In this extreme time, which seems to have been coming for a while, I feel drawn to posting outside the loose theme of this blog. I’d like to share some links and recommendations that I hope those who read this may find uplifting or interesting.
March 17* was the day our university sent students home. With that, life shifted into a new type of awareness for me and the individuals and groups with whom I am in regular contact. Over the last weeks the news has become increasingly dire and changes have taken hold that feel like beginnings of a “new normal”. The changes are difficult to bear for many thousands of people, particularly those without homes and those working in gig or by-the-hour economies. The meme that hit to the heart of what I had been feeling was: “The Earth has sent us to our rooms to think about what we’ve done.”
It was striking to me how relatively quickly improvements in the planet’s climate became apparent when people stopped living irresponsibly. As individuals and groups rise to the occasion in every crisis, heroes in every walk of life have been shining forth and making a difference now. I feel directly indebted to those who work in the medical and grocery fields and to the vitality of honest, factual news sources. I am grateful for all who ensure that basic needs can be maintained as possible.
Those of us who became aware in the era of the first Earth Day will recall learning about the Native American concept of acting with the benefit of the next seven generations in mind. Indigenous groups around the world— including the ancient Irish—lived in harmony with the seasons, revered and were intimately connected to their lands. Now so much of those lands have been long lost and polluted. We know that the Industrial Revolution, combined with big business in developed and developing countries and individuals’ lack of care for the environment, began the slippery slide that shifted us into a new human-caused geologic epoch, The Anthropocene. Within our lifetime an unprecedented amount of animal and plant life has gone extinct, and human health has been adversely affected by manufactured and addictive substances.
The intricacy of opposites and the razor’s edge we walk between them becomes more clear in times of crisis. The otherworldly experience caused by this world-shared virus has made glaringly obvious the interconnectedness of every aspect of life. Spiritual traditions have taught this concept over millenia. Perhaps we will learn it again. Our individual efforts will determine the possibility of balance and sustainability going forward. While each of us weathers this time in our own ways, I am heartened by the creativity and openness that enforced social distancing has inspired across the globe, bringing all that truly matters into high relief. I am grateful that my family and friends are currently safe and grateful for so much, in general.
Good health practices for ourselves and our community may guide us to positive change and the possibility for course correction. This is likely our final warning as we careen into the early years of the Sixth Extinction, about which Elizabeth Kolbert alerted us in 2015. May those of us who survive this pandemic emerge from it with a heightened simplicity and attitude of appreciation. May we behave accordingly forever forward, living more respectfully as guests on our beloved four billion year old planet.
- Rebecca Solnit interview with Krista Tippet, On Being. This was one of the first links shared with me during this time. I welcomed hearing it at that moment. Rebecca Solnit is one of my heroes and I read as much as I can of her work.
- (Part 1) Indigenous Native American Prophecy (Elders Speak 1), Hopi native elder Floyd Red Crow Westerman speaks about living on Earth.
- (Part 2) Indigenous Native American Prophecy (Elders Speak 2), Elder Oren R. Lyons speaks about leadership and responsibility.
- Sacred Land Film Project, Hopi Messenger, elder Thomas Banyacya (1909-1999) . When I was at Four Corners many years ago I was not aware of its sacredness as a site. I wish that I had, though I’m glad for this deep memory, like Monument Valley—one of my favorite places in North America (seen in the beginning of Part 1, above).
- Keb’ Mo’, Put a Woman in Charge. (w/Rosanne Cash) What they said!
- Rotterdam Philharmonic playing Ode to Joy, Beethhoven’s 9th, while social distancing and without rehearsal! (Choked me up.)
- Letters from an American, historian Heather Cox Richardson’s daily essays that put the ever-evolving events into context.
- The Overstory, Richard Powers. This novel accompanied me through the first weeks of the pandemic and couldn’t have been more fitting. Initially, each chapter seemed like a series of perfectly crafted short stories, all sharing the common theme of trees. Almost halfway through one character arrived and all the threads began to connect into a masterful tribute to the importance of trees in our world. This may be my favorite book, ever.
- Amplifier Foundation. I became aware of this organization through the amazing posters that were available for the January 2017 Womens’ March on Washington. Through the sharing of artists’ works regarding numerous important issues they are an important support for teachers and activists. Currently, all proceeds from their clothing line “will go towards [their] sending free art and uplifting remote learning resources to K-12 families facilitating at-home learning through the remainder of the 2020 school year.”
- Earth Guardians. I am a fan of Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and his family’s long-standing work on behalf of climate consciousness. Greta Thunberg was able to meet him and his extended network when she visited the U.S.
For Those Who Follow This Blog for the Ireland-Oriented Content:
- A History of Ireland, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. This was a serendipitous find in a great used bookstore in Westerly, Rhode Island, at the early stage of the pandemic. I’m only a quarter of the way through, but am finding so much helpful information about this complex history. My ongoing quest to understand the ancient history of the country of my ancestors to which I feel so connected continues.
- For those interested in Waterbury (re my Waterbury Irish: From the Emerald Isle to the Naugatuck Valley), see Director of the Silas Bronson Library, Raechel Guest’s blog post, Waterbury Thoughts, about the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.
* Update 3.30.20: I had noted “coronavirus” in my engagement calendar on March 10, before we went out of town for a few days. Initially I had this date in my post. The following Tuesday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, was the correct day that the university closed and students were sent home. I learned of the closing when my friend and I showed up for our regular Zen Meditation in a longstanding group. We adults suddenly were made aware that we might be in danger of contracting the virus from students who had just returned from Spring Break (given the confusing and incomplete information going around). With time shifting dramatically it is strange to think this is now only Day #13 in what looks to be a long and difficult time ahead.
©2020 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ni Mheachair
Mike Maher said:
Yes, nature has sent us to our collective rooms.
It IS amazing how the Earth is healing in the wake of a near full Stop. There’s lots of evidence from around the world and from satellites, too, to support this. Too bad we’ll go back to our old habits, most likely.
The point though, is to wake up and redouble our efforts, no? Stay well.
vintage things said:
Yes, I will but how many will go back to the herd mentality? All we can do is to keep trying
This is a good time to think positively. I agree, we can do is keep trying, we get another 24 hours each day to have another go at it (until we don’t). Forge on!
Kim Meagher said:
Great post Janet, I have finally taken some time out to catch up on your blog. Greetings from Australia. I am a huge fan of Rebecca Solnit too. I trust you’ve read ‘A Book if Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland’. I found a copy in Brussels, Belgium, a couple of years ago, just after I had been to Ireland for the first time. It was a lovely way to vicariously enjoy Ireland all over again. I would love to read Rebecca’s take on Australia.
Hello Kim, Thank you. Yes, I loved ‘A Book of Migrations,’ especially as I didn’t even know it was about her ancestral journey in Ireland when I began it! I agree. She actually was in the area I traveled around in the west coast when I did my residency in Clare. A joy. Yes, her take on Australia, her take on anywhere and anything, would be great. I’ve never been to Australia, but hope one day!
What a beautiful blog you have. I will enjoy perusing it! Stay well and safe, Janet