Saturday, November 26, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The oddest thing happened on May 1. My wife saw the question and answer in the “Ask Marilyn” column of Sunday’s Parade Magazine. If course, that won’t make any sense unless I give the back story.
Just a few days before April ended, I posed the question to my wife. If humans did something to the planet that caused the death of us all, would the planet eventually heal itself and continue without us?
Well, she responded, there is vegetation growing around Chernobyl (the site of the nuclear disaster in the Ukraine in late April of 1986) but you can’t eat it. It’s contaminated. But yeah, I think the planet would eventually heal and thrive without us.
Even more back story.
Back in September, I read Tim Flannery’s, Now or Never: Why We Must Act Now to End Climate Change and Create a Sustainable Future. Not long after, I read, Eaarth: Making a Life on a New Tough Planet, by Bill McKibben. Both of them talked about Gaia, the Mother Earth, the living planet. The planet is a living being with three parts: earth, ocean, and atmosphere. They work together to keep the planet healthy and living. And of course, humans are messing that natural process up.
I knew about global warming, carbon emissions, and pollution in general, but I’d never heard of Gaia and the idea that the planet was alive.
The planet is alive.
On May 1, Cindy opened the paper and read this question as it was posed to Marilyn by Rod Strassburg of Winston Salem, N.C. “If human life were to vanish from Earth, leaving only animals and plants, how long would it take for the environment to return to a pristine state?”
Well, not exactly my question. But Marilyn took it on saying that the process was thousands of years long. She mentioned the decay of structures we’ve built and when on to nuclear waste citing the same thing Cindy did about life in Chernobyl.
“The planet would forget all about us in maybe 50,000 years—far less time than humankind has existed.”
Ever since the tornado ripped through the town where I teach, any my friends and colleagues stood in utter amazement and horror at the destruction, I’ve been thinking about the planet and the humans and how we think we’ve got pretty much everything under control. So tight is our control, in our own minds, that we live with nearly a 100% expectancy of outcomes.
Take our relationship with the weather or with weather forecasters for example. We expect them to get it right, and we’re angry when the weather is different than that forecasted. Some of us even say, “They’ve changed the weather,” instead of, “They’ve changed the forecast,” or even more accurately, “The weather has changed.”
I’m coming to believe that we who live on a planet that can live without us, who can’t control anything, who cannot survive ten minutes without oxygen, ten days without water, or a few months without food, are the true anomaly.
I hope this thinking changes what I decide to worry about.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
One day, roughly thirty years ago, my wife and I were grocery-shopping. While we unloaded the cart at the check-out stand, some liquid from a package of chicken got on my hands. I set it on the belt and without much thought about the implications, looked up at the checker and said, “Your breasts are leaking.”
Her name was Carol, and for a moment, she stopped working, we stopped shopping and enjoyed a really good laugh.
The lifeguard in the picture isn’t Molly. I was going to ask Molly if I could take her picture for this post but it just seemed too creepy. She’s a senior in college; in fact, she’ll graduate on Saturday, and she’s been our early morning lifeguard at the college pool for two years.
We have not learned much about Molly during the time we’ve known her. Once, right before spring break, we learned she is from Texas because that’s where she said she’d be for the break. We know she has a boyfriend, because we’ve seen him drop her off some mornings, and that she rides a bike; her transportation on the other days. We know some of the courses she’s taken because her head is often over a book or her Macbook when we get out of the pool.
We have grown to like Molly and we’ll miss her now that she’s graduating and moving back to Texas for graduate school. She has been kind, genuine, and pleasant in our very brief exchanges between pool and locker room. She’s represented stability, you know, “Situation normal: Molly’s here.” And she’s represented safety; if we’d have tried to drown, she’d have tried to save us.
I developed this post on the morning of Molly’s last day as our lifeguard, while I swam the width of the pool over and over. I searched for a word that describes our relationship with Molly. All I could come up with was superficial and shallow, but those are usually ugly terms for people and I guess relationships too. I guess I could say that we are acquaintances, but I don’t feel like that’s all we are.
So, I settled on superficial and as you can tell by the title, decided there was nothing wrong with it. The truth is most of our relationships are superficial. There are a few folks in my family and some others I work with. And as a teacher, I’ve got students that I get to know pretty well. But by and large, the vast majority of people I see on a regular basis-the servers at our favorite restaurants-the checkers at Walmart-my dental hygienist-my doctor’s nurse, all of these are superficial relationships.
And the thing I thought about between the sides of the pool that morning is how meaningful and enjoyable those relationships are, even though they are superficial. There’s much pleasure to be mined from just getting to know someone, and knowing Molly, even as little as it happened, has been a joy.
By the way, we got to know Carol pretty well too. We talked routinely when we shopped in her grocery store. Eventually, her daughter became my student in the junior high where I taught choir. Her daughter matriculated, and then we left the country. When we moved home, the store had been closed and a different business was in the building.
But I remember Carol, after thirty years. And our relationship was a merely superficial.
This work by Mike Rush is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.