#whyimarch in celebration and support of the whole community of Life

I was glad to see that the organizers of the Women’s March have issued a position paper. It’s good to have a better sense of the energy bubbling up within and around this event. If the bus parking applications are any indication, this is going to be big. It’s fair to assume that people are coming for many, many personal reasons. The position paper helps us to recognize a shared purpose. And from there, who knows what’s possible?

So it was with a growing feeling of unease that I read down the four PDF pages, point by point, wondering when—and then if—the environment would get a mention. Here we have gender justice, freedom from violence against our bodies, an end to—and accountability for—police brutality, and the end of racial profiling. Here we have dismantling gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system, Reproductive Freedom, Gender Justice, LGBTQIA rights, and a fair, secure, equitable economy. Here we have equal pay for equal work, the dignity and fair treatment of care workers, the right to organize, the living wage, Civil Rights as birthright, passing the ERA, and immigrant and refugee dignity and rights.

Finally, the last point at the end of page 4, is this: Continue reading

In support of fiction that gives voice to the living world

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“There are people who think that things that happen in fiction do not really happen. These people are wrong.” ~ Neil Gaiman

I had one of those aha moments last week about my writing, the kind that make me feel really dumb for not having clicked earlier. The epiphany was triggered by this article by Paul Kingsnorth, asking why fiction so rarely extends imagination beyond the human realm. We would have to set aside the modern story of a mechanical nature in which only humans have consciousness. Instead, consider that the nonhuman world is as alive and aware as we are, which has been the understanding for most of human history.

There’s a lot being said these days about the importance of hearing from previously marginalized voices. And we are blessed with an abundance of writers meeting this challenge from all directions, people like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mark Haddon, Roxane Gay, Ta Nehisi Coates, Charlotte Wood, and Yaa Gyasi, among others. The living world is the ultimate marginalized voice, you might say. After all, the modern view of human exception and superiority has given us mountaintop removal coal mining, factory farming, fracking, genetic engineering, clearing rainforests to graze cattle, and on and on. No wonder we are awash in dystopian fiction.  Continue reading

The Gordian knot of racism in “The New Jim Crow”

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“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

In the 2007 film, “What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire,” the narrator brings up a phenomenon of environmental books that I’ve noticed, too. They all have about ten chapters of diagnosis, chronicling what’s wrong—species extinction, rainforest decimation, mountaintop removal, toxic chemicals in mother’s milk, melting polar sea ice, on and on. Then, in the 11th chapter, there’s a prescription of what we can do to reverse it, fix everything and restore our right relationship with the living earth. “It’s not too late” is always the message. That it comes at the end of about 200 pages of gloom and doom reflects a lack of sophistication about the human psyche. If you’ve even gotten that far, you’re not going to be convinced by a single chapter of platitudes about the indomitable human spirit. No, the preceding ten chapters will have convinced you that there is no hope. We are screwed.

I am left with a similar feeling after reading Michelle Alexander’s 2010 book, The New Jim Crow. I have to admire her for using all 261 pages for the diagnosis, not claiming to have answers or a prescription. Instead, she chooses to ask powerful questions, to spark debate and exploration. This is a huge book, not only for its dense narrative and 33 pages of footnotes. It is nothing short of a reassessment of American history: full of revelations, truth telling, and looking beneath the surface of cause and effect. I wish it could be required reading of every U.S. citizen. From the first pages, I saw just how duped, blind and irresponsibly ignorant I have been about the reality of the so-called War on Drugs. Continue reading

Different, therefore the same

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This guest post is by Megan Carlson. You can read a bit about her on the “Denizens” page.

When I was ten years old, a friend’s mom said—to my face—that she felt sorry for me because of how hard my mom worked. She was “worried about how I would turn out.” My mom, a graduate of Johns Hopkins Medical School and entering into a field, at that time, heavily dominated by men, was somehow an unfit role model for her daughter in the southern eyes of women in our community.

My parents, though, carried on in discarding gender roles. My dad had me in the lab with him on Saturdays running “experiments” at the age of six, and my mom decided to keep being a great physician despite the questioning looks and muttered concerns. However, in spite of their great efforts in molding a daughter who was fearless, I still had issues with confidence and self-doubt, something that was invisible to most. Luckily, my professors at Auburn and Clemson saw the weight of my insecurity bearing down on me, and day by day they chipped away at it until I discovered what it felt like to move freely. Continue reading

If all we have is Jack Ryan, everyone looks like a terrorist

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In her mesmerizing TED talk, neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor tells the story of having a stroke in her mid-40s. She points out that, biologically speaking, we are not thinking beings who feel. We are feeling beings who think. Great intelligence resides in the space of our heart and when we nurture that with breath and awareness, our resilience and creativity in crisis increases dramatically.

This innate wisdom and gift of connection to our fellow beings is lost in the rush to analysis brought on by recent crises and instability around the world. We channel our inner Jack Ryan when we resort to habitual ways of relating to the crisis, to each other, and to any possible courses of action that occur to us. Still, in modern western culture, reason and analysis are revered above all. Anyone who suggests a more feeling response is ridiculed as soft or complicit. Continue reading

The power of yellow to defy gender roles

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This is one of my mother’s rare collages, which I’m sharing today in honor of her birthday. It reminds me of how much she loved blues and greens. I have a theory about favorite colors, related to this post about the chakras. What if we wear and surround ourselves with certain colors, out of an unconscious need to balance our energies, or because of how dimly they resonate in our body? Maybe our favorite color points to a deficiency or some other fraught relationship with the energy of that chakra.

For me, it’s red, the vibration of the root chakra. I do struggle with being grounded. I have a history of questioning my right to exist, my worthiness. For much of my childhood, my presence felt tentative, provisional, like waking up in a strange place and you don’t know how you got there. We moved every year or two, uprooting and relocating, making it difficult to feel at home anywhere. Our wider circle of relations was far away. We saw them once or twice a year, feeling like outsiders to the close-knit extended Italian family of cousins and in-laws. Continue reading

Be a prism: let color have its way with you

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The vibration of energy, of waves, color and sound is the secret signature of all things. Both science and spirituality say this. Artists, musicians and poets have understood it for millennia. I’ve been working with a friend to produce a set of meditation cards based on the chakra system. It has heightened my awareness of color in so many ways, from simple mood shifts to the resonance in my body of a particular color. How much do we really see of the colors we encounter as we move through our day?

Different colors and sounds vibrate at different wavelengths. Being a part of this system, our body acts as a prism, connecting to the White Light of All Consciousness, and refracting it into the individual colors of the spectrum. When you delighted by a rainbow or the dancing colors of a crystal hanging in a sunny window, your body is recognizing its kindred. When I pay attention to the color red or violet or green, I feel an immediate pull of connection. Continue reading

Dispatch from the world of women in business: where were the men?

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Last week, I watched the first fifteen minutes of the Republican presidential “debate.” That’s all I could stand, those ten men up there delivering their carefully rehearsed sound bites. And the rich white guy with the comb-over playing to the cheering, jeering crowd with his outrageous pronouncements. The next morning, I attended a business breakfast in a place called Martin’s Valley Mansion. As I drove through the fully paved, suburban streetscape to a strip shopping center, I didn’t see a valley or a mansion.

In the vast windowless ballroom (walls faux-painted in Second Empire French drapery and fluted columns), about two hundred women drank coffee and networked. This yearly celebration of women in business sponsored by the local business newspaper is always well attended. This year’s panelists were leaders in the tech industry, giving intelligent advice about how to get ahead and thrive in a world dominated by men. They spoke frankly in answer to such questions as, How do we make this issue of more women in tech into more than a “women’s issue”? No one remarked on the irony of that question in a gathering of over 200 women and about 10 of their male colleagues. Continue reading

While we are making plans, the Earth is making us

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All I want is to sing to you
The song that no one has heard
~ Krishna Das, from Heart as Wide as the World

We seem to be fond of comparing ourselves to animals, or, as native people tend to call them, the four-leggeds. Our post-Enlightenment minds play this game by finding ourselves to be superior to those “Others.” One story we like is that we are the only conscious beings on the planet, which is rapidly being debunked even by modern science. I did recently think of this difference, though: we make plans. We take on long-term projects that last beyond seasons, that may take five or ten years to complete. And sometimes our projects fail.

Plants and animals are seasonal, and their physical aims much simpler: survival and reproduction. They don’t seem to have the ambition to change their surroundings or invent things or look at distant galaxies, let alone travel to them. They don’t make musical instruments or write symphonies or Shakespearean plays. And yet they are part of a vast dance, a swirling ongoing Creation that is impossible to comprehend in its entirety. While we make plans, the Earth makes us. Continue reading

Who are we at war with? Let’s be honest about opposites.

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I usually refrain from engaging in arguments on political or economic theory because I don’t consider myself to be well enough informed to do any particular stance justice with supporting evidence. Today I learned that my reasons go deeper than that. I recently violated my own injunction by posting a quote from Governor Scott Walker on my Facebook page about dependence on the government. He was calling up a trope from the Reagan era, one that ignores that he and all Americans are dependent on the government for roads, help in emergencies, and education, to name only a few.

In the ensuing back and forth argument, my Libertarian cousin chimed in about the role of government, taxation, military spending, energy policy, and the squeeze of the middle class. I responded that it saddens me to see finger pointing at “those people” who are on public assistance. Maybe if their place of work (WalMart, McDonald’s) paid them a living wage, they could afford to put a roof over their head and food on the table without such help. Or if the “education” they received had actually educated them, they could get a higher paying job. It’s so small minded and petty, and reflects poorly on Americans. I still prefer to believe that we are capable of much better. And yet my salvo is a distraction from the deeper lessons of this exchange. Continue reading