Posted in Climate Change, Fiction, Planetary renewal, poetry, The Journey

Beginnings

In the canyons of the mind
lightning bolts illume consciousness.
In the outer world,
the storms, the fires,
the wars and plagues rage.
Our excesses are exposed.
There’s nowhere left to hide.

The mind reels at the impact.
What’s left now?
The conditioned life is not enough.
Something new is called for.

Deep in the magical imagination
something stirs.
The elves and unicorns come forth.
Remember, they say in dreams,
the world of childhood innocence,
the beauty and the awe
of life in all its glory.

Now is the time to call that forth.
To imagine the world anew.
It begins in words.
The ecologist’s findings,
the intellectual’s musings,
the poems and stories woven in the dawning
then shared at midnight with wide eyed star gazers.

After the seeding comes the crafting.
Ideas shaped in the collective imagination
built, oh so carefully,
and with the purest of intentions,
into the world of form.

From my novel ‘The Journey’ (link in sidebar):-

‘Back in the early days of Jedahra people realised the first priority was to grow food. To do that we had to restore the environment to health,’ Red said.  ‘Since then we have come to understand that if we want to take from the Earth we must also give it.  Feeding the soil through composting, mulching and growing a diverse range of crops is the mainstay of our food production. Soil health has improved and the diverse plantings cut down on plant diseases and insect infestation.’ He gestured to a pumpkin patch where golden flowers nestled amongst large spreading leaves.  It was edged with a rambling bramble bush covered in ripening berries. Above them an old walnut spread its green branches out like protective arms. Here and there little round buildings topped with conical roofs covered in succulents punctuated the greenery. 

‘The buildings look like mushrooms,’ Raven giggled.

‘A lot of people say that,’ Red grinned.  ‘We build them like this to reduce the fire risk.  There were some savage fire storms in the early days of Jedahra.  Since then we’ve been very conscious of fire safety.  The mud walls of the buildings don’t catch fire and the succulents on the roof are fire resistant.’

Towards the end of the novel Terran, the main female character, returns to her home at the institute. There is she confronted by the crippling depression that keeps the inhabitants locked in inertia and fear. Inspired by all she has seen on her travels, she projects the digital images she has made onto a wall screen in her parent’s apartment:-

 With uncanny synchronicity a bright, energetic representation of Jedahra appeared on the screen.  Against a background diagram of a path spiralling through a housing cluster she’d placed sketches of the circular adobe houses alongside photos of people of all ages, races and social groups mingling together in the streets.  Decorative disks depicting the glass mandalas were dotted across it all and the words she had jotted down at the Seed Bank were scrawled across the bottom. ‘Dynamic processes /climate change mitigation/higher yet deeper/seeds regenerating,’  

‘Dynamic processes,’ Ralph boomed. ‘That’s what we need here.’  

The same idea flashed through Terran’s mind but rather than thinking on a societal level she plunged into her own interior realms for, ultimately, the change she was seeking began within the self. She recalled stumbling over tree roots behind Bliss on the Ways through the forest. Clumsy as she had been, she had felt enthusiastic and alive. The night before she’d felt deadened and defeated by the institute. The difference between the two states was palpable. She couldn’t simply stop travelling now and try to slot back into her old life. The walls in her mind had been breached by her travels. Now she wanted to tear them down completely and experience herself and the world in new and unfettered ways.

linked to: https://earthweal.com/2022/08/01/earthweal-weekly-challenge-beginnings/
For this week’s challenge, write of Beginnings — wherever they may be found.

Posted in Climate Change, Fiction, Planetary renewal, The Journey

More future possibilities

Towards the end of my novel ‘The Journey’ Terran, a young botanist takes a train to Saranath, a university town with an older woman named Amara. During the trip Amara fills Terran on in the recent history of Saranath. Before the university was established the town had been the centre of a coal mining enterprise. The coal had been transported down to Pennington, the old State capital by train.

As the train picked up speed and the hamlet was left behind Amara told Terran the story of the trains of Saranath.  Back in the coal mining days trains had transported the coal down to Pennington.  When people realised how burning coal contributes to climate change the mines were closed but the tracks into the mine tunnels were never taken up.  They were all but forgotten until rising seas began to flood the libraries and art galleries of Pennington. Important cultural art and books were loaded into containers and hauled by train up to Saranath and left in mine tunnels. The original plan had been to leave them until flood proof buildings were erected in Pennington but the effects of climate change were far more devastating than people had expected.  As conditions worsened entire trains were hauled into tunnels that were then sealed.

Terran’s mind reeled.  ‘What happened to all the art and books?’ she asked. ‘There must be some amazing stuff,’ The story sounded implausible but here she was sitting on one of the trains.

‘For a long time everything stayed where it had been stored,’ Amara said.  ‘The chaos at Pennington mirrored what was happening across the globe. Life became a test of survival as we struggled to adapt to the changing climate and the breakdown of the old system. It’s only been in recent decades that we’ve had time to open up the tunnels and explore the treasures we’ve inherited. The dry air in the tunnels protected the trains and their contents. Many of the trains have been put back to use and their contents are being catalogued. What we’re discovering is that we’ve inherited an archive of art and culture that stretches back for millennia. We exhibit some of the art and artifacts at the university but the atmosphere in many of the tunnels is more stable than in our old buildings. We’re in the process of creating libraries and galleries there.  Temporary reading rooms have been set up in some of the containers in the meantime.’

Terran’s mind was abuzz.   ‘Could I go there?’ she asked.

‘Of course. Everyone in the Alliance has free access to knowledge. It’s essential if we are to create a better future.’

Deep in thought, Terran gazed out the window.  The idea of having access to a treasury of cultural artifacts from the past was foreign to her.  Back at the institute, there were a few historical reference books in the electronic databases but most were of a technical nature.  

Once at Saranath Terran explores the library tunnels.

Over the following days she spent her time in the tunnels delving into the vast repository of knowledge and creativity stored within the pages of old books trying to discover why she felt separate from the natural world.  Researching the history of Western thought she came to see that many of the ways of thinking she’d been taught at the institute had developed during the 1800s when reason and rational thinking led to the scientific discoveries that powered the industrial age.  The roots of such thinking lay further back in the development of scientific thought during the Renaissance. The more she read, the more tangled her thinking became. While she could see that analytical scientific thinking reduced the world to a series of separate parts, she could not deny the benefits such investigations had brought to humanity. 

‘You look worried,’ Amara said when they met for dinner that evening.

Terran explained the convoluted thinking that had her tied up in knots. ‘We haven’t ditched scientific rationalism at Saranath,’ Amara said in response. ‘It still forms the basis of much of our understanding of the world but investigations into how plants, insects and animals within environments interact with each other has led us to think in terms of systems.  Rather than seeing the world as a collection of unrelated parts we have come to see that all life is interconnected. The parts can only be understood within the context of the larger whole. Looking at the world in this way we come to see that humans are part of nature and depend on it to live.  We have a responsibility to care for the natural world for, if we don’t, we jeopardise the survival of ourselves and all life on the planet.’

Terran shivered as a sudden draught of cool air crept into the dining room through the cracks and crannies in the old stone building.  The ideas Amara described worked on her mind in much the same way.  They were like a mental blast of cool fresh air that cleared away old, stuck thought patterns and created room for more expansive ways of thinking to develop.

‘It can get cold up here sometimes,’ Amara said, unaware of the effect of her words. ‘These old stone buildings are hard to heat. There’s always the temptation to burn coal and fire up the old central heating system but we know that is the one thing we must never do. As it is, it will take thousands of years for the climate to stabilise and even longer for the seas to stop rising.  Continuing to burn coal will only exacerbate the effects of climate change. If people continue burning fossil fuels and pumping carbon into the atmosphere until there is nothing left to burn, it will take hundreds of thousands of years for the atmosphere to return to pre-industrial revolution levels.’ 

Terran thought of the black coal gleaming in the slag heaps.  ‘So every day you’re confronted with a way to solve your problems in the short term, yet you know taking that option is the one thing you can’t do.’

‘Exactly!’  Amara sat back and looked into the blackness of the night outside the window. ‘We’re at the coal face of climate change,’ she said wryly.  Her voice grew reflective. ‘This is the challenge we all face.  Do we continue the behaviours that led to climate change, or do we strive to find new ways of living on the planet?   Everything we do has to be weighed against the long term consequences of our actions.’

Posted in Climate Change, Fiction, Planetary renewal, The Journey

Another possible future

In the excerpt of my novel The Journey that I posted yesterday Terran, a young botanist travels through the land laid bare by unchecked climate change. Today’s excerpt is from further along in the story. Terran and her companion Raven have been rescued by a group of riders and taken to Jedahra, a settlement in a protected ravine. There, Terran is taken to a greenhouse by two of her rescuers, Red and Kya. The biodome mentioned in this excerpt is where she worked the institute, an isolated prepper community. At this point in the story Terran no longer has her laptop.

Everything inside the greenhouses was thriving. A memory of the sickly plants she’d seen on her last morning in the biodome flashed across Terran’s mind.  Here row after row of seedlings glowed with glossy vitality.  Despite her anxieties the sight of such healthy growth made her feel more at ease. As she took it all in, Red got to work cranking back the hand operated blinds that screened the roof. Terran watched the process intently. 

‘We cover the glass roof and windows during the night to trap in the hot air,’ he said, seeing her interest. ‘Those black rocks over there absorb the sun’s heat during the day and release it at night when the temperature drops. Because they are porous we douse them with water when it’s very dry.  As the rocks heat up they then release moisture vapour.’ Terran filed the information away in her mind as she took in the piles of volcanic rocks mounded up between the trays of seedlings. Maybe they could do something similar at the biodome. It would be better than struggling to maintain their faulty electrical apparatus.  Ideas for images about the processes began to form in her mind and, yet again, she wished she had her laptop.

‘The blinds are also useful for protecting delicate plants from the intense rays of the sun,’ Kya said as she bent over a row of bushy seedlings. ‘We’ll plant these babies out in the Salt Lands next autumn. They’ve got a lot of work to do and should be strong enough to withstand the conditions out there by then. They’re a very hardy variety of saltbush and provide good ground cover. Getting them established is the first step towards creating healthy soil. They help with erosion problems too.’ She pulled a couple of the weaker seedlings out of the planter trays and disposed of them in a compost bucket. 

‘Of course it’s all trial and error,’ Red said. ‘We never know for sure that our ideas will work.’ He gave one of his good-natured laughs. ‘We just try them anyway. We figure we’ve got nothing to lose.’

‘That sounds like a risky strategy,’ Terran said, falling back on the institute idea that it was better to stick with methods that were somewhat successful rather than attempt a different approach that might end in dismal failure.

‘What’s the alternative?’ Red asked. There was no laugh this time. No attempt to lighten the moment. Just a bleak stare. ‘You’ve been out in the Salt Lands. You’ve seen what it’s like out there. If we don’t try and restore environmental health things will only get worse.’

‘The old practices of clearing land for broadacre crops and irrigating it with water from underground aquifers caused the salt in the soil to rise to the surface out on the plains. A lot of our work involves reducing the salt levels in the soil,’ Kya said, moving on to rows of eucalyptus saplings growing in planter pots. ‘These eucalypts help stabilise the soil because their long taproots take the salt down deep into the soil. We’ll plant this lot out in the Salt Lands when the autumn rains come.’ She stroked the leaves tenderly.  

‘Our ultimate aim is to re-green barren areas so that they become a carbon sink.  The more green cover we can create, the more carbon is drawn out of the atmosphere and fixed into the soil.  Reducing atmospheric carbon is always our first priority,’ Red said.  He’d finished cranking back the blinds and was now pulling tools out of a storage cabinet. ‘There’s more carbon in the atmosphere now than there has ever been. If we don’t try to reduce it, the problems we face will just get worse. We have to do what we can.  Even when we feel hopeless we have to keep trying to make a difference. I guess you could say our approach is risky,’ he added thoughtfully as he piled the tools he’d selected into a handcart.  ‘The risks we take are calculated though. Just what we plant and where we plant it is something we spend a lot of time considering and planning. That’s why Amara is keen to see your research. You travelled through areas we know little about.’

Terran felt like a fool. She’d been judging everyone and everything she came across by the values she’d been taught at the institute. Even though she’d come to question those values they still influenced the way she saw the world. Her own narrow-mindedness had blinded her to the greater purposes that motivated the people of Jedahra. A sudden awareness of how deeply Kya, Red and people across the Alliance cared for the wellbeing of the world around them humbled her. ‘Thank you for helping me,’ she said. ‘You saved my life.’

‘It’s the Jedahran way,’ Kya smiled. 

‘It’s been fun too,’ Red said.  He gave her a fatherly pat on the shoulder and began pulling the cart down the aisle between two rows of seedlings.

Terran could see they were both eager to get to work.  Leaving them to it she left the greenhouse and took the path Kya told her would bring her to the study gardens. 

The Journey is available on Amazon (link in sidebar). 

Posted in Planetary renewal

Solstice Greetings

I’ll be away from my blog for a bit as I am recovering from eye surgery. Everything’s good but close work on the computer gives me a headache after a while.

Here’s a Latvian song in celebration of the solstice. It’s wonderful to know there are still places in the world where old traditions continue.

Posted in Australia, Climate Change, Fiction, Haiku, Planetary renewal, The Journey

The new greening

A bird’s egg blue sky,
yesterday’s puddles shimmer
in the winter sun.

Clouds blow off the sea,
more rain on the horizon
summer and winter.

The wet summer weather we experienced in eastern Australia the past wo years is due to the slowing of ocean currents caused by melting polar ice. As freshwater pours into the ocean it reduces the saltiness of the water. This means heavy salt water does not sink down and drive the ocean currents in the higher latitudes. One consequence of this is that La Nina weather patterns form in the Pacific ocean over the southern summer months. This brings a lot of rain to eastern Australia.

Here in the garden
the annual flowers flourish
– blooms two seasons now.

La Nina is only one factor affecting the climate across large tracts of Australia. In recent years we have experienced more rain than usual coming to us from the west. I have heard this is because of disturbances to the currents in the Indian Ocean. I saw on last night’s weather report that Alice Springs (in central Australia) and Melbourne (in the south east) are experiencing similar weather today. It is raining in both places and both are expecting a top temperature of just 14C.

Out in the desert
even in the dry season
rain clouds streak the sky.

Years ago I read a strange visionary book where a guy was taken into the future by a spirit guide. At one point they visited a future version of Alice Springs. There they saw the greening of the desert and a new community of people cultivating the land. Maybe this vision will come to pass.

In my eco-novel The Journey (link in sidebar) Terran, the main female protagonist, is taken to a university town in an old coal mining district in the mountains. There the people have adapted to the very wet conditions climate change has bought to their region:-

Terran followed Amara out into the rain slicked streets of Saranath. Once again it seemed she had arrived at a place that defied her expectations.  All around her people in dark clothing hurried past the tall shadowy buildings, the mountains a dark backdrop behind them. Strangely, the nearer slopes were spanned by row after row of low white walls that gleamed in the dim light. Peering through the mist Terran realised they were the retaining walls of wide terraces crammed full of emerald green food crops. ‘So many terraces,’ she said in wonder. 

‘Yes, Saranath is known for its terraces,’  Amara said.  ‘We’re academics here,’ she grinned.  ‘Years ago when the global supply chains broke down and climate change was looking like a climate catastrophe, our forebears turned to their books and academic papers.  Researching traditional societies they read about the way the ancient Incas had terraced the steep slopes of the Andes. Someone came up with the idea of doing something similar here by making the retaining walls out of defunct wind turbines. The blades and towers were dismantled and manoeuvred into position.  Rubble from the mine slag heaps was used to hold them in position.’   She made a sweeping gesture towards the more distant hills. ‘The idea worked and over time we have created terraces across the surrounding hills. Not only do they create microclimates where we can grow a diverse range of crops, they protect us from landslides and slow excessive water runoff during the deluges caused by climate change. We are then able to channel it into disused mine shafts and tunnels where we use it to produce hydro-electricity.


prompt: Your challenge: In the middle of all that is dark, and disheartening, and seemingly insurmountable, let’s send some poems infused with green to Mother Earth, to let her know she’s not alone, and that we see her blooming.
https://earthweal.com/2022/06/06/earthweal-weekly-challenge-dreaming-in-green/

Posted in photography, Planetary renewal, poetry

Crow Speaks

Between the lego like construction site
and the oversized coastal ‘living the dream’ houses
a slither of light appears.

Shining silver across the sea
in shimmering solarization
a portal opens to the old.
The eagle and crow clans meet on the shore.
Resting by the camp fire they speak still
the stories of their being.

The voices murmur,
the wind sings silver in the tree tops,
crows wheel across the sky

Spinning in the space time continuum
I feel an energetic shift.
My heart opens,
my solar plexus hums.
Centering in the Earth
spirit and matter are one.

Another future opens up.
A parallel reality gains momentum.
Changes in the outer world begin within.

Posted in Climate Change, Fiction, Planetary renewal, The Journey

Beyond the tipping point

“We’ve never seen the climate change this fast so we don’t understand the non-linear effects,” said Hayhoe. “There are tipping points in our human-built systems that we don’t think about enough. More carbon means worse impacts which means more unpleasant surprises.” from” The Climate disaster is here
|https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2021/oct/14/climate-change-happening-now-stats-graphs-maps-cop26

My novel The Journey is set a future devastated by unchecked climate change. The story begins with a group of people leave their isolated mountain community to search for solutions to the food shortages they face. They journey to an area that was once a fertile food growing area. There they are confronted with the reality of climate change:-

Terran stared out across the emptiness. The sun glowered like a murky orange ball as it neared the horizon. It cast a pall over the land and gave it an alien look. In the old photos on her laptop this area was a benign plain where meandering rivers flowed in wide curves past fertile paddocks and pleasant villages. There was no sign of any of that now.  Living in the temperature-controlled environment of the domes, climate change was considered an abstract threat that could be kept at bay through the clever use of technology. Here, the scientific theory that the unchecked burning of fossil fuels created an atmospheric greenhouse effect that locked in heat was an undeniable reality. A reality that was difficult to process. All she could do was lift her camera and photograph what she saw.

After gruelling trek across this landscape Terran and her friend Raven are rescued by a group of people who take them to a thriving, holistic community hidden in a deep rift valley. There they are exposed to ideas that call into question the conventional thinking that dominates their home community. As Red, one of their rescuers explains:-

‘Our ultimate aim is to re-green barren areas so that they become a carbon sink.  The more green cover we can create, the more carbon is drawn out of the atmosphere and fixed into the soil.  Reducing atmospheric carbon is always our first priority,’ Red said.  He’d finished cranking back the blinds and was now pulling tools out of a storage cabinet. ‘There’s more carbon in the atmosphere now than there has ever been. If we don’t try to reduce it, the problems we face will just get worse. We have to do what we can.  Even when we feel hopeless we have to keep trying to make a difference.

The Journey is available on Amazon

Posted in Climate Change, Fiction, Planetary renewal, poetry

The Way Forward

Over the past year several Earthweal prompts have led me to think about planetary renewal. Exploring ideas as to just how this could occur I have expressed myself poetically. Many of these poems have been written quickly and have worked as rough drafts where I’ve formulated ideas I later expanded into prose in my eco-novel The Journey (details below). Sometime over the past year I wrote the following poem in response to an Earthweal challenge:-

Feeling the joy,
dancing in the green world.
Labyrinthine ways unfolding,
magical passages of dappled light.
New ways of thinking opening
new neural pathways.
The heart/mind connection
illuminates the way forward 

The ideas behind the poem found later expression in my novel. The passage below occurs towards the end of the book where the main female protagonist, Terran journeys into a forest. The experience of being immersed in the green world has a profound effect on the way she thinks:-

The mists closed in around them and the world contracted to the soft ground beneath their feet and the dense foliage that enclosed the Ways. Delicate ferns clustered in pockets of soil between the exposed tree roots and tiny flowers poked their heads up through the herbage. Terran was beguiled and for long stretches of time she forgot all about destinations and purposes.  Her old ways of interpreting the world dissolved and another kind of consciousness asserted itself. An entirely different way of being emerged where in an intuitive, wild way the uncertainty of her journey morphed into an openness of renewal and rebirth.   

THE JOURNEY IS NOW AVAILABLE AS A PAPERBACK ON AMAZON AND AS A KINDLE EBOOK

linked to – https://earthweal.com/2022/05/13/earthweal-open-link-weekend-118/

Posted in Climate Change, Fiction, Planetary renewal, poetry, The Journey

In the Interstices

This week on Earthweal Sherry prompts us to: write from that place of holding onto wildness of soul, to balance the wild love and wild grief we swing between on any given day, at this time of utter unpredictability, when Mother Earth herself is providing us with comfort in our grief, even while she herself is bleeding.https://earthweal.com/2022/04/18/earthweal-weekly-challenge-everwild/

Here by the ocean
the waves roar as they break
in the dark of the night
– an ancient timeless sound.

The future uncertain,
unknowable.
Dystopian/utopian?
We can only guess.

Here in the night
between one breath and the next
there is a space
where the sea howls
between yesterday and tomorrow.

Here in the interstices
the future unfolds.
All we can do is play our own part.
All we can control is how we act
yet in that, there is power.

From my novel The Journey:

“…he sank deep into the moment. Merged with it. His feet rested firmly on the ground as if about to grow roots. Without any conscious effort his awareness drifted down and down until he felt he had somehow slipped into the earth itself. In a process of alchemical transference, the aching in his mind and body flowed into that rich darkness. In its place there came a deep and profound despair. The suffering of the earth came into his mind along with a knowing that something had been lost from the world. The weft and weave of the web of life had been damaged. His own feeling of woundedness was no more than an echo of the deep sorrow of the raven’s lamenting cry and the keening of the wind as it roared across the polluted, damaged world. 

Wreathed in sadness he sat on until, subtly and imperceptibly, he felt tingling energy come into his feet from the earth and flow up into his legs and up into his belly. From there it spread out through his entire body. Vibrating with energy he looked out into the beauty of the world around him.  He saw the way the sunlight touched the flowers and set them glowing. He saw the fluttering of a butterfly as it came to rest on a stalk of grass. Beside his feet he saw a tiny lizard scurrying along, the intricate markings on its back glistening silver and black against the red and brown patterns of fallen leaves. It came to him that although the world was damaged all hope was not lost. There was still room for action. Life still vibrated with intensity.”

Set in the future, The Journey tells the story of two young people who leave the institute, an isolated prepper community, on a scientific expedition. Terran, a member of the ruling elite, is seeking a solution to the food shortages that are affecting the community.  Raven comes from an oppressed minority.  All he wants is to get away.

An unlikely friendship develops between the two as they travel across a landscape devastated by climate change.  When the expedition is intercepted by wild riders they both jump at the chance to escape institute control.

The riders take them to Jedahra, a thriving holistic community. There they encounter a way of life that forces them to question their own values. Along the way, they discover that changing the way they relate to nature is a key to personal and planetary healing.

The Journey is now available on Kindle.