Tag Archives: global warming

STAND YOUR GROUND

 

 

21 October 2917

The pomegranate tree is ablaze in a dazzle of gold; its last hurrah before baring its branches. The tree has lived here for two and half years now and, in spite of the fact that it has yet to provide us with a single pomegranate, it has grown sturdy and full. Rooted on one side of our little terrace it provides us cover in the summer months when we take the sun naked. Not that the farmers are likely to want to see us in our threadbare bathing suits! In the spring it protects us form the early morning chill as we eat breakfast in its embrace.

I admit that the tree is somewhat of a disappointment. I had envisioned its golden boughs adorned with exotic red fruit at this time of year, not to mention having looked forward to eating and juicing them. But plants and trees are like children in that you never know what you’re getting. However, unlike with children, one is freer to uproot a tree and discard it if it displeases. And I did, early on, think about returning this one to the nursery for a refund or replacement. But I decided to keep it and in spite of its inability to bear fruit, nurture it and love it for what it does provide. As a result it has blossomed, not only in the spring when it decorates itself with little red trumpets, but also in girth, and what I experience as a sort of pride in itself; a willingness to grow in spite of its defects.

The garden and I are having a long goodbye this autumn, partly because of global warming. Although this is disturbing, I am grateful to be able to sit outside, even now, at five o’clock on a late October day and witness the miracle of it. Here on this arid, rocky ground – made even more inhospitable by a year of drought and high heat – everything I planted over the last three years has not only survived but grown to the extent that visitors remark on how it looks as though it has been here for decades. There is something about tending a garden that rewards me more than any other endeavor.

Like many of you, I expect, I have been watching the revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse of women. I’m not sure why the backlash to his behavior is gaining so much traction as opposed to the behavior of say, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby (to name a few) all of whom disappeared from view after a relatively short outing. Don’t get me wrong…I’m thrilled that there seems to be some momentum now. But at the same time I can’t help feeling angry that it takes a lot of celebrities coming forward in order for this endemic behavior to be more roundly condemned. Do we only give credence to this systemic abuse when it is validated by “stars?” Why isn’t it enough to be an ordinary woman to have one’s story believed?

I was as a dinner a couple of weeks ago with a dozen people and the subject of Weinstein came up. I was horrified when one of the women expressed disbelief about these women’s stories. Why, she wanted to know, if it was true, had they kept silent for so long? It was all I could do not to scream. Bad enough when a man asks that question, but a woman? I asked her if she had ever experienced such abuse and when she demurred I told her of a couple of the many such experiences I had encountered during my life. I told her of the fear that accompanies violation. How men retaliate when they are accused. How women are trashed in court if it even gets that far. And I asked her why, if a woman has a less than pristine past is it deemed her fault she was raped, or otherwise abused. What is it about the word “consent” that people don’t understand? I don’t care if a woman robbed a bank, it doesn’t make it okay for her to be raped. One person’s crime doesn’t justify another’s.

I’m glad to report that by the time I finished my defense of women as victims and men as predators the woman thanked me for helping her take another view. And this is what we all must do now; we must educate each other. Women have to find the courage not only to come forward as these brave women have who were abused and terrified by Weinstein, but we have to stand firm in all the small ways. And we have to accept that our response, as women, is as ingrained as is that of the male’s erroneous sense of entitlement and superiority. And ingrained it is.

I recently overheard a male friend of mine talking with someone on the phone. This man is a good man and one who agrees with the need for equality. And yet, he too, totally unconsciously, objectified 2 women by asking the host of an upcoming event if he could invite them along, adding, “They’re beautiful.” As if beauty is the guaranteed requisite for women to gain entry…into anything! And yes, I did point out to him that what he had said is an example of how ingrained all this shit is.

It’s an interesting moment in time, isn’t it? Sure, it’s scary sometimes; all the hatred and discrimination that’s coming to a head. So what are our choices? To become overwhelmed and do nothing? Or to just do whatever little bit we’re capable of whenever we can? I personally believe that like the pomegranate tree, we have to stand our ground. Like it, we are less than perfect and yet we have the right to be treated with respect. Like it, when we are forgiven for not living up to expectations, we flourish in ways we might never have imagined.

Evening has arrived and with it, a chill breeze. I watch as the pomegranate sheds its leaves. Like tears of gold, they fall.

CHANGES

JAN. 15. 2016. I had intended to post the following essay on Monday past, but I woke up to the news of David Bowie’s death and along with so many people was surprised by the shock and sadness that this news brought. Many thoughts and memories have been shared during these ensuing days, by people who didn’t know him, but who were deeply touched by him; I would like to add mine.

From when I first saw Bowie, decades ago, I felt deeply connected to him. I thought of him as a brother from whom I had been separated at birth. It wasn’t just our physical similarity… skinny, dirty blondes, with high cheekbones…that had me fantasizing a biological connection. It was a tribal thing; an air of loneliness, his quick smile and sly humor; a certain take on the random quality of life and, in spite of our similar journeys through drugs, alcohol and sexual experimentation, there remained a deep sense of fairness. I admired him for his unique, ego-free creativity and was inspired by his ability to touch so many lives while keeping is own private.

What really got to me about his death – apart from the sheer sorrow of it – was his decision not to tell the world that he was dying. His commitment to his creativity and to the privacy of his family was undiluted by a need to publicly “process” his dying; so very un-modern for one so avante garde. I have been playing his music and watching videos of him all week, but find myself hitting “pause,” as if in so doing I can delay his departure.

And now, today, comes news of Alan Rickman’s death. Like Bowie, of cancer; like Bowie at age 69. My age. Rickman was another bright star in the English tradition. Both he and Bowie were always more interested in the work than any fame it might bring them. Both of them were blatantly talented and yet personally understated and possessed of decency and fast humor.

 My gratitude to them both for all that they gave of themselves and for showing us the important difference between art and celebrity.

sunspot

10 Jan. 2016                                 CHANGES

I was just out in the garden having forgotten to water the plants wintering over in the greenhouse…not that it is really winter here this year. Today is mild and mostly sunny and an inspection of the grounds shows that everything is budding when it should really be dormant.

I, too, am straddling the seasons. On the one hand, loving the lazy-lay-abed upon awakening; soaking up the supreme luxury of a) not have been awakened by an alarm clock and b) gleefully snuggling with Joel under the covers for as long as we want. Although as artists our work will never be done, we are in a moment of our lives where we are finally, after years of hustling, able to relax. On the other hand, I am teeming with energy and creative ideas. This new opportunity to create our own schedules is what all of us who have had to work for a living dream of. And like all dreams it contains elements of mystery, confusion, and the unexpected. Choices become minutely detailed: lie in bed for half an hour or do yoga. Read on the couch, or begin writing a new novel. Vacuum the house or go for a walk. Make a pot of soup or catch up on emails. What amazes me is that even though, for the most part, my choices are between one good thing and another, the fact that I have to choose makes me so anxious that I assume I must choose them all!!

This is a character defect that I am choosing to observe this year and hopefully let go of. Not only because this guilt-driven demand to do everything and do it now, and quickly, makes me breathless and joyless, but also, horror of horrors, makes me judge anyone in my orbit who doesn’t do it my way.

Growing up with staid English parents, my boundless, creative energy must have been terrifying to them. Among the daily admonishments from my mother was this beauty: “Slow down, one of these days you’re going to break your neck.” Don’t you hate it when your mother is right? It took me a few decades, but sure enough, just when my life was the best it had ever been…I broke my neck.

But how much, really, can we regulate our native energy? Even the seasons can’t regulate themselves. Here, in Tuscany, the farmers are very concerned about the recent mild winters. Insects and bacteria, which need to die off in freezing temperatures in order not to destroy crops, are having a field day…pardon the pun. In the garden just now I saw flies and a couple of bumble bees and damn it, a line of ants heading toward the strawberry plant in the greenhouse. A plant, I might add, which produced a steady crop of berries last summer, not one of which we got to eat because the ants always got there first!

We were in Florence this past week for a couple of days with our friends Sharon and Paul. Florence, the seat of the Italian Renaissance, is struggling to be born again. Decades of tourists and consumerism, much like a mild winter, seemed enjoyable and beneficial at first. It took a while to realize that in fact they were killing off that which was of beauty and value. However, what we’ve experienced on our last few trips to this city, is that the younger generation is rising up and reinventing itself. They know there is no going back, but they also know it is possible to take these ancient artisanal skills and apply them to today’s needs and aesthetics; whether it be repurposing old materials, or creating a yoga studio in an medieval shop, or selecting old objects with an eye to their anima and displaying them in a way that allows a visitor to see anew.

All our lives we are adapting to change; from crib to bed, from play to school, from college to work, single to married, thin to rotund, curly headed to bald, able-bodied to infirm, acne to wrinkles, partnered to divorced or widowed. We change homes, countries, names, religions, jobs, cars, beliefs…always trying to get ‘it’ right in the absurd belief that there is such a thing as the perfect recipe. The trick, it seems to me, is knowing when it is time to adapt or when it is time to remain true to some inner core of wisdom.

As many of you know, I recently published a novel. Sales got off to a good start partly because of Christmas and partly because of the mass emails I sent out, begging everyone I’d ever met to please buy a copy. And all the while, everyone was telling me “social media, social media, social media!” Twice I signed up for Facebook and Twitter and each time felt out of my depth and, let me be honest, judgmental of the load of crap to be found out there. Which made it easy for me to view myself as superior rather than having the courage to find my way into it; a way that would be organic, arising from who I am and not whom I think I should be.

It’s typical of me to say an immediate ‘no’ to any sort of change that doesn’t come easily. Yet, in fact, I am basically an adventurous, yes person; I just have to say no before I say yes. That way I can appear morally decisive while quietly struggling with my sense of inadequacy. So thank goodness for all the angels in this world who quietly, patiently pass us from one to another until we arrive at an angel who knows just how to help us adapt. All this to say thank you to my web designer who has found a way for me to be comfortably engaged in social media and to my husband with whom I share evening conversations that help me see new possibilities.

All of us, now, are faced with global situations to which we must either adapt or succumb; whether it is terrorism or a struggling economy or climate change. We need to have perspective in the face of change. We need to remember past centuries of enormous suffering: plagues, famine, flood, hundred-years wars, to name but a few. If necessity is the mother of invention, what can each of us do to embrace opportunity?

Nothing will stop the insect population from increasing, so maybe we need to do what the Africans did and cover them in chocolate; ants being a very high source of protein, they would also go really well with those strawberries they won’t get to eat!

sunset gate