Even though much of my work is literally TOO BIG FOR WORDS, occasionally I am inspired to write, and this is the place for that. Feel free to join in the conversation. Thanks for reading.
She gently placed her hand on my shoulder, “I didn’t want you to walk into that,” and then pointed to what I was literally nose to nose with: a spider spinning her web. Mel and I were making our way through Thatcher Woods, our last walk/talk before she heads west to Hawaii to open a retreat center. I had been looking down, to avoid tripping on a fallen branch or losing the path which had narrowed and was muddied by a recent rainfall. It was the tenth spider web I had had a close call with in the last week. Accompanied by the lilting tune of a flute player (I kid you not!), we marveled at Mother Nature and then continued our muddy path-finding adventure. While away for a week at the beach, spiders had taken advantage of my abandoned house to adorn every nook, cranny and corner with webs. The wafting music took me back to my oceanic state of mind.
Recently, three friends in addition to Mel have decided to move away from the big city, loving its people but not its mountain-less landscape. Sad to see them go, I completely understand their need for more natural environs, and look forward to visiting them in their remote retreats. During my family’s recent respite from cement in Plum Island MA, we spent nearly all day every day at the beach, sunrise to sunset. No matter what adventure I proposed, the unanimous answer stayed the same: “No thanks, we're going to the beach.” One day, through casual conversation with a native of the island, I learned of a bird sanctuary along an expansive beach (see panoramic photo above). Cars, bikes and runners line up early every morning to wait for one of the precious few 50 parking spaces, and then tote towels and chairs to savor space at low tide. My only disappointment was not knowing the names of the dozens of species of shells, fish and birds with whom we shared the beach. I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gifts from the Sea, again, written when she was my age, and spent hours collecting and reflecting on seashells and other gifts the sea brought to me. Life isn’t perfect at the beach, but it’s darn close. I’m always sad to leave the natural rhythm of the tides to return to the unnatural routine of daily life.
Easing back into urban life, we walked Boston’s Freedom Trail, traversing the very same streets I had maneuvered 25 years ago as a law student, bringing back a tide of memories. My law school is now in a brand new building, standing grandly across from, instead of in the shadow behind, the State House. After being thoroughly entertained by a vivacious historian who gifted me with new eyes on America’s founding, we visited my old stomping grounds at Faneuil Hall to confirm that Durgin Park's clam chowder is still the best; it is. Back home on the streets of Oak Park, I find myself missing the tidal rhythm. I wonder whether my great great grandkids will live in cities or near the sea… Will they prefer mountains or monuments? What story will historians be telling in the future? The most inspiring person I met this summer was Drew Dellinger (Love Letter to the Milky Way) at the IONS Conference here in Chicago. Maybe you’ve read his poem “hieroglyphic stairway” which begins:
“it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing?
as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?
what did you do
I can’t help but wonder about the fate of cities and seashores, not to mention how we will continue to nurture our need for Nature. Will Plum Island survive another temperature uptick or the next hurricane? Will spiders and birds and fish outlive us all, or be something our great great grandkids see only on the pages of storybooks? Naomi Klein’s latest call for action in This Changes Everything lays the groundwork for a global revolution. Last night, I was up at 3:23 and 4:34 and 5:45, haunted by my great great grandchildren urging me to just do something. Time is ticking, the door is closing. What if we took what we are doing in the spirit of our favorite "ism" up a notch? What if we leaned in, turned toward the crises, created spaces for real conversations in our communities and just.did.something?
I made a rare appearance at the beauty salon yesterday, This Changes Everything in hand, and it did (change everything). Shockingly, the TV was turned off; instead of the usual banter, everyone was abuzz about a monarch butterfly that had hatched in a glass jar there in the spa. They were tearful when I told them she needed to be released soon. Together we leaned in and shared all we knew about these migrating marvels. A septuagenarian next to me commented “Wow! This is a really good conversation…instead of 'this'!” (pointing to a magazine on the stand between us). She was right. Later, on the streets of Oak Park, an older gentleman named Ron from California stopped me, twice, eager to share his stories: “Did you know Highway 15 caught on fire?” (http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/17/us/california-freeway-fire/) “Did you know the State of California is ripping up lawns and replacing them with stone gardens?” (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-06-06/california-begins-rip-lawns-because-whole-damn-state-out-water)? With the state’s water crisis, he is considering moving to Chicago, home to the largest source of fresh water in the country. [Note to self: here’s a new selling point when I’m ready to sell (got water!).]
How could we build a worldwide web to connect and hold every one of us, intent on healing our ravaged earth? What would we call this, the largest social justice movement ever — one that weaved together the common thread of Moms Demand Action, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the Occupy Movement, ERA, the Gay Rights Movement, Black Lives Matter, the Million Moms' March, ….? Save the date! A revolution is coming to your neighborhood this September 24.
“History knocked on your door…did you answer?” Naomi Klein
What stories do you want to be telling your grandchildren?
What keeps you up at night?
What one thing would change everything?