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.

©2020 Janet Maher, Prayer for the Earth #3; mixed media drawing

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.

Recommended Listening:

Recommended Reading:

  • 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.

Also Recommended:

  • 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:

* 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