Yesterday at the park I got into a conversation with a young mother who didn’t know what day of the week it was. “I’m on maternity leave,” she explained. “All days are the same right now.”
I’m having a confusing summer, too. For despite one glorious vacation and two more planned, I feel as though I’ve been working non-stop for months! And ‘though it’s summertime the livin’ ain’t easy; even at peak moments my joy’s been, well, muted.
Why? At first I attributed these stirred-up feelings—or lack thereof—to three challenging, out-of-my-comfort-zone projects coming up for me this fall—and my perfectly logical anxiety! Deeper reflection, however, reveals a deeper truth: this has been the first summer I’ve truly experienced global warming. Up close and personal.
Record temperatures, a drought, weird weather patterns affecting crops like New England’s peaches; reducing fossil fuel emissions has never been more urgent for me.
But, wait! Have I allowed myself to truly listen to, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “the sounds of the Earth crying”? No. Have I really addressed my despair? Named it? Let it have the time and attention it requires? No. Have I allowed myself to consider the millions already experiencing the havoc and upheaval and disruption due to climate change? No.
But I must.
As I write this the smell of basil, soon to be transformed into pesto, wafts from the kitchen; it’s a summer smell. Somerville’s goldfinches feast on the city’s sunflower crop this week; those finches’ bright, sweet call is a summer sound. Like it does every August, our planet’s about to cycle through the Perseid meteor shower.
Summer still happens, however parched or broiled. May I/ may we find strength and joy in its eternal rhythms.
California Hills In August
I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.
An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.
One who would hurry over the clinging
thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,
knowing everything was just a weed,
unable to conceive that these trees
and sparse brown bushes were alive.
And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion.
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.
And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.
by Dana Gioia