Poetry is where you find it

As usual

not knowing

I don’t know how to

deal with

accept, embrace, relax, let go

so much pleasure

so much awareness

so much joy, so much sorrow, so much hurt

in myself and others, in us

in myself

and others

in us

I don’t know

I don’t

know how to

stay with, to integrate, I don’t know how

anymore, to stop, to go back, to stop

I don’t want to stop

I don’t need to stop

and I think I can’t stop


I’m here moving

on my feet

The novel I am listening to

when I drive

as absorbed in the novel as I can be

without losing authority

for conducting the car safely through

highways, roads, lanes, traffic

other drivers’ choices

behaviors of the roadway and the other drivers

and walkers and bicyclers and motorcyclists



about or concerned with

the deepening of spiritual awareness

the spiritual in some big sense

that includes the uncanny and unknown

the bigger than me, the bigger than us

and mystery, and power, a bigger power

that itself is full of surrendering

letting go

letting be




the age 70 transition

even planning ahead

involves more letting go



things to not happen

than it does

what can or might happen


the child in me

or the dog in me

makes frequent stops

to pee, to check the map, to take a little drink, to

wonder whether this or this is a trail I would rather go on

and even to just stop and notice something

a little more





trees, young and old

plants, underbrush






branches, fallen trees


nourishing one another

through the soil

and the atmosphere


Age 70 Transition

                                                                        (09 01 2019)

Posted in Uncategorized

excerpts from summer 2019 emails to a psychoanalyst-globalclimateemergency activist:

8 22 2018

 the basic idea that totalitarian, exclusivist, and authoritarian societies tend to demonize or expel or ‘cleanse’ away some demographics in favor of others, thus depleting the synthetic dynamics of how civilizations actually develop and thrive, seems sensible to me and the hypothetical parallel between that premise and the concern over species extinctions (and the rationales for their occurrence today) seems loaded with meaning and significance. 

  in a relational psychoanalytic light, i think this is an important potential for construing positions toward and possibly approaches to change what is happening in, for instance, the usa, australia (viz. the NYTimes today), and elsewhere regarding climate change. i believe the current tendency across many nations toward exclusivity, privilege-reinforcement, and insularity is an express route to doom for their cultures, politics, and economies, and it mirrors (and i believe is in a reciprocal relationship with) the exploitation of the earth’s resources for human gain with disregard (and careless exclusion and termination) of non-human living beings on our planet, and the result will be the demise of humanity as it tries to survive on artificial food substitutes while droughts and fires, floods and viruses sweep across the overheated surfaces of our world. so it goes, as vonnegut wrote repeatedly in, i think, cat’s cradle

4 25

I had a related thought now while reading other things relating to trauma and world politics. There seems to me to be a similar dead zone, blind spot, or lack of interest in developing awareness, whether it’s dissociative or not in the terms of your definition, in what I can only presume is the vast majority of the USAmerican public, in relation to some other topics that don’t necessarily lead to extinction (but could): with respect to the risk of nuclear bombs going off (2 minutes to midnight, is the current, lowest-ever assessment by the scientists); with respect to our national policy of rising militarism, maximizing arms sales, and making wars abroad while tightening our alliances with autocratic state leaders around the world; and with respect to the nation’s and culture’s dependency on pesticides, antibiotics, and other profitable chemicals that increasingly undermine our health and that of our future generations. I find it perpetually alarming, but at least part of what I believe is responsible for this obliviousness is the steady hyper-focus on materialist, consumerist, careerist concerns and just plain entertainment in USAmerican culture. Stories, typically with high emotional and visceral impact, seem to supersede facts and information, not to mention reflection, while deterioration of our entire population’s security and health proceeds with little notice. Somehow, in this country we have been in continual training along these lines at least since the decade following WW2. From the Korean War on, our wars have occurred at great distance and generally without much understanding of how horribly aggressive, violent and destructive they have been. Madison Avenue’s (and psychology’s) undermining of science in the days of lung cancer’s linkage with smoking seems a good example of this awful phenomenon. The APA remains steadfast in its affirmative alliance with the US military, to score the bucks, despite its vague stance of distancing since the Hoffman Report was released. (Roy Eidelson published a strong article on this within the past week or so on Common Dreams website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dangerous-ideas/201904/war-militarism-and-the-apa. Well written and organized, and demoralizing indeed.) My impression is that such comprehensive training of the USAmerican electorate is partly responsible for the lack of responsibility to the nation’s and the world’s people among those at the top of industry and government, and for the people’s lack of will to demand it. It’s terribly worrisome. 

It seems to rhyme with the brain-dead/reluctant/avoidant/oblivious response to the GCE.

4 26

the point of my lengthy paragraph in that email was to contemplate how this process of dissociating or foreclosing reflection on and remediation of devastatingly big dangers or harms has been going on, at least in the US, for at least a few generations. 

When we consider how thoroughly most USAmericans appear to believe in the righteous virtue and manifest destiny of the settler colonialist development of a European population on this continent, simply unable to connect with the massive processes of genocide and betrayals that underlay our occupation of this land, we see another instance of not-knowing or not-taking-it-seriously that, for the generations of indigenous peoples that otherwise would have lived here in a culture congruent with their history, has indeed meant a terrible, disabling, decimating kind of harm – dissociated by the great majority of the caucasian population. I would say it’s been a piecemeal holocaust, from which a very very few survivors continue to pull together a history and a will to protest. . . .

The circumstances, work, decisions, and solvency of small farmers involves many difficulties. It’s wondrous when things go well, but it’s very devoted and labor intensive work. An organic farm undertakes stewardship in a far more comprehensive and sensitive way than industrial factory farming, and the vulnerability of USAmerican farmers is enormous and troubling. What do the Congressional farm bills do for them? I suspect they rather favor the big interests behind monocultures and massive pesticide use.

4 28

I think anyone will likely have to oscillate, between hope, despair, fear, numbness, and other states, whether in the course of grieving or in other responses of abject foreboding and incipient or ongoing loss. I wouldn’t want people to feel guilty about feeling hope, but I don’t want to urge it on people either. 

Doppelt’s work seems to propose something to be both actively invested in and hopeful about, a transformative resilient community/way of life; I find this both reasonable and disturbingly individualist and localist. But one has to focus sometimes on what one can actually make a difference on, and that is going to be almost always the personal and the local. And his thoughts do point toward reasonably sound ways to coping – with grief as well as with tension and hardships – in the course of the GCE.

I find this thoughtful writer, Mr. McPherson, sometimes hard to follow, logically, especially at the point when he’s talking about the aerosol layer and he follows one sentence I don’t understand with another linked to it by “In other words,…” This drives me up the wall because it’s part of his argument that our planet’s life systems are doomed, it sounds like a really important part, but I can’t tell if he’s even making sense consistently with any scientific findings. So maybe I will try to look that stuff up. [Now I looked it up, at the 2019 article cited https://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6427/eaav0566  in Science magazine, and I can’t understand it either.]

I am alarmed that he is so certain that humankind will die. He doesn’t say whether he understands this will happen within 20 years or 300. It’s not a shocking thoughts, but his certainty does not conform to most of the clearer science-based discussions I have read. He might say they are papering over the realities of what will surely come. His more radical stance on this contributes to my doubting him. But I have no quarrel with what he says about working through grief to become more pragmatic and imaginative in response to a crisis that isn’t ending anytime soon.

The Palestinians offer a very useful example of a lot of people who are undergoing perpetual conditions that are psychologically traumatic, without relief, for generations, along with and partly because of unpredictable physical violence and rapid arbitrary displacement. Although there is widespread depression and there are other heightened psychopathologies in the population, there is a commonly held acknowledgement of why and how the traumatic conditions are being imposed and perpetuated, and there are shared understandings of how steadfastness and focusing on shared values matters to everyone concerned there. Mental health providers in these territories don’t expect to heal anyone’s PTSD; they don’t conceptualize these problems as PTSD but as continuous traumatic stress conditions, for which group treatment, social and political engagement and involvement of family and community in systems of conjoint care make a much bigger difference to help contextualize psychological and behavioral problems and remediate them.

4 29

I don’t think it’s ever good to assume an audience will have the same point of view, ideological mindset, or primary concerns as oneself, especially when it’s a multicultural, multiracial, and/or international or multi-class group or one of diverse sexual orientations. Who knows how many think Greta should be in school on Fridays? The thing is, you can’t tailor your presentation closely to people you don’t know, and as the org is international, my own suggestion would be that you aim it at a huge wide diversity of people, all of whom know that there is some issue in the air these days about the climate and humans’ responsibility for its seeming peril. In other words, at least minimally informed, but one can’t say by whom or how much. Analysts in IARPP are likely to be a fairly liberal group, all the same, so if you’re looking for the center of your focus, I suggest it might be something like a poorly trained psychoanalytic version of Hilary Clinton. 

I feel everyone sees the GCE or climate change their own way, anyhow. It becomes sort of a Rorschach, as it’s so wildly chaotic, mutable, upsetting, and complex as a topic. And everyone comes from a differently constituted familial and cultural matrix.

5 5

The USA and its various peoples are not about to be over racism in the course of our lifetimes, or our children’s. It’s so deep and it continues to mutate, like bacteria that lives within us and mutate to evade extinction. Therefore, it’s vital to learn and reflect on and question racism and its presence and history whenever we have the mindful attention and courage to do so, which is hopefully going to be often. 

This is to say, I don’t think problems of inclusion and solidarity can be expected to get resolved and to go away, but I feel strongly that they can be addressed and worked on, in effect to be worked with like koans and relationship issues, as opportunities for healing and growth. 

5 14

I don’t know what the British people in general knew or cared about the establishment of an Israeli state in what had formerly been the British mandate, at the time it occurred. I can send you a copy of something about that piece of history if you like. My recollection of it is that Britain realized it had better get out or it would be patrolling and enforcing order in an increasingly polarized society, with no particular benefit to the British state or economy, and that without a designated, seemingly remote and ignorable space to create a nation of their own, a lot of Jews would try to immigrate to Britain, which preferred (as did the US and many other Western nations) only so much, just a little, charitably, but not too much. It served as a means to contain the massive flow of Jews from the most venomously persecutory and hateful areas of Europe. How well contemporary Brits share this impression of that history, I appear to have no way of knowing.

I think you are right that Jews of a particularly Zionist stripe (nothing close to all Jews of the time or of the present) felt in the 40s at liberty to follow whatever vision of a possible Jewish state and law they might collectively envision and comprise, once given the green light by a deserting British imperialist authority. Rather than feel abandoned and less-than, it is sensible that many may have preferred to focus on their “chosen people” role as inheritors of their righteous path and place. This must, I think, have accentuated and even necessitated their impression that Palestine as a state or as a people had never existed and did not need recognition, although various people who identified with the place as Palestinians were indeed in the way. Since Palestinians were considered virtually non-existent (this seeming to the conquerors a far more benign attitude than seeing them as a legitimate people struggling for their own homeland), Israel could take over their land in the course of defending itself from reputedly conspiratorial enemies beyond their territories and then maintain overall authority in defense against the Arab states surrounding them. It worked. The West saw Israel as its baby and its military outpost, holding the Arab, Muslim states at bay and asserting a contained and containing military dominance in the region. 

5 16

The main thing that interested me in the article about flooding in Davenport – which I myself only skimmed – was the ways that reference to and discussion of the personal and civic costs of carbon concentrations in the atmosphere was foreclosed by the impression that this would inevitably precipitate a “political” reframing of the challenges for recovery and future security within the city. 

    To me, this indicates that the right has maneuvered effectively to intimidate civic leaders (who are sometimes supposed to be themselves effective “politicians”) from addressing global warming in any way, including with reference to scientific consensus. I thought it would interest you as an example of how recognition of climate change is forestalled. 

  When such foreclosure of reference becomes widespread, it affects all pathways in society, and so we find now that to recognize the GCE as an actuality requires acts of rebellion, even when most of the USAmerican public agrees it’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Overwhelm is coming to be a norm, I think, for people in advanced Western and other societies. Certainly to read and study things with an expectation of fully understanding and formulating a constructive response to them all is bound to lead us to overwhelm. 

  I see and feel and take myself to be a world citizen, a healthcare provider, an artist, a Buddhist, and an activist. All these self-empowering frames are also compromising in a variety of ways, within any social context I know of. I certainly cannot assume I will master my functions and potential in any of them. Nor do I assume I would do better at any of them if I had fewer such identities and pursuits. I can’t even keep abreast of what’s new and important to know in any of them. So it goes.

5 26

The afternoon training I went to on May 1 was set up by a Bar Harbor group called Climate to Thrive. They arranged for Tyler Kidder, the lead trainer for Maine Climate Table, to present to whoever would come. There were a lot there from Acadia Nat’l Park and from Mount Desert Island hospital. Only one person from Climate to Thrive wasn’t too busy to show up – I commented to him, as well picked up chairs at the end, that this was rather odd, and he said well, everyone’s very busy. The training focused on how to communicate effectively if trying to address decision-making leaders and other people to address the GCE seriously. She didn’t focus on the science of climate and carbon but on the science of communication in this field and with a Maine population – pretty sophisticated, then, in its focus. Key ideas I came away with is 

  • tell stories, use narrative, to engage interest and empathy
  • don’t refer to “believing” at all
  • address the conflict underlying resistance, whether internal or social or both
  • consider the mental templates people already have ingrained, which people use to develop a reasoning chain
  • “message frames” are terms that reflect attitudes and moral templates, etc. “carbon pollution” is such a frame, which has gone over better than “climate change” or others, in the Maine population
  • approach discussion through “adjacent possibilities” which can be entry points of interest or value, and then can precipitate recognition and discussion of global climate problems
  • one good starting point: “It can be hard for people to talk or think about climate change, and folks have a lot of questions” and then ask where they are at with it, if they have any questions

The primary handouts at that training were a Communications 101 booklet and a tool kit for communicating with Mainers on Climate Change. I will attach pdfs that she sent us after the training. It all adds up to be a lot to read and I don’t have any expectation that you will or should – but you may like to browse around in it. I wonder whether many other states have this sort of an organization actively developing such guidance. 

The day-long “4th climate action conference” from Sierra Club Maine was called Building Thriving Communities. It had short talks in rounds for the assembled, as well as simultaneous panels off and on to choose from. Chloe Maxmin was spirited and inspiring, a young activist politician fired up on the issues of GCE. The psychologist Richard Thomas said he was going to contact everyone who left their email on his yellow pad but hasn’t seemed to write to me yet – he wanted to start a climate action team within the profession – of healthcare providers or something. I didn’t feel very confident he would get much headway or even get started seriously. He cited Joanna Macy as his primary influence and led a guided meditation that I would gladly have skipped, as I usually feel about them. But he also advocated for speaking more vulnerably to one another (in groups, most helpfully) about these issues and accepting the emotional intensity of the grieving process involved in solastalgia. I liked better a psychiatrist focused on neurological trauma and resilience  named Janis Petzel. She cited a PSR Maine report called Death by Degrees (available at their website, it focuses on health risks and then on what one can do, personal lifestyle and investment planning and sociopolitical advocacy) and referred to various ways GCE contributes to ill health. Other speakers dealt with various sectors or siloes, on both negative impacts of GCE and various initiatives to counteract the symptoms and effects of it. Generally these were intelligent and interesting presentations on matters I personally feel no particular need to know, but can feel an active interest in at the moment. I left an hour or two before it all finished, as I felt full up, with nothing else on the agenda I particularly wanted to check out.  https://freepressonline.com/Content/Home/Homepage-Rotator/Article/Deep-State-The-ecosystem-defends-itself-The-Sierra-Club-s-Climate-Conference/78/720/64193 is the only article I can find on line covering it as an event. I haven’t read it in full yet, but so far I give it my seal of approval as affirmative, interested, detailed reporting. Go, Maine!!!

6 6 2019

I really think that all refugees now, from now on, are climate refugees, even if that isn’t the primary presenting problem. Because our climate crisis exacerbates all the CNS and interpersonal tensions and violence that promote all other injustices, it is predictable that all sorts of aspects of the world order and of its peoples’ loss and harm will be effectively enhanced by climate emergency effects.

6 14

Personally, and as a psychologist too, I just don’t believe in trying to motivate change through blaming, shaming, or angering. (You know this from one or two of the slides in my talks in Surry.) XR’s events haven’t struck me that way. I see them more as trying to awaken and broaden awareness and interest. If they sometimes blame or shame elected representatives of the people or major corporate chieftains, they are calling them out on their willing betrayal of their promises, pledges, and responsibilities. If this is a XR tactic, I don’t think it will specifically work — treating anyone as an antagonist, getting them uptight and defensive, only escalates the combative and heels-dug-in stance and CNS functions. This shuts down empathy, compassion, and rational thought. Not a good plan for solving profound systemic problems.

If we are in an emergency (or, although we are in an emergency), psychotherapists in general are not the key to addressing it effectively. Psychoanalysts in particular are perhaps by temperament generally unlikely to rally to activism and vigorous, intensive advocacy. Some are, but most perhaps are not. 

How strong and active do you think psychoanalysts have been in their efforts to end the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the risk of nuclear war, which are a constant glaring and rising emergency (this year the famous nuclear clock has advanced as close to nuclear midnight as it’s ever been) that could end our civilization far faster and with far greater immediate death, injury, and disability than the climate crisis? Nuclear war, whether regional or worldwide, could begin at any minute, given the degree of global tension, nationalist and autocratic leaderships on the rise, and potential for technical and diplomatic errors. What good does it do us to maintain these weapons and engage in escalating competitions to develop and produce them?

6 7

My sincere impression, based on speaking with Palestinians, based on reading a variety of sources, based on my observations, is that Palestinians are afraid for good reason of the Israeli Defense Forces as well as the Palestinian Authority Police and other officials who coordinate with the IDF. 

If you read some recent statements for Israeli administration top dogs, you can find that all Palestinians are considered terrorists, without exception, when they are regarded as human at all. They can be quickly imprisoned, beaten forced into false confessions, locked up for many months, as well as abruptly shot dead, without having committed any crime. Children are as vulnerable to this as adults, if not more so, in the West Bank. 

However, Palestinians do not appear to have such one-sided reductive ideas about Israelis or USAmericans. Many Israelis, I believe, are afraid of Palestinian terrorists, and some are likely agree with Bibi and others that all Palestinians are terrorists, barbarians, inhuman, or that any might become or surprise them with terrorism. Many Israelis have never met a Palestinian and are protected from knowing anything about their culture and concerns, and Palestinians are generally treated within Israeli mainstream culture as non-existent. The ways that state media and information and commentary have profiled the conflict is that Israelis are perpetually at risk of violent subjugation by the Palestinian people. However, Israelis have not been evicted from their homes, their libraries seized and stolen, submitted to humiliating laws and repression, denied freedom of movement, and reduced to poverty and inability to utilize their native traditional resources, as have the Palestinians. 

Israelis are not subject to military occupation forces since 1967. Palestinians are. Can you imagine what that’s like to live with? Israelis are not limited by a system of checkpoints and cages, interrogations at gunpoint, when they try to drive from one city or town to another. They do not find new settlers destroying their farms, chopping down their generations-old olive trees, bulldozing their homes. The fears of Israelis are well-fanned to keep this system in place. 

6 13

Us-them, ingroup-outgroup thinking has been common among homo sapiens for a long time. A basic factor in group psychology, which you probably studied for a licensing exam. The emotions drive cognitions and are easily conditioned and exploited by social context and programming, of which we like other groups have had a lot, enough to saturate people who are more prone to react than to question. A very interesting interview reflecting on this sort of thing is at https://theduran.com/how-psychological-vulnerabilities-are-exploited-to-control-us/

 I read tonight the article “What would it mean to deeply accept that we’re in planetary crisis?” I thought it was really good. The alternation between the two writers helped open it up well. I think you saw this, but in case you lost or never read it, it’s at https://truthout.org/articles/what-would-it-mean-to-deeply-accept-that-were-in-planetary-crisis/

If time permits among so many other things, I may read more by these people.

6 14

To engage in a more loving, affirmative relationship to the lives we lead and share as we continue in skedillions of ways to encounter everyone’s GCE seems to me really important. 

The challenge is, in part, to deliberately practice a kind of deep self-realization and become the people we want to know and meet, as well as helping to base our living on earth day by day on a new, more progressive, inclusive, kind and generous sort of ideological orientation that we can encourage in others by modeling and acting on, in innumerable ways. 

This is part of how I understand transformational resilience and why I think it’s worthy of engagement and development, even though in the ways that ITRC does this it may appear very dry and programmatic. A formula is not a living being in development. There is a quest involved, no matter how many answers people feel they already have, life will present more questions, dilemmas, and frustrations to encounter with our most vital, caring nature.

7 4

I got disgusted early in the day hearing it referred to on NPR as ‘Independence Day’ and thinking about what an outrageously stupid idea it is to celebrate ‘independence’ that is nothing but myth and chimera…  

7 7

I also read what I found a very engaging and meaningful article by Paul Hoggett, “Climate change and the apocalyptic imagination,” which I urge you to sit down with if you haven’t before. It seems to offer responses to some of the issues raised in your IARPP paper and in our dialogues on line. Sensibly enough, if offers more warnings of emotional, rhetorical, and political traps any of us may succumb to than clear-headed definitive advice on how to proceed, but I feel one can use it to sort of clear the chakras as one does one’s best to address the emergency. I can’t find or figure out how I found a copy to read. Foolishly I didn’t download and save it.

I decided to send my APCS essay to ROOM, after I got a very warm belated response from Jill Gentile, whom I’d sent it to incorrectly thinking she’d asked to see it, after she rather said at the APCS last day that she’d been sorry to miss hearing it. 

I sent this message to Division 39 Section IX on 6 20:

Last night about 16 of us in Section IX had a caring, meaningful, sensitive, and dynamic set of conversations revolving around questions about reparations for all the kinds of injuries stemming from the history of slavery in our nation and from its legacies, aftermaths, and resistances to becoming forgettable history. It felt to me like the first of innumerable conversations that may go on for generations, if humans are to respond to this horrific moral and political violence responsibly.

This evening I read a paper, published March 2019 in Ecopsychology, devoted to reckoning with the Global Climate Emergency as not only a material roiling and devastation but also an ongoing, gathering, and perhaps perpetual global experience of psychological trauma. Basing her thinking on psychoanalytically informed trauma theory, Zhiwa Woodbury argues clearly and brilliantly for our coming to terms with the specific and unprecedented nature of Climate Trauma and its relationship with other phenomena of epigenetic, personal, and cultural trauma in ourselves, our clients, our communities, our media, and world populations. 

The best papers and articles I’ve read in recent months on why we don’t respond more proactively to the general crisis (which this work analyzes tellingly and afresh) tend to draw a blank on just what is needed from us to move into it and to survive as well as we can, collectively and individually. This article does powerful, stimulating work on both. The kind of conversation we initiated last night, concerned with a shared legacy and perpetuation of a terrible and alarming injustice and dehumanization over many generations, is an example of the kind of cooperative, integrative sharing of awareness toward solidarity and reconciliation that is vital in this period, during which many repressed, unresolved collective traumas of relational violence and dehumanization are in various, vital ways erupting and demanding healing through acknowledgement, learning, and a democratically embodied empowerment through solidarity.

This article may be accessed for $51.00 at liebertpub.com or in a free pdf from Academia.edu, which is easy to join and can lead to happy surprises, as well as offering you an easy way to make your own papers more widely accessible. Or ask the author for a reprint, at [email protected]

I recommend this article particularly strongly to Section IXers.

7 11

I am pretty squarely on the side of anticipating extinctions increasingly widespread, non-linear programming, and generalized chaotic unpredictability, even if things go as best they may from now on – but of course the USA, Brazil, and many other nations and conglomerates will not help and will hinder things going well. 

I wish I could trust talking to anyone frankly about it, but it’s so overwhelming to address and so amorphously impossible to time events and their sequencing that I hesitate to broach the topic very directly, aside from just to say not infrequently that it’s something I’m thinking about myself, with my kids and most other people. The time when we all speak of it more directly is fast approaching, and perhaps it’s best, with most folks I come into contact with, just to offer an open door to discussion by letting them know it’s on my mind as a concern and investigation – so that later they can bring up feelings or broach questions.

7 11

This evening I read the article attached (from the Mondoweiss website) on the challenges for people who’ve grown up in Gaza coming to the US or France and considering psychotherapy for help to their OTSD (explained in article). I send it on to you not only because it’s interesting and meaningful on its own terms, but also because you are committed to considering roles for psychotherapists in relating to people suffering through the OTSD that is likely to develop more and more deeply and widely in response to ongoing GCE phenomena and their relentless and uncertain future course. It seems to me there are similarities or overlaps between what Gazans deal with – living in Gaza or as temporary or permanent emigrants – and what we increasingly face as world citizens living through this overwhelming, unstoppable, and unthinkable development in our environments, societies, identities, and loved ones. 

7 12

To the degree, significant but relatively minor, that my mother shared her grievances and private matters with me growing up, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I ought to be able or even permitted to solve or fix them. I felt that at most I was recruited as a “good listener,” and a bit of a love substitute for my dad, and I think really she then hoped I would forget whatever I had listened to. She used my next younger brother more intensely and less cautiously in this regard, and I believe it has been an abiding injury that he has felt gravely through his adulthood. This is very different than the challenges you faced as an only child with your mother’s severe disability and your father’s dismay and troubles in supporting her. That they even allowed you to carry a hope or belief that you might solve their problems seems terrible and deeply harmful, as I understand such matters. 

I would just further state that I don’t believe I can ever comprehend or learn, emotionally or cognitively, about all the pain, distress, and sufferings in this world. I know that I have my convenient and privileged means of buffering and compartmentalizing, as well as of channeling into use sometimes, the horror, anger, and grief that can get stimulated by reading or hearing about some of them. Thus, I don’t actually feel it all, intimately and effectively. I am generally able to feel some and then respond – even to respond by turning the page to a different article, or opening an art book or watching some film to relax my mind – without obsessing and making unmanageable demands on myself. I can easily accuse myself of not doing enough or not taking things seriously enough, as a result, but over time I manage to accept that I am not about to quit work to move someplace I can get arrested for blocking a pipeline or otherwise change my life course and security in a radical way – but that I am still willing to join in solidarity and be some part of an awakening to the need to address injustices and catastrophes, especially ongoing and accumulative ones. 

7 14

It was a warm lovely day with a late afternoon thunderstorm. I went to the zendo for a sitting and an annual business meeting, which was interesting. I don’t remember attending one before – though I likely did at least once. Then I went to a place called The SEED Barn in Blue Hill, on a gorgeous isthmus, where the daughter of the man who bought it (I think) is working with schoolchildren, local organizations, and other organizations in Haiti, to restore native botanical life, to develop renewed access to medicinal plants, and to express artistically the spirits of nature, ancestors, dignity, and strength. I thought to go upon hearing about a small collection of Haitian sculptures she has arranged in her garden – they are wonderful, powerful, evocative bricolages of materials found wherever, easily lost among the bounteous plants in her gardens in Maine, as they might have been before they were pulled off the street or out of trash heaps in Port au Prince. It was an inspiring visit, with her offering a tour of her gardens – plants and sculptures – and answering questions, primarily about her botanical projects. Dinner with my daughter tonight was very good and warm and calm, too.

7 19

Major cities are extremely dependent on reliable transportation systems, efficient construction projects, continuous energy and communications flows, so it’s an extremely uncommon thing that major disruptions on these would be tolerated without regular law enforcement and without advance agreement on permits. 

XR will do what it will do, with many persons willing to accept arrest, but huge masses of people are unlikely to risk facing toxic sprays, police aggression, and worse, whether on a work day or a day off or a day of deliberate defiance of corporate powers. The governing authorities have their own priorities. Strategies are key in developing activist plans. I doubt that XR is surprised at this news story.

7 28

Our GCE not something I seem to formulate clinical questions about, but I do think about it and how it may relate to clinical processes. 

I mention it when I mention it, and the emphasis varies a lot (like everything else does) depending on who I’m talking with (in clinical work and outside of it). I even suggested it as a significant contributor to a vague uneasy sense of anxiety that  a returning client told me about – as an aspect of vulnerability, which I feel has been growing as a developmental achievement in him (in his 70s), also I think due to a new terrific love relationship that now involves co-domesticity, as well as his reflecting more on his age and mortality. 

Your accounts of 3 cases with this issue embedded in them are interesting. I feel that sometimes just a little mention is enough. If and when the patient is ready, it will come up again, maybe front and center. I wouldn’t want to focus a patient on making definite short-term decisions in relation to it, but I am more likely to comment in passing on the big unknowable state of things to come, if we’re thinking about grandchildren, about legacy, about long-term planning. So far, there haven’t been any episodes in which I sense a major conflict or overwhelm emerging as a result. But I don’t yet share the collapse of society idea with my clients. I want to be respectfully sensitive specially with those who have children.

The whole thing is a whopper. I try not to get the discussion going, so far, so much as acknowledge it seems likely to be an issue, over years to come, as well as now already.

7 28

Lately I want the world to know one of the ways in toward the realization of how we are becoming subject to the global climate emergency is through listening to 46-year-old British organizational analyst Jem Bendell, whom I first heard conversing at length with psychoanalyst/activist Ro Randall in a two part video. I find it helpful, though some may find it just desperately depressing. Bendell published a year ago a calmly, abruptly thrilling 20-page paper titled “Deep Adaptation” (at http://lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf) that stepped just outside conventional academic norms and unexpectedly blew up all over the internet, sparking affinities and controversy over its discussion of the coming societal collapse. He maintains a website blog (at https://jembendell.com/) and also works with an on-line forum for those highly active on these questions (at https://deepadaptation.ning.com/) and a facebook page one may join to participate in more broadly democratic discussions (at https://www.facebook.com/groups/deepadaptation/). In a new paper (at https://iflas.blogspot.com/2019/07/compendium-of-research-reports-on.html), he summarizes a number of the past year’s peer-reviewed scientific papers that reinforce his convictions that we’re on the accelerating pathway to radical disconnection with systems and expectations we have come to rely on, (which he then comments on at https://jembendell.com/2019/07/07/a-year-of-deep-adaptation/). I encourage starting with a recent podcast interview that allows breadth and time to a conversation touching on personal as well as scientific and social facets of his emerging and morphing thoughts and experiences (at http://www.thefutureisbeautiful.co/2018/12/27/e45-jem-bendell-on-deep-adaptation-climate-change-and-societal-collapse-acceptance-and-evolution-in-the-face-of-global-meltdown/) .

To me it’s not painful reading. It’s honest reportage, from him as a person and on the planet as it’s changing. We don’t get enough of that, although occasionally a leak occurs in the wall of information management, giving us a flooded sensation. 

7 29

This isn’t the end of the world, just of the world as we’ve known it. It seems to have been predictable, but I don’t know whether this particular phenomenon was predicted or by whom. I don’t keep track of that, as my memory would make a hash of it, but I do expect diverse alarming trends, extreme weather events, fires, and floods, releases of methane and stored carbons, and a developing planetary alterations of everything short of geographic structures, and I think these alterations will be faster and less manageable than anyone has a capacity to compute, due to combinatory effects. 

We will be grieving from here on out, especially those of us who’ve been able to appreciate any degree of security, affluence, comfort, and routines over the years. So, for my mind, the “deep adaptation” agenda, always under development, is crucial to finding my bearings as things unravel and become less recognizable and tolerable, while also pressing the powerful to address strategic planning with scientifically informed foresight and to exercise compassion for the world’s growing number of homeless, hungry, thirsty, and under-informed. 

7 29

My supervisor when I was first doing therapy at the Wright Institute clinic later wrote an outstanding paper on the manic society. I was thinking of it earlier today as well. Mania would put us on route to hype up our psychotic decision-making increasingly to the point of exhaustion of all means to execute them; it seems a more worrisome analogy or paradigm than addiction, which we might manage to recover something from after hitting bottom. But these are all analogies and stories, anyway. 

7 29

I totally agree that male childhood development deserves attention in our recognition and understanding of patriarchy, which can include some compassion for the oppressor and traumatizer. Anyone inflicting trauma on others is experiencing trauma himself, as I see it. What a horrible experience of one’s life and love capacity. 

I think it was Juliet Mitchell who also write some powerfully suggestive theory about early male development. Not remembering the course of it too well, it did involve something about early divorce from identification with the maternal caregiver, promoting the boy’s experience of existential isolation, alienation, false-self machismo or self-sufficiency (consider how the neoliberal and USAmerican stereotypes are typified). The male child, per Mitchell, would be obliged to discount the power of natural life and of the planetary interdependencies, in order to preserve and develop a sense of  personal survival and integrity. Grim, isn’t it?

Some of us pansies didn’t really grow up that way, but it wasn’t easy being so different as all that, no matter how safe or toxic our mothers were. 

I will read this article. The British “public school” system, through which the affluent and distinguished process their children, is notorious for bullying, hazing, class prejudices, etcetera. I can hope it’s watered down better nowadays, but I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through it. I had enough of that sort of thing, in a less severe form, through attending, as a day student, a renowned prep school that had long been a feeder program for Princeton University. I was fortunate enough to discover a few other boys who were odd enough, creatively independent enough, and/or unconventional and easy-going enough to become friends to me. I miss them!

I’m in touch with some of those friends. Another for mysterious reasons won’t speak to me or communicate at all since I last saw him 30+ years ago. Another died with his wife, murdered in their small home on the Meher Baba commune in coastal India years ago, after we had renewed contact and had a marvelous correspondence for a couple years. He was a very kind, resourceful, unique fellow.

7 21

I read two blogposts by Bikkhu Bodhi intended to rally Buddhists to engage in some form of activism when they can, and I appreciated his resolute and clear thinking and expression. I didn’t really enjoy them, perhaps because the ideas were second nature to me and because the style was rather impersonal and starchy, but basically I felt that they were good and they certainly deserve to be read. I imagine listening to him in person would be very different, and I still hope I make time to listen to a talk or two of his on line. There is so much I hope to make time for!

I read a few short blogposts by Ro Randall this morning, and I plan to read her “Loss and climate change: the cost of parallel narratives” from about a decade ago, after reading a two paragraph summary of it in her blog.

The local small group that met to discuss an article reflecting on the GCE from a myth-oriented frame of mind elicited a very active, dynamic, moving, and meaningful discussion from the 8 of us there. 

Today two board members at the zendo took about a half hour each in place of sitting and walking meditation to talk and elicit comments on the GCE, hope, despair, and deep ecology. These were two people I have trouble listening to, although their intentions are okay, and it was a struggle to tolerate these presentations, which to me seemed vague, simplistic, short-sighted, academic, and self-important. Life goes on.

The one-day climate convergence conference transpired yesterday from 9 to 330 at the local high school, which lacks air conditioning and as usual sitting in the gym was weird and oppressive. There were some good speakers, including some college and high school students and one 8th grader. I went to breakout ‘workshops’ on the emotional processing of GCE, on teaching undergraduates about this in a cross-disciplinary course (a philosophy and a physics professor), and about the latest summary of global changes and what to expect (good but very limited in fact as a composite account of all aspects and challenges entailed). 

My reading and the small group that meets on Thursday evenings are my primary resources for coping and learning how to accept and reflect on GCE as well as to learn about what to expect. 

After reading his essay from 7/1/19, Don’t police our emotions, I signed up for communications with Jem Bendell’s various on-line stations, a quarterly report from a Forum and a Facebook page and his blog and maybe another group. To the essay I mentioned, he linked to a 7/26/18 List of emotional support resources, which I also read. I hope to read and listen to some of the things he refers to there. Then I also read just now his rather devastating but clearly reasoned Compendium of research reports on climate chaos and impacts, 7/7/19. I feel he is both reinforcing his own committed belief in the strong likelihood of societal collapse and also manifesting enough peer-reviewed scientific analyses to fully justify it.

As he typically notes, we have become very used to the dire, injurious effects of government, military, and corporate policies being minimized, soft-pedaled, and diverted from discussion. It makes complete sense to me that the chickens are coming home to roost, and the future of life on this planet will need to accommodate very different structural and adaptive qualities than we have become used to. 

On interlibrary loan I borrowed a copy of a coffee table book called Genesis, made of photographs by Sebastio Salgado, which are beautiful and deep. He made these in the previous decade all over the world, focusing on the natural world as he anticipates the loss of many current qualities to be found there. I’m just looking through it a few pages at a time, fascinated.

I wanted to give you some account of what I’ve been up to. I’m not obsessing, I believe, but I am thinking about all this, a lot lately. Meanwhile, grateful to be alive and to have many benefits of good fortune at hand. 

7 28

various THINGS have somehow come up that seemed to require immediate attention, including deciding in a rush saturday morning to send off an application for a residency of a month or less in alabama as a poet person. which i will probably not get.

and reading bruno latour’s recent book down to earth, which my old friend jonathan lethem (somewhat notorious as a novelist who actually sells books) had just ordered and read and wanted to loan me so we could talk together about it. it was a real page turner and helpful, to my mind, in contemplating a political framework for understanding how politics has been working, particularly in europe and the usa, and how the GCE may stimulate a very different and more compellingly adaptive sort of political struggle and alignment. it is only 100 pages though i often had to stop and think about a sentence or reread it, as i do also with arendt, which has all been very worthwhile to me. you may find it interesting too. i read the first half on wednesday while sitting in shade and sun at schoodic head, a favorite place of power a bit over an hour’s drive from here. 

our thursday reading group is going to shift into discussion of race/racism this week and the reading is interesting and brief but i will be at a contemporary music concert in an old mill that a bassoonist (who is also a water surveyor and a restorative justice leader, since she moved here from the nyc avant garde scene 3 years ago) lives in and turns into a space for electronic and improvised musics, so I will skip the reading group this time. 

7 29

Yes, the burden is going to be enormous, on young old and in between, in the years to come. Greta Thunberg is starting in on it early, and at least can see (and model a sense of) making some difference, although not yet on the persons who are still bent on destroying the planet’s life forms or trying to retard rather than accelerate methods of reviving and stabilizing them. 

I feel you are fortunate to have been to Alaska. I want to travel more outside the 48 but wonder increasingly whether I ever will again. It feels increasingly difficult to conscience air travel without a strong and specific socially redemptive purpose.

I’m on a kick of idolizing GT, rather wantonly. So thanks for sending these links, most of which are new to me. She is, to my mind, a sort of genius – her ability to speak purposefully, meaningfully, in a compelling and strategic way, to great emotional effect (enhanced no doubt by her history of mental health challenges, including years of mutism), as well as to make clear cut distinctions and choices. It helps me to collect experiences of her appearance and speaking voice, to help keep my inner gyroscope in some degree of balance day to day. (I could say the same of Arendt, whom I read rather religiously once a week, or Bendell, whose speaking voice I find really comfortable, although I don’t feel any of these people are trying to comfort or please any of us.) Like others put maxims on their bathroom mirror, I put photos of younger persons I admire and feel encouraged by (to keep my pluck, energy, and spirits up) here and there on my walls at home. 

I also find good fiction, set in times before an acknowledged onset of the GCE, in audio recordings, a big help. 

Buddhist is all inclusive, as I understand it. And you write with various elements of sympathy and compassion here. I can understand wondering about Bendell’s personality, male privilege, potential follow-through. He does seem to have taken great risks with his life course in order to experience himself sharing what he sees as honest truth and connect with others with such integrity as he can, and that can’t be accomplished perhaps with some (hopefully healthy) narcissistic investment. 

Our air, our waters, everything is full of strange chemicals by 2019, and so our bodies and our fetus’s bodies are to some degree permeated by alien toxins and chemistry. I have a hard time doubting this problem increases incidence of autistic disorders and dementias too. So there could be any one of a thousand reasons that a lung cancer gradually began to develop.

8 9

You ask whether I think that climate action needs to be larger than, say, the U.S. mobilization for World War II? I don’t feel I’m a person to know about such things, and maybe no one does, but all in all, I expect the adjustments that accommodation and adaptation will require and/or that preventative measures must require will be at least as great as that. I don’t really know what people went through in the late 30s early 40s, but the situation was entirely different – the danger and enemy were palpable, and the USA waited quite a while before getting involved (aside from our national commerce getting pretty damn involved in transactions with the Third Reich to its advantage). 

USAmerican powerhouse finance and industries are well oriented to taking advantage of disasters and social collapses in order to take over and turn a profit and extend their empires, but this is a different situation from that too. They are perhaps pathetically resistant and under-prepared for a growing overwhelm that hasn’t changed their own life styles or supply chains too much yet. 

8 9

I am already among the overcommitted, by my own reckoning. I didn’t mean to give up reading poetry or psychoanalysis to wrestle with climate change, and I’d like to correct the balance in how deeply that’s happening. It’s very hard to do. It seems to me that the inessential reading, doing, seeing occupies very little of my weekly life at this point. And but I do try to keep active in ways that matter to my soul and nature.

8 10

The best way to discuss it is to meet with people who are also recognizing their doubts or despair about a habitable planet. They generally do not need convincing, and they are capable of empathizing and sometimes of reflecting with us. Other people we can alert to the fact that we’re continuing to learn and worry and even stay active on this front, and they can ask more or share more when they are ready. To try to get them to listen or talk about it, if they haven’t asked to or begun the conversation as a real exchange seems a frustrating and futile use of energy. So it seems to me. 

The “community healing discussion group” that Benjamin and Lori started in East Blue Hill is of the former kind. It has now refocused on white fragility in the context of USAmerican racism, but the group members are now knowable as people who get it about potentials for massive disaster, shortages, societal collapse, and possible extinction. And the linkage between white male supremacy and global climate emergency is so tight as to make them pretty much the same thing, it seems to me. 

The other day on the way to this group I was thinking about the expectations of societal collapse and the world and national news I receive, realizing that such collapse is already well underway. In the USA and elsewhere we have a rise in authoritarian political leaders and formations, divisiveness and intensive conflict between elements of the general population, exercise of violence to address differences and misunderstandings, disrepair, damage and decay of outmoded infrastructures, gridlocked governmental decision-making about vital social issues, severe separations between science and policy, and mistrust of those traditionally expected to keep the status quo manageable. The authoritarian may be chosen by a voting majority as the strong man leader who will take care of all this chaos, and he then typically incites more of the same. Whether the 2020 election in the USA will simply heighten this tendencies or lean effectively into resolving them (somehow!!) inspires gathering suspense to the point of near breathlessness . . . Holding our breaths for another 14 months seems dangerous, however. 

8 12

 There are many rising outrages, including those against injustice and those against dark-skinned people. 

I’m not sure I would care to invoke rising tides of outrage so much as awakenings of interdependency consciousness and love of life and its home.

8 12

Human life on planet earth is not going to survive in a post-industrial period based on hunting and gathering, or not until the population is radically diminished and wildlife has miraculously flourished across populated zones, so farming is going to be necessary in one form or another for the indefinite future. Some farms do enrich the soil and its ability to not only support healthy organically grown edibles but also to sequester carbon and generally serve a healthier atmosphere with less carbons getting released. All farms occupy land that might otherwise be taken up with deciduous or other trees and forests, and perhaps other sorts of effective carbon-management vegetal life. But there’s not point in proposing that all farms be destroyed and outlawed. Farms that practice intelligent management of the soil and produce foods not troubled by chemical fertilizers and pesticides are perhaps the most worth preserving. And I believe that they can increase in share of the planet’s farmland while the farms that ruin and abandon the soil in various ways can become fewer and disappear over time. (Over a lot of time, probably. I don’t think we’re talking about saving the spectrum of life forms on the planet fast in this discussion about farms.) If some of the ruined or badly exploited farmland were to return to wilderness or forest, that might help, eventually, with our carbon climate issues. If it were all lost, I think there would be tremendous increases in social disruption due to starvations. Empty lots and parking lots and dead malls, etc., are especially great candidates for new forests and wild plants, in my estimation. 

Meanwhile, with Greta Thunberg, I see the virtues and values of a vegan diet, in its refusal to depend on sentient animals as food source, as an intelligent plan for as many as will embrace it, or to whatever expect people will lean that way, with respect to conserving the best in our atmosphere’s capacity to support life. I understand that both the depletion of trees and other natural growth to allow for grazing, etc., and the radical proliferation of methane gasses resulting from animal husbandry on a vast factory-farming scale contribute very significantly to global heating. 

9 2 2019

I have the sense that the more people are engaged, even if only in the struggle to recognize the imposing impending reality of the GCE and to respond with some degree of love for themselves, for one another, for the providence of our ecosystem, a great deal is accomplished. Most people may take a long time to move from getting it as an unparalleled dilemma to getting active and pursuing activist methodologies. But the more our social worlds resonate with love and compassion, actual thought and curiosity, the better our outcomes as a set of communities will be. 

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Sharing Relational Space with Earth

(Fall 2018)

Our key definer of adulthood may have been our dedication to staying responsible (enough) to others and to ourselves to foresee and protect ourselves and others from dangers in the immediate and more distant future. But our greatest challenge is not even learning from our mistakes, which we often do if we identify their patterns. It is to retain somehow the sensitivity, vitality, imagination, versatility, and ready wakefulness of a child.

Anyone grows up someplace, but first in a unique mother’s womb, beginning to sense whatever, without names for it, without knowing anyparticular way what one is doing. This may be the basic “natural” state for any of us human beings, in a perpetual immediate present, before we live in relation to a self and distinctions. If we could hit reset on our brain-computer, we might discover this again. As we grow week by week into our external environment, meeting it on whatever terms we are given there, we find ourselves defined by other humans and their language. They treat us in certain increasingly familiar ways, and they give us names for ourselves and our actions and attitudes. We encounter and gradually stabilize relationships to time and space and feelings and needs. We set up terms for these relationships that we have to cope with to survive in this world. All this is certainly socialization. Isn’t there something else we are also constituted by as selves, as conscious respondents to our world, perhaps unnamable in our Western discourses?

In a panel on climate change at IARPP in June, Susan Bodnar told about an intervention she has tried in workshops and psychotherapy. She asked people to recall their earliest memories of spaces and places in their natural world. What smells and sounds do they recall from the world around them? What colors? What sounds and motion? How did it feel against the skin – that breeze, that humidity, that grass, that clay? What sense experiences were known there, and what did they remember of it? She found that people tended to have deep, lasting impressions they often had forgotten about and were relieved, often deeply moved, to recall. They found words for what they felt they had experienced there – ease, freedom, belonging, joy, wildness, comfort, danger, security, trust.

Our sense of what’s natural may change across our lifetimes. So may that which we find around us to call nature. In rural Downeast Maine, where I’ve lived the past 21 years, I’m learning that the local forests were different, even a couple decades ago when I got here. Conifers are gradually disappearing, resulting in far fewer sorts of butterflies and more sugar maples, owing to changes in the climate. The woods, as we know them, now, are not as natural as when the Wabanaki tribes governed these territories, even though that human culture must somehow have impacted nature too.

We were brought up – I was brought up – many of us were brought up to be tctful and reserved about our feelings and appetites, to observe discretion in the pursuit of our passions, to opt for security, conformity with the known world, and autonomous achievement, to avoid indulging in risk, weirdness, and idleness. One result was to accept a distancing, a quiet alienation, as the favored ground of surviving manageably and proving ourselves acceptable to others.

As a boy, around ten or twelve, living in a suburban New Jersey township, before the years I would bicycle far enough long afternoons to get lost in the farmlands outside of town, I used to walk into a small woods of just a few acres across the street from our home to find my way into what I took for the heart of unspoiled wilderness. Or I allowed myself to think of it that way. There, beside an old tree along the bank of a shallow stream, as though to embrace a possibility of freedom from civilized norms, sometimes I would remove my clothes, lie in the warm sun freckled by the leaves, dip my toes into the slow-running water, defecate into a glass jar I’d brought there, and twist the lid closed to save my feces in a hidden place rather than despoil the environment or carry them home.

I believe this was a sort of erotic experience, sensual, even amatory, but not specifically sexual. It was an idyll, a respite, not an obsession. I didn’t know anything about masturbating. I hadn’t known a lust for anyone. This hideaway was a place of peace, and of an undemonstrative power, but also threatened – threatened by my own idea that just being there, naked, was transgressive, making me vulnerable to observation, judgment, and attack. My behavior was abnormal, un-called-for, and obviously pointless.

Still I can wonder, as I may have then, what all was I seeking there, and how much of that did I find?

I’m sure I’d seen photographs at home in National Geographic magazine of primitive people, scarcely dressed, in tropical places, almost as naked as I made myself. I may have wanted to be them or commune with them. What did they know that I didn’t? Or that I didn’t want to forget? Or to have already forgotten?

I think my aim was to access and preserve something unnamable, unspecifiable, a possibly universal quality of living that might be and feel simple and essential. My intuition suggests that, within the erotic pulse of prepubescent self-observation, bathing in the terpenes exuded by all the vegetal growth around me, I was seeking to enact or know my own true self and confirm an identity within the context of a non-verbal ecology, independent of human distinctions and judgments, of societal implications and expectations, of language and structure as I had learned it.

We haven’t found terms to analyze how our early emergence into a uniquely grounded and responsive selfhood are affected by vital relationships with the non-human world around us, including pets, prey, pests, and errant critters, including life forms without a heartbeat, and other unliving stuff they all live in relation to as well – rocks, walls, watercourses, boxes, pollens, UV rays, 4G broadband, stars. The non-human doesn’t relate to us through words, and it seems rarely to express expectations of us. For all we know, these animals, things, elements, all composed of energy, all love us unconditionally in some underlying sense. But we tend to take them for granted as we mature. We forget how vital and intimate, how dynamically alive, our relationships with them still always are.

Without our noticing it much, the non-human environment still responds to us, even as it is now impacted by the human in most every respect. In any given moment, I sense and know myself in part through junctions of connectivity with the non-human environment. This wooden table, this flat-screened laptop, this swiveling wooden owl stool I rest my bottom on – these function as prostheses, extensions. They coordinate my body and mind, facilitating certain functions, whether I notice them consciously or not. They affect and qualify how I am feeling and thinking. How can I describe what changes when I hear the sound of a propane heater’s fan coming on and off? How am I made, or unmade, differently by the ticking of the wall clock? Or the sunshine on the periphery of my vision? A cloudy day would find me different.

I know that my sense of self is adjusted by internal physiological changes and states, too, many of them enigmatic to me, undiscovered territories and unexplained events. My nonverbal human body makes every other aspect of attention and action and sensitivity possible, while my understanding of all that is still pretty sketchy. Like my car, if it works, I needn’t pay much mind to how it works. Our frequent obliviousness to the states and constitution of the body contributes to a disregard for our relationships with everything around us.

We can work on bringing our intimate, caring relationships with animals, plants, and other forms and forces into focused attention through here-and-now mindfulness exercises, through journaling and conversation, through slowing momentarily to take stock of the sensation or perception of a moment. This may support and strengthen our wilingness to ally with the earthly, interdependent environment on which we and other living forms of sensate energy depend. If I stop to observe and notice and feel, I can better ask: What matters to me here? What supports me? How do I support it?

We humans have an intimate, interactive, reciprocal relationship with the nonhuman world, including its underlying natural laws and energies. The nonhuman world affects our functioning, and we affect its functioning, constantly, asleep or awake. Any one moment’s attention may affect our nonhuman world, if only by delaying some other action that might affect it differently. These active, changing relationships occur within an irreducible dynamic network of innumerable other relationships between all nonhuman entities on this planet, as well as all the other humans, nearly all of whom we will never know in name or circumstance.

As humans, perhaps uniquely, we can shape and frame conceptions of relationship. Our sympathetic intelligence can appreciate the liberating power of responding with care to an other. Symbolic language supports our remarkable powers to do so, as well as compromising their intimate realization.

Exploring our capacity for a warmer, more tender, affirmative quality of occasional or continuous attention to these relationships may reframe our despair and anxiety over climate change into loving care and curiosity as to what is present, changing or threatened, and what we may do, individually or collectively, to support our world’s wellness and survival, and our own. I am not speaking of pity or charity but of realizing more viscerally and immediately our actual, mutually contextualized relationships with environmental particulars as integral to our survival and wellness along with that of other life forms and their contexts on this earth. Can I look into the eyes of the fern, the cloud, the gulley, and say sincerely, “I see you”? We are all in this together.

These reciprocal relationships function whether remarked on or not, without words or naming, and largely unconsciously, for us, and perhaps also for the life forms and materials around us. These unconscious relations may to a great degree be explored as unfamiliar territories and welcomed into our personal acknowledgement. Do they flourish already in a collective unconscious?

We are and have been nurtured always by the unimaginably complex interconnected dynamic functioning of all aspects of material existence that we can identify.

Human circumstances are not routinely prioritized in the workings of nature, nor of natural catastrophes. A wildfire might support a forest’s long-term growth and the planet’s life forms without benefiting people living or holding property or planning to harvest in the area affected. In effect, the nurturing of which we can speak here happens indifferently to humans as a particular species or life form. But the planet’s ecology and development, prior to any human influence, made our development as a species possible and our tribal and individual lives capable of their peculiarly refinements of development. 

We have been given, in effect, the grounds of our existence as homo sapiens through our relationships with the nonhuman. Without our reciprocal relationships with the nonhuman we certainly cannot continue to survive, individually or as a species. Contemplating contemporary climate change along with its natural and humanly inflected consequences, including its genocidal function with respect to many species of living organisms, we humans have occasion collectively to feel remorse and guilt, along with our grieving. 

Meanwhile, we continue to coexist with everything else that currently exists, and we continue to experience its interactions with us, however little we notice. We are due to wonder how other forms of life and other entities of the natural world may experience our actions, in their own diverse means of sensitive responsivity. 

We may notice smog, for instance, changing the air in major cities. Although we have technical devices to measure air pollution in detailed ways, we primarily notice it when we sense that it changes our own condition for the worse. We are not often likely to reflect on how air pollution renders the sunsets more colorful, deep and vibrant; we are more likely to notice how visibility is reduced, the sunlit skies get hazier, and our breathing becomes compromised. The degree to which diverse humanly engineered changes in air quality contribute to autism, Alzheimers, and cancers are rarely discussed and disgracefully under-researched. We are even more unlikely to assess the effects of variable air quality on the health and habits of other animals. As humans, we learn how to empower ourselves to choose what to know — to our peril, and that of our co-residents on earth.

Significant, worrisome increases in anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide are appearing in regions marked by severe increases in heat levels. This stqte of Maine sees relatively modest effects of global warming. I may resent erratic weather, damn the invasive plants, fear a flooded basement, curse bothersome insects, frost heaves breaking through my country road and deer jumping to a stop just short of my car. I can observe that every way I feel any selfish antipathy is uncomfortable, in me. Yet I can get used to it. Such attitudes condition us to accept as normal many aggressive interventions and deliberate neglect toward the health of our nonhuman environment that are, cumulatively, deeply destructive and deregulating. Acculturation has led us to prioritize our opportunities to do what we think we want.

Negative emotional reactivity between people often urges on consequences as dangerous to oneself or one’s own tribe as to the other. A fight-or-flight moment disables us from cooperative problem-solving and mindful care for a relationship, provoking instead a patterning of reciprocally destructive harm. If the nonhuman does not fight back, we can feel our aggression is harmless, even justified. Ignoring such relational dynamics reinforces our careless, oblivious complicity in an accumulating and reactive annihilation of the networking of shared needs within which we can live. Our legacy of self-aggrandizing, colonialist, genocidal relations toward the indigenous peoples of this American continent conditions us unconsciously toward the subjugation, exploitation, and destruction of the life forms around us and of the conditions that foster their survival.

We could do worse than deliberately admit them into our attention. We have done worse. We can do better. With pleasure.

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The Concertgoer

An authentic active radical music that seems to revel in its audacity, its dry oblique wit, its divagations and unanticipated contrasts and reframes, all with a moody melancholy sense of loss and impending loss. I have a sense of “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” on the part of myself and of the composer – and of the music.

The performance however is a bit louche.

5 Duo Canons from JSBach’s Art of the Fugue & Kodaly Duo in Dminor Op. 7

We are reminded of the inevitability of the other, its inner laws interacting with our own, in surprises that seem imperative.

I feel like I’ve heard a faithful rendition of everything that’s in the music, but I haven’t heard the music.

Like a like liking its like

Even in a workmanlike rendition

Total Recall??

Expressive of experiences no one can understand who hasn’t been there, and which are extraordinary in their depths and dynamics.

                                                            10 11 2019

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2018 travel notes from West Bank & Israel

I had thought how meaningful and useful it might be to write about all that was said by people I met and trusted in the Occupied Territories of Palestine but then and now I have learned that it is not safe to name and quote them since anyone’s criticisms of Israel are likely to be identified as anti-Semitic (even if spoken by Semite-loving Semites), terrorist, and criminal in the eyes of an Israeli legal, military, and governmental administration. I am still trying to figure out if I can, perhaps laboriously, find a way to present such notes without leading to any person’s or organization’s being identified as subject to increased sanctions. I don’t see any of the persons  met as terrorist, violent, or anti-Semitic, but I am not Israeli and I have no specific legal, familial, or legacy stake in the matter. You may write to me at the address below to ask for more detailed notes.

My photos from the trip are posted at

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/72157665765723327.

My own list of films and resources available to see at home follows here.

Some recommended resources

8 films recommended for study on the interactions and relations involved in Palestine / Israel / Occupation / Zionism :

Colliding Dreams

Rabin, the Last Day

Censored Voices

The Inner Tour

5 Broken Cameras

Arna’s Children

Jenin, Jenin

The Lab                             

[Note: These films have been available to date as discs from

Netflix; you may discover access in other ways as well.]

Two recent nonfiction literary books devoted to addressing Palestine and the Occupation:

Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation, edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, 2017

Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Palestine in the Present Tense, by Marcello Di Cintio, 2018

Some valuable on-line resources:

To read:

The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict, Third Edition, at http://ifamericaknew.org/history/origin.html. 40 readable pages of material quoted from identified sources document issues and events from 3000 BC to 2001.

The past didn’t go anywhere : making resistance to antisemitism part
of all of our movements, at https://archive.org/details/ThePastDidntGoAnywhere. In 34 pages, a booklet on questioning and overcoming antisemitism in thoughts and speech.

Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A primer, at https://www.merip.org/sites/default/files/Primer_on_Palestine-Israel(MERIP_February2014)final.pdf. A fact-based 16-page basic history.

Obstacles to Peace: A reframing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by Jeff Halper, 2016, at https://icahd.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/1/2017/07/Obstacles-to-Peace-May-2016.pdf. An 84-page historical analysis of how things came to this point.

To watch:

We Have a Dream to Live Safe لدينا حلم العيش بأمان is a 12 minute video, completed in 2016, created by youth at Lajee Cultural Center in Bethlehem, characterizing life in Aida Refugee Camp. (Find more videos from the Center at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU74X1lVjSKxjHU05ghvQYA.)

The Great Book Robbery, at https://vimeo.com/48141495 , is a one-hour film made 6 years ago, vividly explains and documents the looting of Palestinian’s libraries in 1948 and their subsequent archiving under Israeli institutions.

Mohammad Alazzah’s videos at https://vimeo.com/user8484839: Five vivid and thoughtful short films from within the Palestinian community.

Please excuse any errors or omissions.

These recommendations stem from my own limited recent experiences.

— Steve Benson

(Send any correspondence to [email protected])

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The Doctrine of Discovery

The Doctrine of Discovery, based in a Papal bull of 1493 and the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, was used throughout the colonial imperialist period to justify the ownership of lands by whatever Christian government’s representatives first set foot on them to claim them, so long as they were previously not occupied by any people subject to a European Christian monarch.

The doctrine’s utility does not appear to have required that such a government be specifically pledged to Christianity nor to have a monarchical governing power, as it was extended. In 1792, as Secretary of State for the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson declared the Doctrine would apply to his newly founded nation as it had to European powers.

The United States Supreme Court agreed that the doctrine justified USAmerican settler colonialist taking of land from indigenous peoples, who were recognized as occupants rather than holders of the land, if and when they were recognized as human. Typically, indigenous occupants of lands subject to such European or settler discovery were regarded as subhuman, savage, or barbarian.

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote for a unanimous Supreme Court in Johnson vs. M’Intosh to the effect that land titles obtained from Native Americans should not be recognized by U.S. courts. Marshall himself had considerable real estate holdings that would have been affected if the case at hand had been decided otherwise. In other cases, the Court also used the Doctrine to justify “the concept that tribes were not independent states but ‘domestic dependent nations’” and to prohibit any tribe from legally prosecuting anyone not a member of that specific tribe.

Despite recent decisions to repudiate the Doctrine by the United Nations Economic and Social Council Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues’ and several prominent U.S. churches, it remains foundational in the establishment and continuity of legal and property rights in the U.S. and has never been disavowed or overturned by the U.S. government.

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the state of Israel appears to re-enact this principle in its relations with the Palestinian peoples (including Christian Palestinians), compounding its methodology with the principle of the right of return of the Jewish peoples, stemming primarily from Europe and the United States. The lack of a formal Palestinian state formation prior to the development of Zionist settlement following the break-up of the Ottoman empire in the first World War has been drawn on to support the premise that there never was a Palestine, nor a Palestinian people.

Those native to lands intended for settlement or appropriation, whether still now subject to military occupation or actively colonized by Jewish communities with state support, are typically regarded by high officers of the Jewish state as, without exception, nothing but terrorists, non-existent, or less than fully human. Palestinians employed as workers in cities and towns in Israel are subject to strict conditions that disempower the labor force and contribute to instability and vulnerability of working Palestinians. Human rights as recognized by Israel and other democratic states as essential to the protection of citizens are not acknowledged as pertinent to Palestinians in Israel or its occupied territories.

The Israeli state’s methods of dislodging, degrading, terrorizing, evacuating, and restricting a great many diverse rights of the Palestinian population sustain a process of gradual genocide. This process closely resembles the management of relations with the indigenous peoples of territories the United States has chosen to colonize, settle, and lay claim to and govern, often in violation of treaties previously established with various tribal authorities.

The imperialist conquests and the violent and oppressive impositions of colonial power they reputedly validated continue to be enacted in Palestine and elsewhere, despite consequences easily identified as catastrophic and profoundly inhumane, except by those who do not regard the indigenous in fellowship as sentient, intelligent human beings.

To this day, religion is in many cases cited as authority for one power’s or people’s superiority of authority and rights over another. (The secular faith in an “invisible hand” of commercial markets, wiser than any state or person, appears to have evolved into playing such a role on demand in some instances, in support of state or corporate powers over the indigenous people of a region.)

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a note, more like an aside, on the poetry community

I had another thought about the poetry community thing and it’s far-fetched or simple-minded or right on, I’m not sure. It’s my suspicion that much of the time it’s not only the diminished hope of returns in ongoing timespace of human relating that feels like it’s in scarcity and that risk of missing the boat threatens connectivity but also the diminished hope of ongoing interpersonal timespace itself in the face of global economic insecurity, climate change, nuclear proliferation, diminishing h20 resources, increasing expectation of imminent terrorist deracination and infrastructural collapse — all the things I myself think of when I decide maybe I prefer not to live forever. (I can’t think of any other reason not to I’ve forever, but those can, on increasing realization of what we can for the moment call fears, add up not only to my personal suffering but my being one more uneasy burden on whoever is young and bright enough to negotiate the radically catastrophic and revamped future we may be up against to ever accelerating degrees). I know this is kind of a grim thought, and it doesn’t occur to me while I am dialoguing with you but later, in a subway car, after listening to people talk (for the most part, very compellingly and well and intelligently, even brilliantly) about the schizophrenogenic circumstances of life in Israel and Palestine (these being two names for the same thing, of course, at least in more than one way). I wonder if what I’ve just referred to, which is I believe more an intrinsic internalized cross-population un-ease than a litany or inventory of risk and worry, also underlies the rising tide of typographical errors in all writing, on line or published in print, across recent years. This morning, reading two Poetry Foundation website articles on Laura Elrick’s book Propagation, I find in each one patently inadvertent but unmarked typo, each time in a lengthy quotation from a review published (on line, presumably) elsewhere. Was the error (e.g., ‘and’ for ‘an’) not noticed in the original, then again not noticed in the essay quoting it? Who’s minding the store? Probably, as we were saying, the person so delegated, if they exist, is overworked, not sleeping enough, has digestive track (tract? why can’t I tell which word is right?) trouble, and is distracted by terror of a sort they can’t focus on, focusing instead on sort of doing the right thing, even if that’s a suspect project and in any case it can’t be done entirely right.

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On the occasion of the unthinkable

From a letter to Thom Donovan, 03 16 2017: I am grateful for your sustained discussion with me of the unclear and yet also lucid topic of ‘going crazy’ in the name of integrity and socially realistic and fluid realization of the power of discourse to make more sense than logic or ‘common sense’ will allow. (That, anyhow, is how I can momentarily phrase the topic we have shunted back and forth, or caroomed on through in this dialogue.)

The final words of the paragraph you offer resonate for me, now as I read them again, months after I first read them and had to let them wait a while before finding psychic elbow room to respond in good faith.

I guess this is what matters in going crazy–stepping far enough outside of common sense that one would appear crazy (and/or dangerous) to those for whom the world is structured. Or, that by assuming the common sense of those whose lives have never had value or power–whose common sense has in other words never constituted the commons–you risk the sensual certainties of the world as it has been given to you. Perhaps this is all the craziness of which I speak entails: these structures of hate becoming clear and the instability psychically and otherwise which results from this…

The concept of ‘common sense,’ like that of ‘normal,’ has become increasingly infuriating and impatience-provoking to me, such that I rail against them regularly in psychotherapy sessions and elsewhere. Either is what it says it is merely in the eyes of a beholder, and different to each when actually articulated, and those of any supposed authority who assume and reassure others of consensus on such matters are virtually (or would-be) brainwashing, if perhaps more inept in reaching their goals. Thus, I am glad for each opportunity I encounter to turn a position against common sense or the seeming positive or negative value attributed to ostensible normality, in whatever assumption or projection it appears, and whether my position is articulated formally, logically, flamboyantly, or manneristically, I can see it as rather wild, though not close to insane from my point of view.

Others who don’t identify ‘common sense’ and allegations of normality in some trait, achievement, or ideation as conceptually and linguistically insane might well see my own positions as insane. Such indeed seems to be the nature of our social discourse, among the body politic, to a greater extent than ever, in the age of Drumpf. It seems to be now supremely difficult for homo sapiens americanus to dialogue and perform active listening exercises with one another across the enormous divide between belief systems as identified by George Lakoff and others. I have hopes of diverse individuated crossings over from right to left as the nation itself goes down the drain and millions are sacrificed to the god of Mammon. I fear now as ludicrous my personal wishes that such conversions occur soon enough, nonviolently, and effectively to a degree that may allow subsequent generations in this and other regions of the planet to live with adequate water, food, energy, peaceable intertribal relations, and felicitous climatic conditions for survival and perhaps even exercises of imagination and reflection. At this point, it seems presumptuous and absurd to anticipate such supposedly ‘normal’ conditions half a century from now.

Given the US government’s and populace’s functionally ‘insane’ two-step of acceptance and avoidance around the patent evidence and awareness of climate change over the past 30 years since folks like you and me began to take it quite seriously, as well as how the same ambivalent but seemingly effortless dance step has played out in relation to nuclear proliferation and class and race relations in this country, it is hard not to presume that the erratic and clumsy strategies and tactics with which Drumpf plainly hopes to collapse his nation and his planet into a disaster capitalism windfall will be largely taken by the routinized public as embarrassing but tolerable foibles along the path toward some city on some hill, while imagining his hidden better nature soon or somehow emerging to reconcile the balance between catastrophe and supremacy in some unformulatable constellation of adroit adjustments — of a sort neither he nor others in our government have demonstrated competency in devising, beyond the rhetoric of promises. “Believe me” has become the bottom line of our minority president’s appeal to his electorate’s judgment and reason.


written in Facebook, 03 19 2017, after linking to Steven Reisner’s 03 15 2017 article in Slate on whether Drumpf has a mental illness:

The minority president tends to bait and provoke fights with others of any standing, authority, or power, whenever he is not idealizing and fawning over them. He is restless and competitive and not done twisting truth and seeking power and contesting all challenges to his integrity and reality. He has filled key cabinet and advisory posts that are usually taken by civilians with former combat generals, when not with corporate bosses and financial sharks. As he gradually antagonizes and argues down his own chosen crew, turns all but the diehards in the electorate against him, and wrecks or sacrifices all but the most venal international alliances on principle, won’t he decide the enemy is us (the US)? I anticipate his deliberate and triumphant turn against the people (except whoever continues to pile glory on him)?Will he begin to feel out his team’s readiness to stage a military coup? Might his military advisors and their cronies react to all that too-muchness by launching one against him (and us)? If not, why not?

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Coordination was the Nazi-era term for normalization

I have less and less confidence in our national checks and balances’ capability to cope with disturbances in our political system’s functions that are deeply prepared, procedurally, ideologically, and unconsciously. Climate change could be a simple test case for our system: has the interaction of the 3 branches of government, with their typical swaying from L to R to L between two parties (which we may see as radical right and centrist-enabling) managed to do its share to ward off global warming responsibly to its own citizens and to the peoples of the world whose basic rights it vows to protect? I find there is little grounds for trust or confidence, and much for shock and awe.

Coordination, within our consumer culture, is easily done by passively standing by, noting the authorities’ current statements, behaviors, and undertakings, and commenting with more or less vehemence than one might show while watching NFL play-offs. Shock, disdain, worrying, and lamentation among diverse fragments of the population are readily enfolded within the capacities of large-scale national coordination in service to a centralized regime supported by large corporate sponsors.

The alternative, as I understand it, is not just to criticize but to actively and visibly participate in alternatively oriented statements, behaviors, and undertakings. Food distribution nonprofits. Nonviolence direct action trainings. Public documentary film screenings concerned with peace, justice, and deepening awareness of interpersonal challenges. Petitions and donations on line.

Commentary is not enough. Conjoint participation in a meaningful activity with others is vital. This working group on the study of authoritarianism is, however, an active agency of contesting misuses of power and of allegiance, which requires concerted energy to sustain its function and may result in increased strength in a community’s will to resist radical disempowerment and to envision realistic and inspiring options for the near and distant future.

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24 hours, 09 10-11 2016

There exists, there remains, some possibility of rain, incipient, pregnant, pausing,
about to be realized.
As it said in the guidebook, if the road is muddy,
you may not like it.
I’m surprised, given ostensibly extraordinary lack of rainfall,
that the road is wet and muddy in places.
Even though I don’t like it, it’s not bad,
it’s still walkable, and my feet are not sinking into anything, though it’s slippery,
a little slippery.
It’s wet in the atmosphere too, as I have been told is characteristic
of Nova Scotia and of Cape Breton.
I walk along the River Denys Mountain Road.
I did not expect to come across it so soon, nor to walk down it so soon.
I found it
because the sign pointed it out.
I was looking more for signs for the roads across the street preceding it,
which I did not notice, but maybe I was distracted,
thinking about your text to me, thinking about what the environment meant to me,
thinking about the present.
My idea was, whatever is present is what I can comment on.
I can’t say much else. There’s a sign by the side of this mountain road,
this dirty mountain road,
This reminds me of the guidebook again, a guidebook I do not have, did not bring,
looked at only yesterday and not for long, choosing this road
as a trail for a relaxing and convenient walk on my way into Cape Breton today,
and maybe it will be, so. I want to stay attentive to the present
because I don’t trust my knowledge of anything else.
I don’t trust my anticipation of theft, mugging, conspiracy, surveillance.
I do believe that I see puddles of water, reflecting, in brown, the sky,
as seen between tree limbs and branches and tree trunks. I do believe
that I parked my car, back there, on a piece of earth recently moved so as to create
a place to park or turn one’s car around.
It serves, though unfortunately to my mind
it appears to have resulted in some breakage and movement of some tree limbs and trunks towards the slope down to the river, which is not visible from here.
I don’t even know if I can hear it.
I only suppose that I am walking parallel to it
and may soon, at some time, catch sight of it again and hear it more clearly.
When Bob and I walked through the ovens we recorded the sound of water
sluicing up the channel between severely sharp tilts of rockage into the caverns, tubular, lengthy at times, and grotesquely dangerous to any potential swimmer or boat that might be washed in as the waves thundered proudly and indignantly triumphantly demanding and confirming their domain temporarily as they hit the air inside and the rocks and the water and whatever flotsam and muck they had stirred up and pushed toward the back end of the cavern, the oven, the tube, to where rock creates or sustains a limit, and rushed faster and faster back to crash against another oncoming wave, from the ocean.


As a travelogue this may be the best I can do. I present a travelogue concerning a transit of Cape Breton. I’m not sure how to pronounce it. I’m walking uphill. Rocks are embedded in the road, or the road was created out of dirt that existed and was put down and around among many rocks, some of which were pushed away, no doubt, and many of which remain, barely visible, at the surface. As the roadway curves, it goes up. On the drive here, I listened, from the area of Lunenberg, to the area of Agrichamonte, no, that’s not the name of it, but it’s a city that starts with A-g-r-i in which a Catholic university exists. Most of that duration I listened to the first disc recorded as a reading of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, whose fiction I am not personally familiar with, aside from reading Ethan Fromm in high school. I know that her other books are not much like that, or so I think. Anyway, I observed, through the English accent of the man reading the novel, that there exists or is sustained, evidently, quite a bit of complacency among the key characters and their associates, despite change taking place. Not only will a new opera house be built that will alter the census and divisions of their milieu, but they realize that getting engaged to be married changes things, at least a little, and maybe a lot, despite well-worn passages of expectations awaiting any newly engaged couple, and furthermore, that the return of an errant cousin, fetchingly beautiful and ostensibly more than available for intimacy and inquisition, will disrupt many expectations and perhaps derail life plans for her and others, if they have any. Some have plans primarily to keep things pretty well the same, but she, being a woman who has absconded from a marriage that appears to have been contrary to her needs, in another country, to return home under the shadow of an unfortunately scandalous reputation, may have no plans for normalcy other than perhaps that which she recalls from her childhood and adolescence, when her expectations, however barren, appeared in the context of an ostensible normalcy for her class and its local customs. The voice I heard there affects my speaking voice in this travelogue, as does a different male voice I listened to in the previous hour or so, reading aloud another novel, this one by Alan Furst, another one of whose World War Two espionage novels I have read on the page, perhaps ten years ago. And the traveler at the moment at the crux of this tale, moving alone between holiday, work, and home, work, appears increasingly anxious, and I suspect realistically so, that he will be arrested and stalled, detained and questioned, and, whereas he expects this will lead to beatings, torture, and death by firing squad or other mode of secretive state execution, I suspect he will be flipped or turned, as the expression may be, to become an agent for the opposing forces, namely, in this instance, the Third Reich. Therefore, his status and what people understand of it will be brutally different, even though no one may realize that he has indeed flipped, turned, been so recruited. Looking down the embankment, which now is very steep, as I have been walking uphill since the point at which I mentioned the roadway turning and curving, I see a very large blue can on its side in the woods, which mostly are pristine new growth, where what they were like a year or ten years or fifty years ago, I cannot say. The can might be a can used to hold paint that such as house paint or car paint that awaits sale from its manufacturer or a retail outlet. None of those is available for questioning here, but I do spot another piece of trash at my feet. This seems to be the top end of a Budweiser can, or, no maybe it’s Coca-Cola, I’m not sure. The script on one side reminds me of Budweiser, and they talk about the wood aging produces, and on the other side I see red with some blank angled lines in it, which reminds me of Coke, but then again it could be that funny logo at the top of a beer can that might be Budweiser. It’s a long time since I’ve looked at a Budweiser can, and so it is almost facetious, no, I think it is facetious for me to attempt to attribute this fragment of a can, flattened by many vehicle tires passing over it, heavy with the weight of vehicles and their contents— I’m not sure what it is, other than feeling sure that it is the ripped-apart top end of a can in which some sort of a drink, probably beer—and how can one be sure of a probably?—was once held, sustained, kept under some pressure, readied for sale at a retail outlet, to persons visiting or residing in these parts of lower Cape Breton.


Twenty or thirty paces further, I see a box
left over from a double six-pack of Budweiser in trees which are on their sides
broken off close to the road, downhill,
beneath them many elements of garbage including other
six-pack or twelve-pack containers
and metal cabinets and something I would think of
as a homeless person’s tent shelter if I weren’t so sure that
no homeless person would want to live amid quite such a mess as that
in quite such a distance from other resources of transportation
or assistance when needed. More sky
appears available soon, around a bend.
I’m developing a coating of perspiration around my trunk, as I continue to walk uphill without much difficulty, aside from the difficulty of speaking, while doing so without inordinate panting registering, probably again, without my knowing for sure, in the recording.
If the road had gone straight, I would soon, I suspect, be at a clearing,
with much sky available overhead to consider
the cloudy overcast gloom of,
but the road’s bend seems to be intent upon maintaining its trajectory through woods, and now, further, and further, from the river,
from which it draws its name. And more, and more
in favor of achieving some heights on the surface of the mountain
from which it draws its name.


Time holds many mysteries it does not disclose or explain here in the mountains, at least along my trajectory upward along some side of some mountain here. I can see
by my trusty reliable wristwatch that I have walked about half an hour already
since leaving the car behind me, and yet it feels much shorter.
I’ve perhaps been in a transcendent flight of fancy as a creative agent.
I’ve been enchanted, not by the sound of my own voice, which I barely care to listen to at all, but by the actions of producing it, which in fact are fully astonishing to me.
How can I possibly, how can I possibly produce a voice, with sounds emanating from my body, toward the pick-up, if you’ll pardon the expression, of an electronic device, which later, perhaps coupled with another such as earbuds or my personal computer, may reward my ears with a moderately accurate and reliable re-presentation of the sound, without my needing then to move my mouth or even comprehend the words at all. It will not translate them into Russian. It will not twist them around so that they are presented backwards. It will not undermine their integrity as human utterances to present to me the sound of a barking dog. I will instead hear them about the same time and rate and speed and emphasis and tone of voice and syntactical arrangement as I deliver them right now. How to understand this I cannot say except to accept that it is customary to do so, or to accept that the unthinkable is happening even now, right now, as usual, for me, as it can and has and will, for many others.


To speak, as I have been doing, off and on, much of the time I have been walking here, on the River Denys Mountain Road, has a salubratory—salubrious?—effect, namely, as I speak I am extremely unlikely to clench or grind my teeth. Therefore, my teeth are less likely to become increasingly loose and wobbly in my mouth or rubbed awkwardly against each other, destroying parts of the enamel thereon. Otherwise, I’m not sure of the point of walking further on this trail and therefore am turning around, in full recognition that I have no reason to suspect it will create a loop and little reason to imagine I will attain a viewpoint of anything beyond the foliage immediately adjoining the pathway or dirt road I’m on at any particular moment in the near future. It might take another hour or two, which I could spare, and yet I find that I’m exercising my legs and sweat glands more than adequately on the basis of this walk up and back. So I allow myself this relatively easeful and gentle downhill walk, which I hope will terminate in my discovery of my locked vehicle, my ability to enter it, and my success in driving it out of this dirt roadway onto a highway leading to my hostel of the evening, where I might set up my bedding and assess the options for supper and an evening’s quiet, complacent recreation.


I drove into Baddeck and parked, so that I could go into Tom’s Pizza. It’s called Tom’s Pizza, quote, The Best Pizza Anyway You Slice It, enquote. And, I don’t know, it seems like a cheap place to eat something good. I wonder if they have a liquor license. I might need to go to a bar before or after. I don’t know. I’m outdoors, but I’m in the car. There’s a lot of people around here. The eaters, the walkers. I’m going to go for a walk. Talk to you later.


Cape Breton. Tenth September, eleven fifty-five a.m., Cape Breton time.
In Cape Breton, all that which is ordinary is increasingly ordinary as I continue to explore further and deeper, farther and wider, and all that is extraordinary, special, unusual, remarkable, and amazing, becomes more amazing as I proceed. At times these are one and the same, for example, a young woman walking down the highway, into Ingersoll something, between Ingersoll Beach and Ingersoll proper, at a point where there are cottages, and no place to stop for photography that is not awkward. I do not photograph her but what she may see as she walks.


Back a little further, chasing this siren to the other side of Swamp Road, I come to the Periwinkle Café, another quarry of the last half hour having been café latte or at least a coffee, I stop there and photograph her across the dashboard, as she walks further past down toward Ingersoll Beach. Inside, I find a jewel-maker’s station, followed by, in the middle of the building, a café counter, with fresh-baked goods of diverse sorts, hearty, strengthening, and sweet, and attractive, with a man with a long beard and thin hair and body, and two young women—all three young, actually—serving espresso drinks and lemonade, and whatever else you might wish, next to a precise oil reproduction of a Wayne Thiebaud painting of slices of chocolate cake, their frosting almost shining, despite indirect lighting.


Today is wonderful for being here, because it’s cool, breezy, sunny, and cloudy. A bad day for a swim at the inland lake, but marvelous for standing and staring into space, towards whatever’s on the other side, since it’s constantly changing. The same landscape sustains viewing for as long as one has the patience to continue to discover new things in it, small things, sensitive things. The air is magnificently clear, and easy to look through.


Green Gove, thick with striated red rocks. Pink, white, granite, nice, with crystals glinting. Waves crashing. Rocks tumbled and coalesced into platforms surfaces mounds. Encounters of landscape.


It was said of Ellen, when she was a child, she was so beautiful that she really ought to be painted. Her parents were wanderers. They died. She took up with her aunt, for the rest of her childhood, who also was a wonderer and tried to settle down in New York, the setting of this novel. To paint a painting of the landscape is to settle it down, to fix it, to keep it, to take it and put it inside, inside one’s home, or the bank, the museum, the restaurant. Without that, it is a flux of memory, it is uncertain, it is unfocused, and out of focus it stays transmutative. But once fixed in a painting or a photograph, it becomes a thing that may be held in propriety, owned upon a wall, kept in sight, and under the protection of those who would have it always.


Like that of the coast of Maine, as it proceeds further north, the geology of Cape Breton must be something amazing, unusual, remarkable to study. Adjectives well up inside me, based on my enthusiasm. I don’t know what to think. Driving further toward Meat Cove, I don’t know how far I will get. I can only say every mile is more valuable than the last, so there is no mistake in coming this way.


Meat Cove is the northern-most community in Cape Breton, and here I don’t drive down to the beach, because that road looks too rugged. Instead, I pull over on a narrow shoulder, alongside the entrance to what is posted as Mountain Trail, in order to hoist myself above the crevasse that opens into becoming the community, However, what I find is, the trail doesn’t really go anywhere and is quite overgrown. If anything it’s a matter of a small loop from one edge of the road to the next. Or just walking over a rise. Perhaps all the trails posted in Meat Cove are a sort of prank or hoax to intrigue the visitors with the quaint and curious manners of its entrepreneurial initiative.


Between St. Margaret and Capstick I eat my lunch at the foot of a river, I believe it’s the Salmon River, and under a bridge, fighting down over pink granite mixed with all sorts of rock, to the edge of the water and back up the other side of the bridge. Anyway, I head back now, through St. Margaret, and the Bay Road Valley, Sugarloaf, Espe Bay, to Cape North, and then down through Sunrise and Big Intervale, until I reach a trail called Lone Shieling, where I might say, be able to see some three-hundred-and-fifty-year-old sugar maple trees. I think I’d like that.


The woods at North Shieling are beautiful, fresh, refreshing, relaxing. Remarkable. Birches, maples, old, deep, near the creek. But why am I taking so many pictures? Okay, I don’t see another woods like this, anywhere else. Here I see it.
Why do I take so many pictures? Someone else will surely have taken these pictures, or ones about like it, I could find on line, through my electronic devices.
Instead I take my own, with my own handheld electronic device, the cell,
which makes it seem like one in a skedillion of cells that together comprise an organism of intelligence. Anyway, if I take the pictures, I am holding the experience, and if I take the pictures, I am mitigating some of the passion, the awe, the longing, the loneliness, the overwhelm, the ecstasy, and the loss that are involved in witnessing, beholding, such a place, such an experience of my own.
It’s a way of holding it at a distance, keeping myself halfway here and halfway in the memory of being here and halfway in the futurity of regarding it again to share, to show, to tell about, to remember, in another incarnation, as I will have changed and become somebody else or someplace else.


If one were to record the sound of water moving against earth, especially I think of stones and rocks and other water, as I did today. I recorded water breaking against rocks at the edge of the ocean, I recorded water coursing down under a bridge in the brook, and I recorded water beneath and of a waterfall at Macintosh Brook. To do this supports my attention to listening to the sound of the water, appreciating their distinct qualities, rhythms, differences, tonalities, prosody. I am only partly listening to them. Would I listen to them more if I were not recording? More openly, more fully, as when, if I take off my sunglasses and walk through the woods, I see more fully, I am more fully within and a part of the world that is in my field of vision, than when I find frames around it, between the in focus and the out of focus, between the filtered and the unfiltered light, reflecting from it. Good question. I think that I might actually listen more when I am recording even though still my listening will be quite partial. That is to say, I partially listen, but I fix my attention to the idea of listening, now and in the future, so that I may be listening for what I might listen for in the future, or listen to, or be surprised to hear in the future, or be complacent and matter of fact about hearing in the future, but I’m not thinking a lot about such future attitudes and perceptions. I’m mostly thinking about what I would want to preserve, and how much of it, and what it sounds like now, and I hope it will sound like that in the recording, later, but I know it might not. And, meanwhile, I think that later I will hear it again, also partially, with many distractions, reframes, other ideas coming and going, ideas about what I’m listening to, and the fact that I’m listening to it, as well as other ideas, that are in the way, crowding around and into my consciousness at that time. I’ve been thinking about what it might mean to cease use of alcohol for a person whose use is chronic and dependent, who finds it difficult or impossible presently to stop using alcohol, who finds the need or the expectation, the hope and anticipation of use of alcohol is a pregnant and persistent and typical theme of the day, again and again and again, rather than feeling, “Okay, well, I’ll wait and do it later. Oh, I know when I’ll do it, I’ll have one, that’ll be good, that’ll be fine,” which to me seems preferable. However, for some people, that may not be do-able, especially if a more intensive and chronic use of alcohol across the day has been established as a practice and custom and a presumptive need. Then, I thought one would feel happier, I believe, if one didn’t have that difficulty with a need that one knows is debilitating one’s wellness, precipitating depression and inflammation and therefore many other illnesses, psychological and physiological. So a person might prefer not to have that chronic use and need of alcohol, and instead, a person might be more willing and happy to consume more fruits and vegetables and grains and nuts, if not so dependent on alcohol. A person might be more capable of willing and enjoying exercise of a moderate and even intensive quality, if not so chronically dependent on alcohol. What occurred to me was that to choose some inspirational readings, including primarily those that have nothing to do with alcohol, that do not remind one of one’s interest in alcohol or one’s habits of having used alcohol, but that simply are encouraging, inspirational or philosophically inspiring texts, such that one might, again and again, read a paragraph or two at a time, when one feels that strong urge to drink, and instead of taking a drink, one might feel that that’s good enough, that that’s satisfactory, that that’s comfortable, and read another paragraph after that later, when one feels that urge or need or the frustration and aggravation, the annoyance and ill temper that might come in the first weeks of not drinking. So it would help to always have a volume or two handy to be able to read a fragment of again. I thought that might well succeed. It would depend also on no alcohol being available. If one
in such a situation were around others who were drinking alcohol or talking about their interest in soon drinking alcohol or making alcohol available to sight, that would be a difficult provocation to resist, and preferably no experiences like that would be present for the first month or three of someone’s trying to give up alcohol. It might even be permanently required, but I would think usually not.


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