Category Archives: Creative Interchanges

Windy

Spring is synonymous with wind here in the desert. In the post below, taken from Chewing Sand, I am confronted with the difference between ‘humanity’ and ‘people’ as a teenager. Now as an elder, I find I struggle with the same disconnect, perhaps because I perceive such a gap between what humans can be and what people actually do. What say you?

Windy
The essence of the desert is wind.
Ed Abbey said so. But reading about it in Desert Solitaire is one thing, experiencing it first hand is quite another.
Gusts up to 50 mph were forecasted to become higher when we questioned our camping plans. But the campground was only fifty miles away, so we could always return home.
Four retirees, we had the luxury of an early arrival and a choice of camping sites. We selected one that seemed sheltered from the oncoming wind, and spent the afternoon poking around in the fiery-red sandstone bluffs that gave the state park its name and its fame.
And yes, it was windy: we didn’t dare light the campfire, and had to secure supper with lots of on-hand rocks.
We were to be two to a tent: one was set up by sunset, but we gave up on the other one soon after it turned dark.
Huddling between collapsed layers of canvas, I kept the mesh patch of a window over my face so I could breathe, as well as to see the stars as they moved across the firmament.
Staying awake to watch the glorious cosmic show was no problem, thanks to the wind. To say that it roared would be an understatement: it was more like the sound of a train coming out of a tunnel in an explosion of noise, pushing air ahead of itself. All you could do was to brace for the onrush.
There was to be precious little sleeping. All night long bursts of wind were interspersed with the sound of other campers driving away.
Choosing to stay, we could just lie awake, wired in full alert. I had visions of being blown with the sand across the southwest, ending up in a solidified dune somewhere in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, or/and Colorado. What story would my fossilized remains conjure up for future paleontologists? Would they know that the two breaks in my elbow came from skating: the first on the sidewalk at age five, the second on the ice at age twenty-five? And how could they tell I had relished my last moments of consciousness by living into my nickname?
“Why do you call me Windy?,” I ventured to ask my high school boyfriend’s father. For from the moment we met he’d called me that, and would do so well into my adulthood.
My mother had wanted to name me Wendy, but worried that classmates would dub me Windy Wendy, so named me ‘Gail’ instead. And now I was being called ‘Windy’ anyway.
“Because a gale is a wind,” he said simply. “Is that it?” I pressed, half afraid that the real reason was because I talked too much, though actually only to him. A painfully shy teen, in spite of being head majorette as a high school senior, I kept my inner self carefully protected, except in conversations with him.
And he honored that part of me no one else cared or dared to see, myself included. His observation: “You love humanity, Windy, but you are not so sure about people….,” haunts me yet. My ‘windy’ self gravitated towards flying planes and writing poems even while I nursed, taught, mothered, and ministered. Now lying here out in the wind, the very essence of the west, I hear his laughter.
By dawn I am steeped in gratitude, not that the wind has stopped (it hasn’t), but that somebody knew my true name.

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Keystone Thrust

       How can it be that I’ve never hiked this trail until now?  Surely I’ve known it was here all along, even as I explored the main part that meanders through lavender spring lupine. Yet this cut-off has mostly gone unnoticed, until now.

         So why now?! There seems to be no rational reason, only the need to get away from T.V. and radio, computer and tablet, with their stress producing news of our day:

A recent rally on the National Mall with 40,000 people demanding leadership on climate change, beginning with the rejection of the dirty tars sands pipeline, has, as expected, gone largely unreported by the corporate media; what is unexpected is the discovery that, during that rally, the president was golfing with oil and gas executives in Florida.  And this morning, the local stations were a buzz over the new oil exploration under way in Nevada as a boon for the economy.

This day is a cold overcast gray; the air feels raw enough to snow: perfect conditions for a shade less trek. Nearly a mile in, we crest the ridge composed of grey Cambrian limestone and start downwards onto a plateau of red Jurassic sandstone.

The cause of this juxtaposition is contained in the name of this trail: the Keystone Thrust, a fault line that runs through this mountain range and extends into Canada.

The irony is not lost upon me: it is Canada’s Keystone XL Pipeline that has become the ‘place’ to finally take a stand for saying no to fossil fuels and yes to renewable energy sources.

Finding a secluded ‘sanctuary,’ I climb up on a slab of red stone beside a lone Manzanita blooming in the frigid February morning, glad that here in the desert my birth month means early spring flowers instead of just late winter snows.

But cyclical seasons are not the main source of wisdom out here. Geologic time is.

And therein lies the frustration. The human mind may be able to measure but not grasp the Time that is opened before me: this fault line marks the point where the ocean once ended and this continent began.  The layer of the earliest explosion of life (there are the horn shaped fossils embedded in the limestone) has thrust up and over the layer that, millions of years later, supported the plodding of dinosaurs and the scurrying of mammals that would one day become us. 

In between these came the carboniferous period that utilized and then buried enough carbon dioxide to cool the atmosphere and allow for a whole new epoch of life.  Yet it is this sequestered carbon we are now releasing back into the atmosphere that’s reheating the climate. Were we to bring to the surface and burn all that’s still out there to find, Life as we know it will be over forever. There are already mass die outs, and we too will go extinct. Thus we must leave the rest of the carboniferous age fossilized coal, gas, and oil in the ground.  

Science has made this all quite clear for us.  So why can’t or won’t we transform that knowledge into wisdom? Claims that it’s inconvenient or obstructed by greed seem too easy.   

Perhaps that question is what’s brought me out here; though mostly I just want to bang my head against this immutable sandstone, that intractable limestone.

I sit close to the fault that drove one crustal plate down and under the other: if there’s a key to moving from human understanding to action may it be here in this cataclysmic shift. But perhaps it is already coming to pass: that rally in D.C. might be the eruption of people power on behalf of the planet.

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On The (Human) Nature of Things

The photo at the top of this blog was taken in the exact same place as the picture on the cover of my forthcoming book, Chewing Sand; An Eco-Spiritual Taste of the Mojave Desert.

There is one difference: a human (me) is embedded above,
because this is a place where I have reflected on and written about the deep geologic Time
evidenced by Cambrian corals, Permian brachiopods, and Ice Age mammal remains.

Communing with these ancient cousins brings to my mind a question annoyingly posed by the spiritual director/seminary professor who was introducing the work of Father Thomas Berry and the new universe story to us twenty years ago at Starr King School for the Ministry:

“What are we two leggeds here for?”

That question haunts my book, as in this excerpt from The Great Unconformity:

Cresting the ridge reveals all of the Las Vegas Valley, lately become the haven for bad human behavior that seems hell-bent on trashing the planet, beginning right here.
Okay, not just here: in my mind’s eye I am hiking through conservation woodlands behind my brother’s house in New Hampshire; he bends down to pick up beer cans carelessly tossed by an off-roader, shakes his head in disgust, and says,
“The earth will shuck us off and start all over again, real soon!”
But being clergy, I protest: “No! Not yet, not yet.”
For while people disappoint, humanity must be here for a purpose even while it appears that human consciousness and conscience have been eroded away by the floodwaters of consumerist greed, in a whirlwind of public corruption.

Can we transform in time to save ourselves from the conditions we’ve created for our own extinction?
I hold onto hope as I straddle this Great Unconformity, a fragment of pink granite in one hand, in the other a slab of marine green shale, looking for a trilobite that’ll answer me.

Well, Milt presented me with a trilobite for Christmas, and there has been no ‘answer’ as yet.

But how could there be? It is only in the human species that ‘the what’ becomes ‘so what’ and ‘then what.’ If we extinguish ourselves through our ecocidal beliefs and behaviors, what will be lost is the evolutionary impulse of the cosmos to become conscious of itself through us.

The book that is about to be released (in April 2014) is my small attempt to keep that from happening.

I am also gathering together a group of thoughtful people to join me in this important work.

Here’s what I am planning:
once a month I’ll post an excerpt from on my book (no, you don’t need to have a copy of the book, though that would be nice), share the backstory of each piece, and invite you to interact with my insights and ideas, then add your own.

Together, may we/we may co-create a deeper wisdom and a wider vision.