tall buildings and trees covered in a light snow
First snow viewed from my workplace

Oh y’all, the weather doesn’t know what it wants to be. A few days after it was 80F it snowed. And then we had a colder than normal week. I put away all my warm weather clothes and packed my drawers with sweaters. And now I am typing this while wearing shorts and a t-shirt with the windows of the house open because it’s 75F outside. There is a chance of a severe thunderstorm tonight when a cold front is expected to move through. After that it appears the rest of the week will be normal, whatever that is. Is there such a thing as normal anymore?

Having spent a large chunk of my life in the before times, the time before climate was obviously changing when a person could expect, with variations of course, a regular progression of seasons with a reliable range of weather and temperatures within those seasons, it’s hard to not continually say, “this isn’t normal.” I find it challenging to let go of what normal is, or was, to release my expectations. Instead, I frequently grind up against reality and stubbornly refuse to accept it.

Part of me says that I should not accept it, that this new reality is unacceptable. Well, yes and no. What must be accepted is that the climate is changing, global warming is here, the normal I used to know is not the normal now, and never will be again

But at the same time, this is not acceptable. This didn’t have to happen. We’ve known about global warming since the 1960s, actually, even sooner. We’ve known that CO2 could warm the atmosphere since 1856 when Eunice Newton Foote became the first scientist to publish a paper on the subject. But, you know, she was a woman, and what do they know? That in itself is unacceptable. But that we have known, and done nothing, about CO2 and climate is unacceptable.

colorful autumn leaves and trees
autumn view from my front porch

It causes me great outrage and anxiety. It made me cheer for the two women who threw tomato soup at Van Gogh’s sunflowers and then glued themselves to the wall. At first I admit I was aghast; I find Van Gogh’s work sublime and was horrified that it might be ruined. But, the painting was covered in glass and was not harmed. Still, I was so shocked that I had to stop and ask myself, as did George Monbiot, do we care more about Van Gogh’s sunflowers than the real ones?

Because that’s what it comes down to in the end, what is more important, life or a representation of life? Mark Zuckerberg with Meta is going all in on the representation. Me, I vote for real life, even if it’s fucked up, even if normal doesn’t exist anymore. And of course art has a place in real life. Van Gogh moves me to tears, and art can help us see the world in a new way; art can move people to change the unacceptable. Art, however, no matter how sublime, is not life and it is much worse to lose real sunflowers, irises, cypress trees, all the beauty Van Gogh painted, than it is to lose the paintings.

I am, as ever, trying to learn from the Dashwoods and Nuggets who live in the now. The weather may be too warm this weekend, but they know exactly how to make the best of it. Now that the potato patch is dug up, it has become their favorite place for a dust bath. 

five chickens dust bathing
Nothing like a wallow in the dirt on a warm day

Back when I had no experience with chickens, I walked out into the chicken garden one afternoon to find Marianne (rip) splayed out in the dirt. I panicked that someone had gotten into the garden and killed her. But then she moved a wing and flicked dust up onto herself and rolled her head in the dirt, and I have never felt such a rush of relief and hilarity all at the same time.

It’s leaf raking season. I only rake up the leaves off the sidewalk, the others stay wear they fall. I raked up three trash barrels full. One went over the top of the herb spiral to keep the oregano and thyme and other perennial herbs protected through the winter. Another barrel went on top of the garlic bed, which then got weighed down with a short pieces of some mesh fencing to keep the leaves from blowing away and critters from digging in it. And the third I left in a pile at the edge of the potato patch.

Chickens do not like piles so they have been disbursing leaves all over the potato patch. And they have been spreading them around the herb spiral too. They aren’t very precise in their work, but they get the job done more or less. 

The chickens aren’t the only birds in the garden lately. The chickadees are back, and the cardinal couple who nests nearby have been visiting the water dish we put out for all the critters. We also have a couple of red finches who have been hanging out. And we get frequent sparrow visits as well. We used to get lots of goldfinches but I have only seen one or two now and then. I don’t know why they don’t come to the garden like they used to, but it worries me and I miss them. I am hoping it is because they don’t like to mix much with all the other birds who have found the garden and they are happily eating seeds in other places where they don’t have to share with other birds.

Of course the squirrels are all over the place, but they haven’t been spending much time in the garden lately. They are too busy eating the pumpkins people are putting out on their porches. I suspect the squirrels love this time of year and really appreciate all the thoughtful porch pumpkins. Though the neighbors who moved in over the summer didn’t appreciate how quickly and thoroughly their porch pumpkins were demolished. I admit I laughed out loud when I arrived home one afternoon and looked over to see a squirrel tail sticking out of the top of one of the pumpkins and the other on its side, half eaten in the middle of their lawn. Heh.

Reading
  • Book: Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World by Jason Hickel. I hate the subtitle, but the book is a really good, clear, and succinct explanation of the history of capitalism, what degrowth means, and how we can make it happen in a planned way instead of in a collapse way. If you don’t know what degrowth is, here is a short article that explains it in an FAQ fashion.
  • Poetry: Gold by Rumi, translated by Haleh Liza Gafori. This is a small new translation from the New York Review of Books and it is just lovely. James is a fan of Hafiz and is reading The Subject Tonight is Love. We have started reading a poem from each book aloud at night before bed. We are enjoying this so very much that we have decided to make it a regular thing even after we have finished the Rumi and Hafiz books.
Listening
  • Wind, crunching leaves, clucking chickens, chirping birds, bike tires on wet pavement, the horrific sound of leaf blowers
Watching
  • Documentary: From Seed to Seed. It’s the Twin Cities Film Festival and my natural food co-op gave members a coupon code so we could stream this film for free. It’s really good and makes me appreciate farmers even more than I already do. Farming is hard work full of risk and sorrow but also satisfaction and joy.

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23 thoughts on “Seesaw

  1. I never knew the first climate change article from a scientist was published in 1856. Of course, we all think of John Kerry, who has been studying climate change since his days in the 70’s as a college student. Or, Greta Thunberg is a new name, but wow, it can’t be just two people whose names we know.

  2. I loved those climate protesters! Such a thought-provoking mode of protest. Of course they got loads of flak, as you’d expect, but their actions seemed appropriate to the scale of the crisis. It’s a lot less acceptable to be going about our lives as normal. To me, the people who should be criticised are those who continue to destroy the planet and are so unwilling to listen that these young people felt that this was the only way they could get their attention. The UN just announced that the 1.5-degree goal is now unrealistic thanks to the policies of rich countries, but most newspapers and TV news stations didn’t even report it—or if they did, it was buried somewhere deep down below more important news like the list of contestants for the latest reality TV show. Good for the Just Stop Oil folks. They’re doing what they can.

    1. I’ve been reading Reddit threads to see how people are responding to the Just Stop Oil protesters, and in general it seems like folks think the protesters are idiots because if they do ruin a work of art, there is also no evidence that anything, policy-wise in regards to the environment, has changed, too. Instead, it makes liberal voters look like extremists who want to ruin nice things. I’ve even seen the article about how they glued themselves to the floor of an (I believe) auto business, and the business simply turned off the power and left the protesters without heat or access to a bathroom. The article was framed as a “see what you get??” argument meant to make the climate activists look like “snowflakes.” That being said, do you know if any of their strategies are working? I’m truly curious. Thank you!

      1. Yeah, most of the reaction I’ve seen has been negative too. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not working. This article by a cognitive psychologist covers some of the research on people’s reactions to violent or extreme forms of protest (not the recent painting protests, but similar things in the past): https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/just-stop-oil-protests-the-conversation/index.html. The studies found that although many people disapproved of the methods of the protesters, they still showed support for the cause itself.

        There’s also an interesting book by Andreas Malm called How to Blow Up a Pipeline, which covers this kind of thing in more detail. He argues that having a “radical flank” doesn’t harm the more mainstream movement—on the contrary, it builds support for it by making mainstream climate activists look more responsible by comparison. We’ve seen a similar effect in recent decades with right-wing politics—by staking out ground further and further to the right, the extremists have opened up space for politicians who would previously have been viewed as very right-wing to be viewed now as “moderates”.

        The question of whether the Just Stop Oil protests are working is hard to answer directly because activism like this is part of a long-term movement to shift the conversation. In terms of whether policy makers will accede to their demands any time soon, I’d say they will almost certainly fail. The same goes for winning mass popular support: that’ll probably be a fail. But I suspect their goal is different: to get climate change to the forefront of people’s minds, to reinforce that this is an urgent issue, and to force people to think about it. In that respect, I think it is working, and it could lead to positive results in the longer term.

        1. You bring up such great points here. I forgot how everyone romanticized George W. Bush and John McCain after Trump was elected. We actually missed the rodeo clown antics by comparison. Thank you for your detailed response. You’ve really got me thinking more on this subject.

        2. Thank you for this Andrew! I’ve been planning on writing about the Malm book for ages but haven’t gotten around to it. I will have to try harder because I think it is becoming more relevant, especially given what the Stop Oil folks are doing.

      2. I’m not sure anything has changed yet because of the Stop Oil folks, but at least it has people talking, so maybe that is a change. It’s a start at least.

    2. There was a Monet that got souped too apparently by a different pair. And Stop Oil has been doing other things too, they sprayed orange goop all over the windows of a big bank headquarters. I like their style! Did you hear about all the activists in the Netherlands I think it was who blocked a whole bunch of private jets from being able to take off?

  3. “Mark Zuckerberg with Meta is going all in on the representation… ” I’m quite apprehensive about this meta development and all the AI world. Blade Runner comes to mind, as well as many other dystopian movies. On another note, did you catch my Proustian teaser in my post? Do you remember we read The Guermantes Way a few years back and then I thought I wouldn’t go further with In Search of Lost Time. Well, who knows… I started reading the rest early this year as I learned from another blogger that this year is the centenary of Proust’s death. So I thought finishing the whole book would be a great idea. And so I did. 🙂

    1. I’m with regarding an AI world Arti. I mean, has no one been watching the dystopian movies or do they just think that they will do things differently? It seems like we’ve all been warned for years and yet here we keep going down that path.

  4. I totally share your ambivalence and difficulty to let go of normalcy when it comes to climate. Here it’s unseasonably warm (75F) when it should be 55F. I can’t really enjoy it the way some people do although I feel guilty of grumbling against an arguably pleasant temperature. Yesterday some villages in France got a mini tornado, which is totally unheard of here.
    I understand why activists want to jolt people into action but they got so much flack from it instead. Museum patrons are typically (not all, but many) wealthy and old and conservative… not the ones who can change their mind from a single shocking action. Argh… this is so difficult. Now I’m following this French activist who is so good at debunking facts https://bonpote.com/

    1. Wow Smithereens, a mini tornado in France? It’s the wealthy folks that need to be snapped out of their short-sided privilege the most since they are the ones who consume the most and emit the most carbon. I’m glad you found a French activist who is working to make sure the facts are known!

  5. Goodness, you have had some weather! We only started getting our rains and cooler weather last Thursday which was a bit a shock from Wednesday, but should help with a few stubborn wildfires around here. It’s a relief to have the smell of wet cedar trees and fallen leaves instead of wildfire smoke. The NYRB Rumi is on my TBR so it’s lovely to hear how much you like it!

  6. Isn’t Rumi wonderful? I am warmed and comforted by his poetry, and I wish Gold were about four times the length. Apart from that, yeah, I am really terrified by the climate crisis and how obviously it’s making itself felt in our day-to-day lives. I am so tired of living in a world we refuse to take care of.

    1. Rumi is a perpetual delight Jenny! I agree, Gold is far too short. The translation is marvelous. It is hard to live in a world we don’t take care of, but keep taking care of your little place and maybe together we will be able to save something.

  7. Those are some brazen squirrels! We haven’t ever had a porch pumpkin eaten by squirrels.

    I also hate leaf blowers. I raked some today, but most of the leaves I let stay on the ground. It’s been nice to find out in the last couple of years that letting them be is more beneficial!

    Mark Zuckerberg can kiss my a**. Real life for me!

    1. You’ve never had squirrels eat your porch pumpkins Laila? Squirrels in your area are so polite!

      Yes, letting leaves be is most beneficial, the cycle nutrients back into the soil for the tree. I’ve seen a few people with electric leaf blowers and those are quiet, but I’m still against them on principle 😀

  8. I was talking to my son about climate grief and he said he could enjoy my delight in 50-degree December days as a relief from his actions and reactions concerning warming trends. A little like watching the chickens?

    1. Jeanne, I’m not going to complain about it being warmer than usual, it is nice! But the knowledge of what is contributing to the warmer temperatures creates a sort of low-level anxiety that things aren’t right.

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