The Hatchling: Struggling . . . Action

Hatchling on a Memphis Sidewalk

 Action expresses priorities.     

~ Mohandas Gandhi 

Walking in Memphis along a tree-lined street, I noticed a hatchling on the ground. That baby bird had some big feet disproportionate to its body. I stopped. Of course, I stopped. Frightened with three people hovering over it, the bird kept moving and hopping. It was directionless, lost, and vulnerable. 

I wondered if a cat would ultimately get my bird. Some wild animals like foxes make their way into downtown Memphis so who knows what else awaited the hatchling. 

Eventually, I walked away looking back several times at the bird. We reached Methodist Hospital, our destination, but I was still thinking about that bird. Maybe I should have tried to grab it, find the nest, and put it back. 

At  the hospital, I took the elevator with an elderly woman who reminded me of my grandmother. She got off at her floor and looked around lost hauling her oxygen tank. I said to my colleagues as the doors closed, I should have gotten off and helped her. Another moment, another chance missed. She reminded me of the bird–directionless, lost, and vulnerable.

Gandhi Finger Puppet

In the hospital finally at a meeting, I was in a pensive mood. The colleague we were visiting had a pile of little finger puppet on his desk. Someone picked one up. Another said something about the puppets. My colleague, the host of the meeting, picked up the Gandhi finger puppet and said, “That’s for you.” I held it in my hand. Put it on my finger. I said, “Why Gandhi?” He said, “You know, environment . . . justice . . . the thing you do.” 

Description on Gandhi Finger Puppet

Stepping  out the building the grandmotherly woman was waiting by the door probably for her ride. She was making it through ok.  My colleagues and I walked back to work and the hatchling was gone. Who knows what happened to my baby bird. Maybe it made it.

I shoulda. I coulda. I am certainly no Gandhi but in the struggle, I need to move from thinking to acting like the great man. That thing I do responding to the bird, the woman, to creatures, to people.

Photographs by Dianne Glave

Advertisements

This Girl from Queens Can Say She’s Seen American Bison!

I’m just bouncing back from my morning at Shelby Farms in Memphis. Started out with a group a bit after 10a and the Tennesse sun was HOT. The weatherman said it would be feel like 110 with the heat index. He was right. The hike was slated for 2 hours. I made it to an hour. I am not ashamed. I’m just glad I got out there.

Rooted in the Earth at Shelby Farms

And I saw American BISON. That alone was worth the trip. I never thought growing up as an African American girl in Queens, I’d ever see bison.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh, and I was blow drying my hair at home. I looked at my leg and saw what looked like speck of red dirt. Oh no, it was a chigger. I was so shocked, I dropped my dryer and broke it. Creature was red on top with wiggly legs on the underbelly. Yccch.

PHOTOS BY DIANNE GLAVE

Stevie Wonder’s “Village Ghetto Land” From an Environmental Perspective

Who is Stevie Wonder, this gifted man who wrote and sings “Village Ghetto Land”? Stevie was born in 1950 in Michigan. He was born prematurely and while in an incubator, he lost his sight. Today, we know him as the talented singer, song-writer, instrumentalist, producer, and community activist. I would argue Stevie is one of the world’s most renowned musical artists in the world of all time.       

“Village Ghetto Land” is on the “Songs in the Key of Life” LP. Tamia Records released the album in 1976. The album hit number one on the Billboard Album chart immediately.    

Stevie co-wrote “Village Ghetto Land” with Gary Bird. All of the instruments were also played by Stevie. The song probably wasn’t released as a single because it never charted.    

Here’s one of my personal memories of the album; I’m sure many people connect a song to a memory, an experience. I was sitting in the back  of my cousin Denise’s car with her daughter Christina. We were all driving back from New Jersey headed to St. Albans–that’s in the boro of Queens in New York–on a cold day after a family Thanksgiving dinner. During the drive, Christina and I belted out all the songs from the album as we peered through the windows looking at the landscape of naked trees lining streets that became highways under fall grey skies.  

Sisters Melissa and Christina

The song “Village Ghetto Land” focuses on environmental justice and racism before these terms were part of our vernacular. Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” probably an influenced Stevie when writing “Village Ghetto Land” because both songs are about social justice. 

 Read the lyrics:  

Village Ghetto Land  Would you like to go with me
Down my dead end street
Would you like to come with me
To Village Ghetto Land         

See the people lock their doors
While robbers laugh and steal
Beggars watch and eat their meal from garbage cans   

Broken glass is everywhere
It’s a bloody scene
Killing plagues the citizens
Unless they own police      

 Children play with rusted cars
Sores cover their hands
Politicians laugh and drink-drunk to all demands         

Families buying dog food now
Starvation roams the streets
Babies die before they’re born
Infected by the grief        

Now some folks say that we should be
Glad for what we have
Tell me would you be happy in Village Ghetto Land        

Village Ghetto Land        

When I sing these lyrics out loud, I visualize a street that is more like a garbage dump and less like a healthy neighborhood. The sense of poverty is strongest in the images of people eating garbage and children suffering with sores on their hands probably from their playground of rusted cars.     

The images take me to another place in the twenty-first century. I think about impoverished people in struggling towns, that were more like hamlets or small villages, in the shadow of chemical plants in Louisiana. I sat in the midst of tombstones in a graveyard of one of those hamlets that was populated more with the dead than the living.

Watch and listen to Stevie Wonder sing “Village Ghetto Land”:

George Michael’s cover of Village Ghetto Land  is another good listen.    

St. Albans, New York

PHOTOS BY DIANNE GLAVE

Where in the World is Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage?

As we get closer to the publication of the book, Rooted in the Earth is going to a few places. Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage will be out August 1, 2010. Maybe you will see Rooted in the Earth out and about in early August.

Today, Rooted in the Earth is feeling kinda lazy. Hiking might be the plan over the weekend.

Guest Blog: EcoSoul’s Eco Trauma and the Gulf Oil Spill

I am grateful that I am getting know the person behind EcoSoul on FB. EcoSoul is doing important work in health and spirituality: “EcoSoul is a healing arts practice based in Oakland, CA dedicated to raising awareness of the health benefits of Mindfulness and connecting to the natural world. Join us the 3rd Saturday of every month for Bay Area Nature Strolls for People of Color.” (EcoSoul FB)  

Grand Isle, Louisiana, 2004

I was moved by EcoSoul’s musings on the Gulf Oil Spill:

I find myself near tears every time I see images of the disaster caused by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve resorted to not reading everything that is posted on FB nor watching much television but as I spend time in South Texas with my family I am reminded of the intimate connection I have had with the Gulf. It is the first natural body of water I ever swam in, and it is the body of water that gave me the taste of my first shrimp. It is the place I spent time with my mother as a child; just she and I walking along the beach enjoying each others company. I am grateful for the Gulf and as a spiritual person who is an Oricha priest I recognize the natural spirit of Yemaya as a deity of nurturance and family and abundance and the home of the millions of ancestors that did not survive the Middle Passage. I weep for all that humans have done to desecrate the earth, sky and sea. We have become alienated against nature, due to a variety of reasons but now we have the opportunity to reconnect, to wake up and recognize that we are not separate from nature and all of it is sacred. This is a revolutionary idea for some; the belief and understanding that nature is sacred, that there are messages of healing and hope found in the bosom of the earth if only we would make ourselves available to listen. So as we take in the trauma of seeing millions of gallons of oil in the gulf and the many animal and plant life that have been destroyed honor the trauma that you feel–it means you are ALIVE and a feeling sentinent being; you are not strange, or too sensitive you are a human being that recognizes and feels your connection to all beings not just the two legged.

Pier on Grand Isle, Louisiana, 2004

An Ecotherapy blog post by Linda Buzzel states that psychology is gaining a better understanding of the impact of second hand trauma on the human psyche. And because of the ubiquity of the environmental and human disasters we now face, most of us suffer from it. According to the psychologist Peter Levine the author of “Waking the Tiger: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences” animals deal with trauma by literally shaking it off and going on with life, and not getting themselves stuck in the fight, flight freeze syndrome that keeps humans in a constant state of stress.

The new field of ecotherapy suggests we develop strategies to learn how to deal with this type of trauma. Reconnecting with nature through ritual, joining a local conservation group, advocating for environmental justice, and reducing our consumption of oil are some strategies for healing the trauma and pain we may feel.

May we all find our way back home to our true nature, may our prayers of healing extend to our nonhuman allies and may we shake off this trauma so that we can be awake and grounded to make sure that it never happens again.

PHOTOS BY DIANNE GLAVE

Memphis by the Mississippi on a Hot Afternoon

After lunch at The Memphis Rumba Room, I braved the bright hot sunlight by the Mississippi River in Memphis. I got more than enough Vitamin D out there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Learn more about the Mississippi: University of Memphis Mississippi River Project and National Parks Service’s Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Can a Year on a Farm Based on Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Work?

Barbara Kingsolver with Steve L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food. HarperCollinsPublishers. 2007.    

Barbara Kingsolver says in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food, “Our culture is not acquainted with the idea of food as a spiritually loaded commodity. We’re just particular about which spiritual arguments we’ll accept as valid for declining certain food. Generally unacceptable reasons: environmental destruction, energy waste, the poisoning of workers. Acceptable: it’s prohibited by a holy text.” (p. 67). I say both our land and the food produced on that land must be treated as unequivocally holy! 

 As I began to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I felt that the spirituality and holiness she describes is at odds with who does and doesn’t have accessibility to green places including farms. Certainly, the upper middle- or upper classes could pull off living off the land as an experiment.

I had another response to the book: I realized I shared some of Kingsolver’s ideological and practical concerns about American foodways. Louisiana Voices defines foodways as, “obtaining, preparing, serving food and stories and beliefs about food.”  Perhaps considering some of these concerns could be a bridge to the spiritual and holy when it comes to land and produce.  

Stepping back a bit, Kingsolver describes the purpose of her family’s foodways journey and book: “We wanted to live in a place that could feed us: where rain falls, crops grow, and drinking water bubbles right up out of the ground. (p. 3). She got away from a life in Tuscon where distributors ship in food from far-away places and water is running so low that in the near future it will not support the existing population. Here are the costs: fuel must be purchased to ship the food and when water is diverted to desert places like Arizona someone else has diminished access to water.     

Kingsolver and her family moved from Arizona to the southern Appalachia to live off the fruits of their labor on a farm and limit their purchases to local farmers. The Kingsolver clan made it sound relatively simple: relocate and then experiment on the land for a year.   

 Let’s think it through. “A Year of Food” requires resources, which includes money for expenses, and comfortably owning or renting a working arable farm. Before actually arriving at a farm, the average working- to middle-class family would have to turn on the utilities in a new home–that would be the farm–which could be a challenge. One might ask: Can they afford the gas for the car to make the move? What about motels and food on the way? Can they pay the start-up for some of the utilities? Will they have to physically go and pay with cash or a money order to turn on utilities because of a poor credit rating that does not allow for easy transactions by phone, mail, or the internet? These are real questions and concerns for people living pay check to pay check. Forget actually getting to the point of owning a farm. Most people are not privileged. Kingsolver and her family already own a farm.   

Class is a factor. So too is ethnicity. The farm families around her were probably predominantly white though she is not explicit concerning this point. There is a tension here for me. I grew up in Queens, New York in Rosedale, a working class neighborhood of people of African descent. Later as an adult, I lived in Lawndale, California in a working class Latino neighborhood. I’m not sure if many of the people in either ethic group would readily relate to Kingsolver’s agricultural experiment. Some who work the land to survive might see it as a working holiday. The ethnic disconnect and lack of diversity was problematic, typical of broader environmentalism, including the foodway movements.    

With that said, Kingsolver gives the reader much to think about through her beautifully written prose. Many of her suggestions are achievable without going through the financial duress of relocating and purchasing a farm. Consider two ways or reconfiguring Kingsolver’s experiment for regular folks with finite resources.    

Green tomatoes: it's only June.

  • Farmers Markets: Kingsolver does rely on and support the local farmers market near her farm. You too can do the same since these markets are in many cities across the US. The other benefits are eating local organic foods, and diminishing the fuel used to transport produce. Right now I am in Tennessee and plan to visit the Memphis Farmer’s Market downtown.
  • Indoor Plants and Gardens: The author had a flower garden that was part of the farm. This is not an option for many people live in apartments in cities or townhouses in the suburbs. In both types of housing, keep indoor plants, some that flower for the aesthetics. Consider growing herbs in a box on a window ledge. When I lived in Los Angeles I kept orchids, African violets, and a bonsai. Plants, particularly flowering plants, bring a bit of nature’s beauty indoors, which I find soothing spiritually. Tending, watering, re-potting, and fertilizing plants is a break from hectic modern life. Community gardens in cities are another option working side by side with others or carving out a plot of your own. There are benefits to the physical labor of turning over the soil and weeding the rows of plants. At the end of the season, you can enjoy the produce, the fruits of your labor.

So there is a bridge between Kingsolver’s experiment and incorporating nature into the daily lives of regular people. 

Going a step further, I feel a connection with Kingsolver because of my own environmental concerns. I worry about the planet. I worry about the limits and our dependence on fossil fuels. I worry about how many Americans are disconnected from the land and don’t understand how plants actually get to the supermarket. 

Kingsolver develops a parallel argument: when the oil runs dry, and we have to return small-scale agriculture to sustain ourselves, we will not have the skills to produce much needed food in rural settings. 

Perhaps if we resolve to treat the land and our food as edible holy objects, we can save the planet for our children. 

Photos by Dianne Glave Except the Book Cover 

Hiking in Tennessee: Lucius Burch State Natural Area

My first weekend in Memphis I was just trying to get my bearings so didn’t make any plans. I decided this weekend was different. I went hiking with a group at the Lucius Burch State Natural Area in Cordova and Germantown, Tennessee about 20 minutes outside Memphis:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Two hours of the outdoors feels good. Relaxed and know I’ll sleep well tonight.

Iron Man 2: The Machine, Garden, and Gulf

 

    

Tony Stark, the principal character in Iron Man 2, is back with his narcissism intact. Singlehandedly wearing THAT armored suit, he’s ended war around the globe by the second installment. He thinks very highly of himself being the planet’s peacekeeper and all. Of course there are two villains because the film wouldn’t be based on a Marvel Comic without them: Ivan Vonco–the son of the scientist who once worked with and was betrayed Tony’s father and Justin Hammer–a defense contractor and Tony’s corporate antagonist.  

Parts of the film, including the first scene, are in Flushing Meadows Park, transformed into a CGI Disney fantasy-world, an amped technological corporate park. This aint the park from my childhood. Today, Flushing Meadow is a sprawling place in much need of upkeep like many city parks across the country. The park is best known for the location of the World’s Fair in1964/1965. One of the most compelling fixtures of the park has been a large weeping willow I often saw driving on the Van Wyck Expressway that borders one side of the park.  I didn’t see that willow in the movie. Welcome to CGI.      

So fast-foward to the second half of the film in which Tony watches some old footage of his father. Leaning back in a chair, Tony rediscovers his father’s model for a future tech-filled Flushing Meadow Park.   His father ascribes to the mantra: “The key to the future is here.”  Tony is not far behind.

Propelled by his father’s vision, Tony creates a new element. He bases his work on the globe in the park by his father; I’m not sure about the science here but Tony turns theory into a chemical element–you know from the periodic chart.  Can people create new chemical elements? I guess Tony can because he is a self-made god: he takes the new element to heal his ailing body and enhance his suit like a god on Olympus. Tony plugs the element into his chest and says: “It tastes like coconut . . . And metal.” Yummy. The power to destroy tastes like coconut.  It’s ironic that the globe as scientific inspiration destroys part of planet earth in Flushing Meadow Park towards the end of the film.     

Tony runs with it. His Iron Man suit is the key and future, and its here. Tony, his best friend James Rhodes, the evil Vanco who is living out his father’s raw deal, and the droids are all suited up.    Can one be well-meaning in the throes of narcissism? Iron Man does attempt to do so in lunatic hot bad boy mode. Great hair . . . Great goatee . . . Wearing his signature wife beater under his suit, Tony attempts to lead some flying destructive droids away from Flushing Meadow Park but that doesn’t work. He ultimately contributes to some environmental mayhem as he battles evil.   

      

Iron Man Makes His Big Entrance

At the fantasy park,  one element of World’s Fair remains including the unisphere, a representation of planet earth–the same planet that influenced the development his new element. Tony is both a destroyer and a savior.  He leads the droids into the metal unisphere, earth. He damages the unisphere. Ping ping ping–many of the droids go down and metaphorically the earth gets no respect.    

In another scene, Tony and James land (thump) in a Japanese garden inside a conservatory. I do not believe such a garden exists in the park so this is another creation for the purposes of the film. The filmmakers carefully construct manicured garden that does not truly parallel nature in the purist sense. In the battle, they laser down trees at mid-trunk. They burn, bomb, and laser this manicured garden; it is unrecognizable by the time Tony, James,Vonco, and the droids are done with it. Tony and James win the battle. They stand triumphant, machine over nature, in the wreckage of the Japanese garden. They don’t even consider the environmental disaster they have created. The military industrial complex has done it again.    In the closing credits, a Disney inspired song trills. Here’s the instrumental version: Make Way for Tomorrow Today. Tomorrow’s here and machines are in the garden much like BP in the Gulf.  The oil company is struggling to seal a ruptured pipe spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Pelicans are drowning and smothering in crude oil. Shrimpers and fishermen have lost their livelihood. A Greek-like tragedy flashes daily across the screen on CNN much  like the environmental morality tale called Iron Man 2. 

Ok, so the producer and director are not responsible for the Gulf Crisis. But the movie they produced and directed is speaks to what ails people and the planet in the year 2010. Though the disaster in the Gulf caused by BP started after Disney filmed the movie, the scenes inside the unisphere and garden reflects a troubling disregard for our Mother Earth that goes back millenia.

We want the Gulf back the way it was. We don’t want that burned Japanese garden.   

Photos by Dianne Glave Unless Otherwise Noted

Splice The Movie: Makers Not the Creature are Dangerous

From nationalpost.com

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

Don't Splice the Duck with Humans

I went to a matinée of Splice, thinking I was going to see a by the numbers horror film. The film is frighteningly more. It is a morality tale of arrogant humans playing at being the maker and abusing genetically manipulated creatures.

In Splice, Elsa (Sara Polley), a young woman, ranks as one of the most evil characters I have seen on film or television, or read about in literature. Elsa’s cool calm rationality, a scientific façade hiding behind her damaged psyche (yes, mommy issues!) is more chilling that an ax murder. Elsa operates outside the law and ethics to bio-engineer a creature from the spliced DNA of human and animal genetic material. It is unclear what animals are spliced in the experiment but Dren, the engineered creature, has legs, wings, and eyes like a bird, and a tail with a poisonous spike like a stingray.

Spliced with a Flower or a Vegetable? Hmmm.

The question for me throughout the film is who is evil? Is it Dren who does abominable things or Elsa and boyfriend Clive (Adrien Brody) who play god and manufacture evil. Much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creation is both a sympathetic and evil character. The film is also a homage to the monsters in the Alien and Species movies.  So who or what is evil: the makers or the creature?

Throughout, Elsa and Clive have crossed ethical and legal boundaries but forge ahead. Ultimately, they fall prey to the evil they created. You’ll have to see the film to understand what I mean.

As I watched the movie, I thought about the Tuskegee Experiment in which African American men in Alabama with syphilis were test subjects used to track the ravages of the disease. Even when scientist discovered a cure, these same African American men were left to go insane and die from the disease as white scientists continued their inquiries.

As we continue to test the boundaries of genetic engineering, looking back to the bad and unethical science of the past, who or what is our nightmare and danger?

PHOTOS BY DIANNE GLAVE unless otherwise noted