Pessoa hits the nail on the head

“What is there to confess that’s worthwhile or useful? What has happened to us has happened to everyone or only to us; if to everyone, then it’s no novelty, and if only to us, then it won’t be understood. If I write what I feel it’s to reduce the fever of feeling. What I confess […]

via ”I make landscapes out of what I feel.” — Time’s Flow Stemmed

#NoDAPL Day of Action

Last night I stood with my fellow Baltimoreans in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Outside the Army Corps of Engineers downtown field office we chanted and waved our signs at passing drivers, pedestrians, and light rail riders. Turnout was modest compared to that in other cities, but for such a neglected issue in the media, I consider the 150-200+ strong crowd to have been a good showing in this city, whose own internal problems typically rise to the activist forefront (and with good reason, given their dire nature).

However, the DAPL is not just another pipeline. While it is being constructed hundreds of miles away from here, it is emblematic of issues that all Americans should be concerned about:

  • our greed for cheap, convenient oil
  • our over-dependence on automobiles
  • our egregious neglect of the environment
  • our continuing disrespect and oppression of indigenous people

All of these issues are interconnected. At the start of this country’s history our founders made a decision that the concerns and well-being of the invaders were more important than those of the people who were here before us. Instead of meeting them on equal terms, we corralled them onto land we considered worthless and forgot about them. This decision has now held fast for well over 200 years. Of course this behavior was not uniquely Americanour example of native oppression just happens to be one of the more recent in human history. Indigenous people around the world are among the most disenfranchised, dispossessed people ever throughout history. But, as this particular pipeline is being built in the United States, and part of it adjacent to an Indian reservation, it is a distinctly American problem.

As we did with our treatment of native people, so we did with our reliance on the internal combustion engine. Following its development, we made a far-reaching decision that we have never reconsidered in any meaningful way. We decided to develop an entire country’s infrastructure around the automobile and we’ve been doggedly sticking to this plan ever since. This has chained us to a never-ending thirst for cheap oil. It has led us into wars, fractured our communities, poisoned our air and water, and decimated our landscape. We are now trapped in a dark corner, and our desperation drives us to take whatever means necessary to extract the last remaining oil from beneath our feet.

So this is not just another pipeline. It is a brutal reminder of our failure as a nation and as a people to care for each other and to care for our environment in a sustainable way. It accentuates our stubborn shortsightedness and our continuing habit of taking huge steps backward for every tiny step we take forward. Following this trend, we have now elected a climate change denier to the Presidency of our nation. As with the majority of Mr. Trump’s future plans in office, his intended actions toward the environment are largely unknown. But the outlook is grim. We know he has promised to retract U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is not a good sign. Moving toward cleaner energy will no longer be a priority on a national level. But we all retain our own power as individuals. Now, more than ever, is the time to voice our opinions, whatever they may be. And we must continue doing what we already have been doing, as individuals, to treat the planet and all of its inhabitants as extensions of our own selves. For we are all connected and if one of us fails we all fail.

More news on the Dakota Access Pipeline from Democracy Now!

juvenile red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed Hawk, © 2015 S. D. Stewart

Red-tailed Hawk (immature)

review of people magazine

“The horror! The horror!”
– Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

I feel like Kurtz today, holed up behind blackout shades typing in my lair as the heat blazes outside. I have been doing a disturbingly exhaustive update of my reading lists on Goodreads. In doing so, I pulled out some old papers from library school. While working on my degree, I took a course called “Popular Materials and Programming for Adults,” taught by the wonderful and esteemed Dr. Linda Walling. Now, I love Dr. Walling and consider her a strong influence in my librarianship, but she made us read a lot of terrible things in that class. Her theory was that in order to properly serve the adult population of a public library, you needed to read outside of your comfort zone. Did I mention she made us read a lot of books? As if graduate students have time to be reading 25 extra books in a semester?! But I digress. As part of this agony, she requested that we also read a couple of “popular magazines and newspapers.” I chose People magazine as one of them. I have entered the review I wrote below. If you’re curious about the books I read in that class, you’ll have to find me on Goodreads. You need to sign up in order to see my page, though. If you don’t know about Goodreads, it’s a site for people who enjoy obsessively recording their reading habits. If you’re into that, I’d encourage you to join. Then we can be obsessive together and hopefully find out about interesting books from each other. But enough banter…here’s the review:

More celebrity voyeurism [note: I’d just reviewed National Enquirer]. This time a little less sensationalism and slightly padded with “touching” human interest stories and slightly informative biographical sketches. Lots of ads for such items as Godiva ice cream and the latest Maeve Binchy novel. Sleazy pictures of Hollywood stars are mixed in with stories of family courage. Lots of pictures and short articles target the short attention span crowd. As it turns out, I’m not a member of that crowd, and would prefer to peruse the latest batch of zines I find stuffed in my mailbox. Oh, and I found this magazine in a box on the side of the road (I couldn’t bear to spend $2.99 of my hard-earned cash on something that’s going to end up in the recycling box) [prof’s note: That’s OK with me – why support them?].

aphoristic

We run through the present on the clay feet of our past.

Broken and mired we arrive at the future, expecting it all.

But relief is rarely as simple as turning away for good.

I assure you some people are paying attention.

To you. To me. To everyone around them.

flatlands

Vultures soar silent over wide fallow fields. Orange ball sun scorches tips of trees. Furtive motion blurs forest and field. It is here we stalk along dried mud ridges. Your voice and mine tangled in fading grey light. And at the end wait our wood smoke dreams.

spend it as you get it

The tissue holding these moments together, feather-thin as it is, expands and pulls taut as a hesitant breeze carries the fleetest scent of fall for us to breathe in. Moods collide, launch forth into open air, crash empty to the unforgiving ground. Days drip one into the next, weeks gel together, and still we stand here bare and afraid. What is it going to take for us to be satisfied? When we will we stop our restless twitching? This is life, by god, and it is only here to be lived. There is nothing to figure out; all the mysteries we concoct are simply ghosts dancing on the head of a pin, taunting us even as they fade away.  The windows we keep in our minds looking out onto future lives are glazed with thick smears of colorless idealism; the pictures of us that we see projected there are shiny distortions, marionettes we yank into desperate action after so many failed attempts to live wholly here and now. We convince ourselves that our daily lives constitute a dead existence, held fast by debt and fear of impoverished old age. But in truth we squander our time here, fretting and wishing instead of living.  And it seems like such a simple thing, to merely live, to stay in a moment for its duration, filling ourselves with its wonder. Yet so many of us fail in this one endeavor we all can claim as our purpose. We only have a finite amount of these moments and each passing day drains thousands more of them into the black hole of mortality. The least we can do is spend our allowance before it disappears.

shaking the box of time

The gulls circle above, screeching, then settle to the ground. We walk among them and they don’t mind. One peers up at me as I approach, decides I am to be avoided, and grants me a few inches. I think about how all of us deserve the life we are given. The weather turns warm, then cold, then warm, then cold again. I can’t keep up. I prefer warm, but still a five-minute walk in the sunny cold assures me that I am alive. At my desk I had doubts. The harbor glitters. Pairs of mallards snooze on concrete, their bills tucked neatly in their feathered backs. I am as uncertain as the weather. Once every month my work email inbox reaches capacity. I receive an automated message and I must spend time archiving and deleting. What if I didn’t? Meetings are weekly, biweekly, bimonthly. Payment for services rendered occurs twice a month. You earn vacation time because you don’t deserve it. This is the metronome that governs us. Someday none of it will matter. I’m unsure of when but I sure see it bleeding at the seams. I am nervous for all of us.

summary

From start to now. Crumbling plaster, dripping water. Swearing man, broken flange. Home computing, home arrest. Chest cold rising, spirit sinking. Snow falling, BSS blaring. Always reading, reading, reading. Reading Sentence, reading sentences. Words still coming, in fever dreams, at all times. Words with warmth to wander in, words to plaster together, to hold back water. Words like lungs, barren yet soaked with life.

the hour of happiness

Eyes sore looking out at the world. Perhaps it’s air pollution; maybe it’s hate. The hour grew long in a place I rarely go. The wheels turned fast toward a place I always go. In between lies emptiness, in between tempts fate. The fading light hides that wandering path in a cloak of longing. But I roll on. I always do. On these worn out streets, these angry streets, where nothing ever remains the same, a worn out wraith, near transparent, rattles its bones for the few who listen.

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