about grass clippings and river ecology—they don’t mix—and he talked to me about keeping things tidy for the tourists, and the fly-fishing licenses; saving the kids from being stung by nettles (I laughed out loud); saving Earth from the scourge of balsam. And litter, to be fair. Even a Ford Capri. And I thanked him for that.

 

I walked back alongside his engine, and we stopped to listen to the noisy peregrines eyeing two-day old ducklings swimming the big, scary river, in little flurries.

 

The man told me the quarry I’d found may have been the source of the red sandstone that is now Hereford Cathedral. A hole in a hill the size of nine hundred years. These peregrines live there now, perched on the quarry ledges. Peregrines also hunt their quarry around the Cathedral tower.

 

I think I found a feather of a female the other day near the remains of a dead pigeon. It’s pinned to my notice board for me to admire the inward beauty of her. Like a shock.

 

Then one flew right over me casting avumbra. And that was the healing moment of the day. The silence of avumbra. I came home wanting, by the habit of four years, to tell the image of me in the mirror ~ you. I wanted to tell the other one too, the earliest bud of cherry blossom, but he’s just told me he found someone else, before the flowers have even fallen to the ground.

 

~~~

 

 

PhD Fluminism as Literature. Practise based research ~ One

Over the next few months, I’ll be doing a series of moments on the Wye; an in situ telling and collection of personal experiences that helped shape my creation of Fluminism as a symbioethic.

One: Eaton Camp, Wye.

Trigger Warning: Contains distressing descriptions of the memories of suicide ideation and behaviour. If you are feeling vulnerable in anyway, please, don’t listen. Seek urgent help. Help is available. If the first help isn’t positive, try and try again until you find the RIGHT help for you. You are unique. The right help IS there.

I am testament.

#Love #Ecology #Flow

Moment One (link to Vimeo)

 

Flumilightenment – The Great Mental and Emotional Convergence.

Convergence of root to trunk, Cage Brook, Herefordshire. Photo by me.

Flumilightenment: A resistance to birfurcated thought, and a rejection of the word “environmentalism”.

For too long, environment has been treated as something external to us. We are drip-fed news about the non-descript environment as if it were:

  • External to us – somewhere “out there”.
  • A choice, option, preference, or hobby.
  • Something that others make a fuss about because they don’t have to worry about daily traumas such as racism, all other kinds of prejudices, conflicts, ill-health, paying the rent.

This is a blind alley, and perpetuated through words, phrases, and headlines every day. We live with language and meaning as something that shapes how we live. We shape all because of it.

Our young are being cultivated, too, in this now damaging misnomer ~ the “environment”.

I am suggesting nothing short of a new Enlightenment.

~~~

The physical reality is that ALL IS FLOW, AND ALL LIFE FORMS (EVEN IN DEATH) ARE INTEGRAL to all. Nothing is truly separate in the realm of reality.

What has been separated is our mental and emotional state of being. And continuing to use separating language perpetuates planetary catastrophe.

We must now DROP the term “environmentalism” for the sake of saving life itself.

Fluminism is the reality.

~~~

What we *think* we are putting into the *environment* is actually going into living beings and ourselves in our one shared biosphere.

As symlings, we are infinitely connected at every point within our porous bodies, and the bodies of all symlings, and our porous bionts (our microbiome, including bacteria and their viruses), with all other dazzling matter AND their wave effects within our biosphere and beyond.

Every moment, we are penetrated by atoms and electromagnetic waves, chemicals and biologies of so-called others. And we do the same to and with them. We are flow.

It’s like a kind of giant melding, a sexstorm, a kinmaking, the ultimate anti-racism, anti-speciesism, anti-anthropocentrism, a oneness in flow.

Sometimes, our imaginations are able to envision, though the crisis of imagination right now is profound. Sometimes, we may even think we feel it (I call this sanguimund – bloodearth). I want us to be able to protect it all (I call this praximund – processearth).

Life-changing, Earth-saving stuff.

~~~

This is not an Indra’s net I speak of, nor even an entanglement (suggests that we are still separated, at least by a single barrier), but an incredible, complex, porous flow, from the cosmos down to quantum level, in constant exchange in what I call the nagorasphere, which I write about in more detail in Humans and Nature’s Kinship Anthology series published in September later this year.

Within the chaos of the formation of this universe, at least, come patterns and exchanges (Bookchin) that exist through our every cell, breath, heat, and every cell is a symbiosis of other beings (Margulis).

~~~

It IS our absolute existence, even without sensing it with biological organs (we glimpse so much more via the tools we have created). But now our minds and emotions MUST follow, and the way we express all through our utterances and the way we live our lives, each and every day. Please, don’t use the word environment without, at least, considering fully what I am saying.

A FULL KNOWING of fluminism and being it every moment in complete union is a new enlightment; the physical reality, but also the mental and emotional consciousness of this reality. A Flumilightenment: The Great Mental and Emotional convergence.

I hope this makes you feel alert and empowered. You need to be.

~~~

Audio:

Ghosts, introducing anthroturbs.

Last summer, I am swimming in the cool Arrow just west of ye olde Penebrugge, keeping my nose above the silk-smooth, trying to find a rhythm against the strong flow. The sun is strong, and all winter’s ghosts abandon me for the ocean.

Under me swim a million Atlantic salmon lost to hunting and distress. Above me are the spectres of a thousand white men culpable for the loss. I’m not grieving for the men today.

I get out of the water, and warm blood returns to my cold skin, flush-blush, and I breathe deep the oxygen offered free by the immigrant balsams that shoot from anthroturbed, hot, shade-less, phosphated banks.

 

Man ~ anthro ~ disturbs ~ turb, from Latin “to stir up”. Anthroturbs.

 

You ghosts! I ache for you to come back to me, animated and full of the essence of life, like the blood returns to my epidermis, as real and vivid as you ever were.

I look up to a mewing raptor circling under a bright cloud in a deep blue sky ~ a fantail. Buzzard in all her glory, kindred buzzard; your lungs take in my air and mine yours. What are you saying to me? I think I might know. Your polarising eyes bear witness to my dullness under all the silver drops of water and soaked, sun-bleached hair. You’d rather talk to the others who might come to you, and avoid my predatorial shadows. I understand this. I am whiteness, and with all the river washing, I cannot get rid of that.

But you are utterly safe today in the brightness, as I neither possess the inclination to kill you nor a gun. My love for you is about as iron-strong as things are. Do you know it? Others are harming with poisons, and game rearing, and poultry sheds, and I do fear they will turn you into a ghost if you don’t stay away from people who look like me.

Can we ever stay away? “Stay away” is really an impossibility of matter in our dimming biosphere, because we are altogether in flows, bound into processes, like it or not, even in death. You are inside me, and me you. I’ll just sit here and warm for a while, and smell the undergrowth, and keep my eyes open for any other symling to greet who flows into my senses. The river will do its thing, taking my skin cells and some of my microbiome with it.

~~~

This early Spring, dressed hard for cold weather, in boots and jeans and overcoats, there is a human path I follow worn down under cracked willows, where the tree creepers hop from bottom to top. It’s a place forced under pressure between the sewage works ~ subcontracted to a profiteer by the not-for-profit water company ~ and the banks of the Wye just South of Bartonsham Dairy. Raging floods dig down deeper into the buried shingle of ten thousand years, like salt in a wound.

I’m going to check the sewer outfall for a point-source phosphate pollution event.

The path here is the beginning of a chasm, and there’s a terrible and awkward dance to walk it. I call it the Bone Path, where salix roots finger across it like skeletal hands.  Fishermen come here with their maggots, their carbon rods and alum hooks. I sometimes find the nylon bits in tweavelets, and they do anger me on behalf of all the animals.

I find the outfall and it is spewing white foam that reeks of soap. White foam of phosphates, the wastes of capitalism down the supermarket aisle where you and I buy our plastic bottles full of washing liquids and chemical softeners. I take pictures, imagining the entire journey to get these eutrophiers here.

There are three fishermen waste-deep in the channel across from the spewing, and I am not sympathetic. But then I change my mind, worried. So I shout across through twigs and willow tits, and suggest they take care with all the phosphates coming straight at them.

“I do not know what you are talking about,” one man shouts back in a heavy accent above the din, and continues to throw his line.

I repeat my concern and he waves me away like a bothering mayfly. They laugh at me. I reach for home, passing more flood erosion, where the river in its fury took more lives from the soils and dumped them somewhere downstream and unappreciated. Ghosts.

I am thinking about the freshwater, which is hardly water at all, so full it is of symbiotic life. Here is where all is easily indivisible like me swimming below buzzard kin and breathing balsam air. We are to them, and to everything in the air, and everything that has been stolen. All matter leads to the ocean, oceans to oceans. We are all ghosts, and that is my exquisite grief.

I have just sent my pictures to the non-profit. We’ll see how it goes.

 

Audio:


The Arrow at Pembridge
The Bone Path
Bartonsham Sewer Outfall.

Medambulare.

BarefootintheWoods_vm

We know the forces for good in walking as part of nature. And I do it myself. So I have been considering a word for it.

Walking doesn’t have to involve legs, let me just say. It might mean all kinds of devices as extensions of our bodies ~ enabling. Moving through time/space at walking pace.

Med ~ PIE root for “take appropriate measures”.  Also root for meditation.

Ambulare ~ latin for “walking”.

Medambulare ~ walking as welldoing for wellbeing. Also, the closer within nature’s flows we are, the growing fluministic love we have for all life, the more we will defend and protect. Soul food.

The School of Medambulare.

Verb ~ to medambulate.

As a study, medambulology.

 

See also “going in for a walk“.

 


 

 

Out-Foxed.

Wye foxes, out-foxed. Photo by me.

 

Foxing along the riverbank, you two orange drops stop still at the scar that leads to the water. Lowering your heads, take a deep draw of matter through your nostrils; this cleaved soil is where all the scents of the hill fall from its westerly face before hitting the water. The cold hangs low just here, sunk into the light on the edge, trapped between cracked willows. Much of it smells of duck.

Everywhere you turn, my eyes look to what you are interested in. I want to protect those things, for them and for you. We are all running with them, in flows.

The moorhens are struggling to hide from you: one is quiet beneath the fallen willow. There are the tiny beings we both cannot see, even with your amber cat-like eyes, drifting without and within. You can smell them, they are now in your blood; raise your noses in nods to the big, open sky.

But you aren’t bothered about the moorhens, are you. You might be if they were injured, or old. There will be young here in a few weeks time. This scar gathers new blood way below the brick and glass houses sitting on the ridge with their oil tar road; a bleak spine on the way to Mordiford.

Meanwhile, where the warm January rains scour into this red sandstone point source, you continue to cross it with little leaps on your padded paws every day. Weave your scent ribbons together in the air, nose all the mallards out from reeds into a wide, silver Wye-flow. It is a meeting place, of hunter and hunted, and all the lives that support the moment.

Further on, near the railway bridge, you meet a concrete edifice, where that human spine has twisted down to the water’s edge and the strip gardens have evaporated. The river is supposed to be protected from mortgages and building contracts. Yet they are poured and bolted here to blunt your linearity. Who gave them consent? You never did. Nor the willows, nor the mallards, nor the moorhens.

Out-foxed, you are forced back along the riverbank from where you came, and all the food has vanished. And that is your daily trouble. Where to go next? You are both quite thin.

My whole house now smells of fox. Your den, of hunger.

~~~

Audio:

Trisense ~ an essay in three parts.


1. Emily
2. Lynn
3. Ginny

 

Emily

1


 

It’s barely possible to imagine the hem of her black or white dress resting close at the knee of a leather boot belonging to a soldier with so many children borne to another woman.

Metallic scents of expensive ink on expensive paper linger not in her room, but in her father’s office downstairs. She writes by hand, of course, in her bedroom, at a small, crafted desk and seated on a chair that is cut and waxed from some of the grandest trees of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The glories of lilac and generations of bees flavour an ordinary lead pencil, maybe a sharp knife too, laid on the desk to carve a point. Her neck is long and pale, black hair wrapped into itself at the nape, and pinned.  The line of her spine drops plumb as she breathes quick and anxious.

In bitter winter, Emily looks down through her window at a horse raising his snow-dusted hooves through drifts, the wheelwright’s toil rolling behind. They travel along the road to a neighbour, delivering to the town’s elite. Her brother’s children, released from next door, laugh in these memory grounds beneath the cold, white blanket surrounding the yellow house. She’s observed robin search for his worm at the edges, pecking at the frozen leaf piles. Her secret lover makes boot prints through her father’s garden to his place of work. He glances up to her window with a wry smile beneath his flamboyant well-groomed moustache.

Spring has raced through this year—the bulbs bursting with colour in the borders—purple crocuses, yellow daffodils with orange hearts, and pink and blue hyacinths—and then abandoned her. How must she feel? The petals have shaped her thoughts into words, but she is anxious that it will all end soon. This keeps her in with her thoughts.

In a summer heatwave, the warmth of wet soil in clay pots, and spiced leaves, drifts into her hair, and Emily throws open the conservatory windows. A bead of sweat runs across her brow when the nights are sultry. And there is fresh-pressed lavender-scented linen on her bed when thunder comes, especially when the leaves redden and fall to the first frosts.

Emily writes each letter one at a time until they make words, and lines like tiny rivers on the back of used envelopes, and orange telegrams—Baltimore orioles—and any scrap paper she can find. There is a slant of light, of truth, yes; that bright New England kind that contrasts even the palest patterned walls and white skirtings.

She writes again in her beautiful garden. Blue jays are gifts, red cardinals shock. The loud warbles of tiny Carolina wrens float along the perennial borders of the Homestead under an orderly, painted, hickory fence. Even the Magnolia tripetala leaves swelling through the winds of the Fall gently vibrate that same, perfectly hand-stitched hem just when their rosy red fruit cones are in their prime.

For now, thanks to Austin, I read they flourish beyond Homestead northward about two hundred miles from their native range and a degree of centigrade.  You are all visionaries.

Emily mouths her own words quietly and sends them silently to a huge appetite denied in public spheres. The repression bubbles up, coded in decorum. Blood flows to her lips and through her fingertips. Skin on skin, under the skin of him, and her, then through the hand; hand through wood and lead; lead on manilla, and into her pocket. She can keep him there constantly, and no-one would ever know. She smiles, politely, at Lavinia.

If Emily had split a lark herself, somehow without harm, and peered into the microscope, she’d find her neighbour Lynn searching for the slanted truth, and source codes, and yellow, deep in a cell and the organelles. This place is where all the energy is, and all that lays in her pocket.

 


 

Lynn

2


 

She’s young on her wedding day—nineteen, like my Mum. She looks happy, swept into the folds of intellectual love. As a child, she has a bright mind free to roam the woods, unhindered. Now, it’s a strong will to study, and to be with him, and to inspire. They have a child together—Dorian. They divorce.

We divorced.

From the liberal arts to a passion for the inquiring, challenging mind, science history, she keeps her hair tied, or short. And she cycles to a humming lab where she dwells on processes, where the black and white microscopes stand in rows. Soon, she is eye-deep in the cell and the organelles through the glass—the glascella—where she splits the minutiae larks, to think and theorize a new understanding. It’s that slant of light falling across all those pale, patterned neo-Darwinists with her rolling-into-words, honey Illinois.

But she takes all her nature in with her; all of it. Worms, termites, termite gut bacteria, birds, slimes, eukarya. And she knocks on the doors of the journals and they turn her away, until one day, the world just gently shifts on its axis. Life, it is proven (until disproved) is to be less anger, after all, and more love; an inter-kingdom of unions and sex and symbiosis, not war.

And Lynn falls in love again. We all do if we’re fortunate. I did. Two more children, all now flourishing, then another divorce—she’s a dedicated first-class scientist and author.

She writes her notes by hand/in type. Spirochetes spin their corkscrews in white cups, and she looks to all those men again and gently laughs. Her time is big moves, from Chicago Chickadees to the Dark-eyed Juncos of Berkeley and back again to the East. And more, to NASA, to Russia, to international councils of men, and time with mics in studios, and interviews with great writers. She’s blazing trails to lecture halls the length of the land.

Finally, Lynn finds her way home to Emily’s town and the grandfather’s college, where she is content as a botanist can be. She has moved next door to those Dickinson memory grounds. And they meet somehow over the hickory fence. Spring has raced through very fast this year—the bulbs bursting too late in the borders—and as Lynn writes through finger tips and plastic keys and memory boards in a summer heatwave, a bead of sweat runs across her brow. This is her place now, her Amherst. It’s friendships, yes Lovelock’s rainbows on Hungry Hill, and the geosciences where they also make art for her, and this is magic for her: an Earth so in sym as to be the sum.

As her children’s children laugh, her love grows for the sauce code in decorum written on manilla and chocolate wrappers just next door; Emily’s yellow. I’m listening to you, Lynn, as you swim forever wild in your Puffer’s Pond.

 


 

Ginny

3


 

I have two lives. One is before Mum’s suicide and the other comes after that. Before, I am steered by the great events of those I love. After, comes a life of trauma and healing. In healing, I emerge, though trauma is never a singularity.

As a child, I have a bright mind free to roam the Herefordshire woods and streams, and listen to larks, unhindered. My hair is long, until the chemo, tied back into a wild bunch. We meet at college, where I design with black ink on whiteboards and read Zevi. He maps gold and reads Lopez. Then, in Welsh borderlands, he gives me tandems, and our dog, and daily walks. And I know these hills like the memory grounds. After walks under rainbows on Hungry Hill, our daughter comes, and life seems the best adventure. We go to that New England light (Chickadee) and wade through Pacific waves under the Aotearoan cloud (Tui). And I still love him for that. Big moves.

But the after comes, and terrible trauma brings anger and control, and it takes a long time in the city between the Taff and the Ely for me to leave. But I do, and I find new, deep love. And so to this intellectual bird love—of  Cardiff Dippers and Albert’s Lyrebirds—I too receive a wry smile—and the hems and leather boots are in symbiosis with visions of a new epoch itself. I have scribbled in pencil on manilla envelopes our word, mirrors. They also know before and after, a lonely place to be.

How dull would life be without you, Emily and Lynn, and I pocket all the slant light and symbiogenesis I can mine in your words, forming my own thoughts and words, pushing all the hickory fences back. I mouth my own words to a huge appetite denied in public spheres. Love is never sentimentalism. Blogs (light of all the seasons) are my instruments—plastic keys— and Twitter, though there is control there and it can make me unhappy. There’s a beautiful book too, thanks to my friend Riechmann, in a language my daughter knows well. And I relish, too, the visceral art with Lyons under Welsh sleet ~ ah, the Elan horses.

You see, I grew up in my mother’s rambling garden with hardly an edge into the wild of the wood and the streams. And I tended a glasshouse, just like Emily, the warmth of wet soil in clay pots, and spiced leaves in my hair. I climbed mountains and even flew them (the Red Kites). But it was Dad who always tasked me to question. We cared for each other in the after, and I held his hand as he breathed his last. I miss him.

And to abandonment and cancer ~ how must I feel? I am still here above red sandstone, standing at the confluences. Deep down here, there are all the five Kingdoms in symbiosis spreading to cover the entire Earth. I can’t tell you, Lynn, what ten thousand miles away means, and what ten thousand miles back feels. Straight down, beneath my feet, all of time. And then to record them, and the loss ~ each mile ~ with my tiny, black mic, pinned to my pale, patterned blouse.

Daughter’s voice has grown strong in justice and language, like the river, and I learn from her. Meanwhile, I wait and write, and walk each day to Kingfishers and Goosanders, with Heron-like patience; at other times none at all, like the gleam of a Peregrine’s strike. I live Rilke’s questions, searching along my own Amethyst Brook or Connecticut—The Edw and the Wye—  imagining all the spirochetes, searching too for the light beneath my own versions of Magnolia tripetala and all their subsoil mycelium lovers and sunshine. Nothing is separate: All is flow, my rivers, yellow, and that gentle shift of the axis.

Lynn, you asked me for new words, a source code, so I give them to you. Emily, I understand you and the blood to the lips. I feel like we are the lichen on my Mum’s grave, the trisense; it takes three in symbiosis—the alga, and two types of fungi  (an ascomycete and a newly identified basidiomycete yeast), but all three must have that colour.

 

End.


 

Grief, to a Fluminist.

Lighting a candle.

A year of grief, over. It means we have loved, and we need not be fearful of loving again.


2020 has been a year of mass grief; grief for changed bodies and bodies lost forever. I am writing of people and teresapien lives, through pandemic and the vagaries of the Anthropocene. There will be more to come, no doubt.

It takes courage to love again when the love that came before has pierced the skin with a hundred needles. Grief can feel like that. But without giving and receiving love, even love for ourselves, we are all dust. It’s just the way it is, the way more complex lives have evolved, who knows, maybe all life.

Of course, we can have spells of time away from love, like we are holding a drink for someone else at a party. Some people may think they don’t care, rocks and islands and all that, but I think they do mind, deep down. I do.

Sometimes, the love shifts from one type to another, say, from romantic to deep friendship, from fluministic devotion to kindship. Eventually, we need to drink for ourselves.

Whether that love is in full view, the full public view, is another thing. Some believe love is not real unless it is demonstrable in full view of everyone and everything. That also takes courage, a revelation of something that makes us vulnerable. There is a reason why L Frank Baum’s Cowardly Lion was the bravest of all because he told everyone he met he had no heart but wanted one. It’s just that he doubted himself. We all have doubts. My father always said it’s the foolish ones who never doubt themselves.

But some of the most passionate and dedicated love stories across time are surely never told. Life on Earth, of course, is a love and death story.

The good of love may feel like the most searing punishment when the object or flow of our love is hurt or dies. This kind of pain is at least as old as eukaryote cells. We share that in common, and for millions of years. Grief is just as ancient, a kind of ancient trauma. I’m not using that word lightly. Some think ‘trauma’ is an overcooked ham, but it isn’t. When love is strong, the loss, and therefore the suffering, can’t be anything other than trauma. But it has evolved in the avoidance of death, and in the pursuit of care ~ you could say, grief is an aid for survival.

Whether you believe in the afterlife matters less if whoever stirred those emotions of joy and sadness, frustration, and even hate, suffers or suffers and dies. Mother, daughter, sister, lover, bird, dog, horse, wildflowers, lichen, moss, fungi, ferns, trees, whales, entire ecosystems, biomes, coastal cities, continents.

All that’s left are the memories. Maybe this is an icy take on what is the warmest process of all ~ two-way contentment of extreme care, celebrated in public, for all to see. If you’ve loved fully, then you’ve cared fully and lived care-fully. Be proud and content about that, because…

“it’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” John Steinbeck, The Winter of our Discontent.


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