Alternate Histories: 5/11, 5/17

(If you’re a new visitor to the blog, you can read this explanation of alternate histories.)



We don’t kill the fish ’cause the fish have toxins in ’em by the time they come up this far. I tell people not to eat ’em. I tell people, there’s three discharge stations up there, three. … We just put ’em back. Stripers, if they stay out of the water too long, they get stressed and they die.



Two stories here: the story of H and the story of the fish.

The fish was born in a big river. (I’m sorry, but I have to use human names for the things the fish knew.) It swam with the current. It snapped at tasty fragments first, then smaller fish. Its siblings schooled together with it. The water brought it temperatures, pressures and flavors, currents and other currents. It moved like a muscle inside of a muscle. It tasted metal, plastic, rank things. Older fish of its kind came to the river–big shadows, muscling the water aside–and ate most of the food, but it managed to find enough. It was fish-wise, fish-strong. It inscribed itself on the currents briefly, repeatedly. For lice, it was a country; for smaller fish, it was the end of the world.

Seasons passed. The fish’s third winter, the water cooled less, it didn’t grow as torpid, it stayed hungrier. Some of its schoolmates died and the decay of their flesh flavored the water. When the fish was old enough and strong enough, it moved along a particular current, following the taste and itch of salt, passing the changes in plants and other animals, riding the rapids and pushing through the slow shallows, until it reached vastness.

H is a human, so he knows time and survival differently. His birth is a long time back, in what, up North, he calls the South. He rides his bike, he gardens, he works as a guide for kayak fishing. Sometimes he takes his kayak through the river some humans call the Woonasquatucket out into the bay and beyond, to get to where the stripers are that his fellow humans want to catch.

The fish wants to live and H wants to live. Once, he would have let the fish live long enough to grow big and stout, and maybe mate and make more fishes, before catching, killing, scaling, gutting, cooking, eating. Now he coaches his customer how to put it back without any intention of ever eating it, gently, reverently. It will still probably die from something humans have done–plastic in the water, carcinogens in its own body–but not this human, not this thing

But now trace the stories back upstream. Dredge out the plastic, by hand if necessary, all the able and available hands maneuvering small craft and squatting on the tangled banks; go to the houses, collect the plastic, go to the factories, don’t make any more. Find the places where the sewage outfall or industrial discharge enters the river, diverge some of it or plant them up with the cordgrass or phragmites that will filter the water (we’ll need to rip it out later, since it likes to spread; we’ll need to bind and weave the reeds into boats when our kayaks and canoes spring leaks we can’t fix because we’re not making plastic compounds anymore and the spruce sap won’t stick to the fiberglass properly). Pay the reparations that are due to H on behalf of his enslaved ancestors, before we get rid of money entirely. The window is small; we need to do it soon.

The fish has died, long since, drifted to the bottom to be devoured by the scavenger snails and hermit crabs that have managed to survive the increasingly warm oceans. Other fish spawn in the river, tastes their way to the ocean. They know all that fish know: the water reteaches it to them, along the lateral lines that run down every fish body from generation to generation. A blurred or interrupted lesson is still a lesson, and many fish have come to grief. Others have learned in their bodies how to digest new kinds of food, how to endure greater warmth and less oxygenated water, how to float low and weather out the turbidity and violence of storms.

Humans live longer than fish; H is old in this part of the story, and history has injured him in many ways, but his life is full of sweetness and he has access to all the medical care he needs. He kayaks out for the pleasure of survival; he lets out his line. The fish he hooks late in the day will feed him and six or seven of his neighbors; it thrashes with all its weight, because most things want to live. He says a reverent prayer of thanks for its life and its flesh, knocks it sharply on the head, and paddles back upstream.




Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/15/16

Weather: Cool and gray with spots of sun, but unusually not windy downtown even though the rest of town was windy (usually it’s the reverse). I forgot my hat.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 6 walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 2, together

Pages of notes: 7

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 4

Number of dogs seen: 1

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.58



It’s much quieter/less active in Kennedy Plaza on Sunday, in terms of both car traffic and foot traffic. No one came up to me for almost a half hour.

A youngish guy who spoke to me briefly last time asked if I wanted him to get me something to eat from the food pantry that was set up in the park.

A cop SUV drove through the park at 4:50 pm.

I foolishly allowed myself to get caught up in a (mild) power struggle with the hecklers, who were also, themselves, in a very bad way. Their anxieties are the first ones below; I’ll address the heckling, the power struggle, and meeting the needs of jerks in my next reflection post.

Relatedly: it’s stupid to say “have a good day” to people who have just told you about their schizoaffective disorder and their prison time, yet that is what came out of my mouth.


Some conversations:

[These two came up together.]

Person 1: I’m fresh out of prison , no idea what I’m gonna do. I’ve been busted by the DEA so many times, I’m sick of selling drugs.

Person 2: Do you know what to do about thought broadcasting? Voices telling me I should commit suicide?

Is there stuff that makes it worse, that sets it off?

Being around people.

Can you find ways to be by yourself?

No, ’cause I’m homeless.


Finding happiness. I’ve never experienced it that I can remember. It definitely isn’t happening right now–I know it could be better…. I’m not aware of how to do it by myself … I imagine my greatest level of happiness would be affection and acceptance, among family, or peers–people aren’t showing the level of affection and acceptance that I would like. I don’t have a social environment for meeting new people–I moved here fairly recently and at first it was okay, but after a certain time I was like, I should start meeting new people. I’d like support–not only financial but also emotional support. I’m trying to find new ways to cope and perhaps solve the issue. I’d like to build better relationships with my family, they’re not great right now. … Besides linguistics, the other subject I’m interested in is perception and how it can be used to benefit people. I’ve been conducting experiments on how people’s outward perception of me can affect my experience. I was walking through campus, the Brown area, and I noticed some common traits: designer clothes, very good hygiene–everybody’s well groomed–and not may people wear socks. For colors [of clothing], it’s bright for women, and for men it’s not dark but more mellow. I was thinking, these students, this is the image of potential success. How can I change [how I’m perceived] so I can appear similar to what they do? I did go to college, I’m trying to get back in, but you have to pay to do everything.


I just wish the weather stays 70 degrees every day for eternity. The world would be a better place. People would have energy, to work out, to do whatever they needed to do in that type of temperature.

Do you know if anyplace has that?

Maybe Missouri?

You ever been to Missouri?

No, I been to Florida, Atlanta, North Carolina, Brooklyn, New York New York of course. Oh, I been to Puerto Rico. I was there for a concert.

How was that? Was that 70 degrees?

The energy made it feel like it was 70 degrees.


I was born in Puerto Rico, I grew up in the Bronx, and I came here [to Providence] in the 1970s. I was the first Puerto Rican working in the Federal Building, and all the white guys hated me. I found out about the elevator that goes underground that’s where they take the prisoners. You see that statue over there, they’ve moved that statue five times. The cops used to dress in brown–Emilio, Pokey–we called him Pokey–and Al, but he died. That was the train station over there too. You see that boat over there in the park? A boat came years ago from Massachusetts or somewhere to Rhode Island, and it sank down. I love this city, I do.

What do you love about it?

That building right there [points]. That’s the Superman building, ’cause that building–this old man, before, he died, he told me the story, how they didn’t build it by machine but by hand. They wanted to tear it down, but what’s the first thing you see when you come here from New York, from Massachusetts? I said no, I will sign for it, like, no, this isn’t coming down …


The winters are not winters anymore, and the summers are too short. We expect certain things out of life, summer’s gonna be summer … I think it’s changing the world. What’s it gonna be like in 20 years? Is the East Coast gonna be cold or warm, and is the West Coast gonna be cold? It’s kinda scary because you don’t know what’s gonna happen. I’m not gonna be around–well in 30, 40 years I might be, but let’s say in 50 years–but my kids are gonna be here, and what are they gonna have down the line?


I’m anxious about who we’re gonna have for president. I think Donald Trump thinks everything’s a joke. He’s in it for the spotlight. What’s real, what’s real? There’s a lot of people who see it. He’s too concerned with knocking people down.

Do you talk about this with people?

No, ’cause I feel like just like with voting, everybody has to make their own decision. I feel that the American people–there’s things that happen that the American people have to deal with, no matter what.


[Reads the map of places that people want to protect] India Point Park, yes. I grew up near there, Fox Point, that area. You gotta protect something!



Climate change definitely. Yesterday to today there’s a 20-degree difference, there’s 30-mile-an-hour winds. I’m just anxious ’cause I haven’t slept. I could go to a shelter, but there’s only 112 beds. I have insomnia, and it’s harder to sleep when there are people around. If I can’t get a rack I’ll sleep in the street. I got two blankets and a sheet, but it gets cold, you wake up at 3am… [Looks at the map, marks it.] Mackerel Cove. The big fish chase ’em in and you can snag ’em with a hook.





I had a little anxiety today from potentially losing my family. My girl doesn’t want me to smoke weed anymore, so I’m gonna take the steps to do that. I started buggin’ out when I was in my old apartment–I was jittery, I couldn’t calm down, I had trouble breathing, like I was having an anxiety attack. I had to get out of the house, so I came down here to try to kill some of that energy. I’m staying in Olneyville so I came all the way down here, and I’m gonna go back and just go to sleep.


You don’t have to answer this because it’s none of my business, but why do you smoke weed?


To try not to think about bad situations. When I was younger it was more of a social thing, but now it’s more of a dependency. I’ll wake up and I’m like, I’m not gonna smoke, but then something will happen and I have to. I’m thinking about a residential treatment program. I didn’t wanna do it because I didn’t want to be labeled as crazy, but I wanna get sober and I don’t believe I can do it out here. I was in Butler once before and it was good, because nobody knew where I was. They asked me, “Do you feel safe here?” and I was like, “Yeah.” … I used to work for [a waste management company], then they got bought by [another waste management company], and it took me an hour and a half, two hours to walk in to work, and I was late five or six times and they laid me off. I was doing good, I was working, I was thinking about school, and then I lost it. I just feel like giving up. Before that, before I had my car accident, I had a house, I was married, and then I woke up and it was all gone.





Today’s poem:



So you fix simple problems or

you let complicated problems pin you

every time pointed away

ashen at every gate

marking your own face with fake ink lashes

wiring your own arm to receive

the melting rate of glaciers trickling up

from far far away in new new time

worry about the here and now

the next bad bed in the next night

when being around people makes it worse

but you have to be around people

when you’re unpleasant and no one can help you

we are unpleasant and no one can help us








Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/12/16

Weather: Warm, sunny, breezy, perfect in the shade; gusty at 4; warmer and stiller again toward the end

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 3 walkbys, 1 excellent couple double-take

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 6

People known to me, and I to them, from past seasons: 3, one very important (see below)

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 2, both voluble, walking together

Number of dogs seen: 3

Number of dogs pet: 0

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.35



One of the people I saw that I knew from a past season was the 3rd person who spoke to me on this day. She’s still in her apartment–the place she showed me the key to–and it’s going well, and she still has her cat. She said to me, “I’m finally out of boxes.”

Today went better than yesterday overall–the conversations were better, and I think I inhabited the booth better.

The booth’s complement includes a map of the state of Rhode Island that asks, “Is there a place in RI you’d like to protect?” (Used to say “Is there a place in RI you love?” but I think this works better.) It often doesn’t see a lot of use, but it did today.

There were some more evangelists today, a team of three. They were vocally homophobic and transphobic, and one of them gave me the same spiel to my face as I’d just heard him yell into the microphone, but none of them scared me personally this time.


Some conversations:

[Marks the Woonasquatucket River on the map]

The Woonasquatucket actually comes out of North Providence, then behind Manton and Route 6 it goes underground, and in Roger Williams Park there’s actually a freshwater spring. But it’s too clogged to recycle the water in the park, so it gets backed up. Then it splits off again just below the Providence VA, and the other part is that river you see downtown. And in the park, you know the Temple to Music? That water behind it is where the spring wells up. And then it runs into Pawcatuck. People don’t realize. My grandfather was Narragansett, and we use to walk the old way, all the rivers, up by 146, up where Purgatory Chasm runs into the Blackstone River. We’d go for two months in the summer, and you know what we’d do? If we found a tree down, we wouldn’t cut it, but we’d push it and use it like a canoe–just find something that floats and just get on either side. We used to fish in the river, brook trout and other kinds of fish, but there’s no longer any fish in the river. But I did see some fish in the park area that are maybe indigenous to the park.


My wife’s an RN and she just lost her job. So then you have bills, bills pile up, and that causes anxiety and stress.


I think I’ve found a way to be nimble and present in situations with multiple humans–that’s my role. I had some anxieties earlier this week: Am I listening hard enough? Am I listening to everything, listening to everyone? Sometimes it’s overwhelming in itself. I’ve been thinking about roles in life, roles, places, jobs. We have all these conversations, but we also need to act–it’s a luxury to be in conversation. It’s fulfilling, but it’s frustrating when it doesn’t lead to anything. What is action, how does change manifest?


I’m not that concerned with the environment. I think there’s not enough parks for the kids, we need more city parks, more places to play. In Providence there’s not a lot of people with backyards, so kids play in the street.

Are there places where you’d especially like to see more parks?

The South Side needs a lot more. But there’s no space to put them.

But there are some abandoned buildings and stuff, that maybe they could tear down.

Those are my same thoughts! They could just tear ’em down. But you know why they don’t? You see these abandoned houses, they don’t want to tear ’em down ’cause they want the taxes on it. They don’t have the money to fix it up, they might as well use it for taxes. …Everything [for kids] is far. Chucky Cheese is all the way in Warwick. You could put a swingset right here [indicates Burnside Park]. It’s for the kids that don’t have what normal kids have. And city pools, for kids in the summertime–I don’t have a car, that’s why I ride RIPTA, and when I was young I didn’t have a car, I was poor, I couldn’t bring my kids to the beach all the time. It doesn’t even have to be a pool, just a water thing in the park.


[Marks the South Side of Providence on the map]

Can you say what about the South Side you want to protect?

The people. Protect everyone.


I’m totally anxious about climate change. I usually have to dig a little to find out that what I’m anxious about is the survival of beautiful people and plants and animals. Usually it takes the form of more mundane stuff, like rent. But I particularly have anxiety about beasts and green things and water.

Do you imagine it, that changed world?

It’s really hard to put my mind there but I forced myself to. It’s almost impossible by myself. I kind of have to be with someone else, either it’s a lighthearted space or really trying to do it. I get temporarily hopeful, but it doesn’t–the kind of pall of discouragement rolls back in pretty quickly.

Oh, I get it–you’re talking about a brighter vision, but I was actually wondering if you also imagined a darker version of things.

Oh. Yeah. Heat, dryness, really sick people, kind of barren landscapes. A lot of–as I’m listing things off it looks a little bit like what’s happening right now, in terms of economic and cultural devastation. A lot more complete separation of folks with resources and folks without resources, a lot more violence and globalization from below–people joining forces, people finding commonness where they couldn’t before because they thought they were in competition.

That part sounds–not exactly hopeful, but like something that you would like to see.

Yeah, that is.

So what’s the fear part?

Starvation?…but when you go to identify it, it’s different than what you think. I like to think of the world as an ecological system. Basically the fear is that turned on its head and nothing being able to sustain anything else. I don’t even know how to file that, where to put that. The opposite of communication and love and ecology.


I take medicine for anxiety and depression. I lost my mother, my father, my brother, and my niece committed suicide. My sister’s got a brain tumor. I just come from the hospital right now. They’re doing surgery tomorrow. She said, Go home. She’s in good spirits, she got her girlfriends there, the pastor’s there. I don’t wanna be in the way … I got a good support system. Last time, I was isolated, that wasn’t good. I didn’t reach out. I got a good support system, I’m in a good place.


I’m worried about the economy in general. People getting jobs, people getting paid for the work that they do. [HER JOB] offered us this horrible health care plan this year, and it’s so bad that the staff agreed to make up the difference out of our own pocket, 12% out of pocket, when there’s no salary increase. Even with the last plan you had people going, “I just didn’t go to the doctor,” and this one’s even worse. … I see so many of our patrons and they have it so much worse, at least I have healthcare.




Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/11/16

Weather: Warm, sunny, breezy, perfect in the shade at the beginning, a little chilly toward the end.

Number of people: 13 stoppers, 7 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0! One walkby might’ve muttered “it’s not real” but I can’t be sure.

Pages of notes: 8

People known to me, and I to them, from past seasons: 3

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 1, returning from last year

Picture-takers with permission: 2

Picture-takers without permission: 2

Number of dogs seen: 2, belonging to a friend

Number of dogs pet: 2

Number of times people called me “honey” but not in a way that made me want to kill them: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $2.50



Still not always remembering to do these things.

Pushing the handtruck (for new readers, I pack the booth in and out on a handtruck) was surprisingly not that hard.

Not a lot of people talked about climate anxieties directly, but quite a few people brought up climate change, extreme weather, ecological degradation, as if incidentally, while talking about their primary anxieties.

13 stoppers in one session is actually a lot (comparatively), and I’m wondering if this was because it was the first day in a long while–I was a novelty. We’ll see.


Some conversations:

I get anxious on buses. I start coughing, breathing heavy. I used to be on Klonopin but they took me off it now, I don’t know why. They got me on some other pill that doesn’t have a [word I didn’t catch] effect.

When you start to feel it, do you have to get off the bus?

I want to, but I have to get to my destination. If there’s somebody I know on there, I talk to them. Or I talk on the phone, I call people. Sometimes I pretend to talk on the phone when nobody’s there. I’ll say, Hi ______, that’s my daughter.


I love biking, I love working in my garden. Love kayaking. I’m planting celery, melons, some kale. Not doing tomatoes this year … I live in East Providence and we have a lot of squirrels, so I planted onions around everything. If you plant onions, they don’t like that. Or you can use pepper and water. I’m from down South, growing up we didn’t have pesticides, so you just put pepper and water in a spray bottle and spray it around the garden. It kills the grubs and things.

[Talking about fishing from a kayak]

We don’t kill the fish ’cause the fish have toxins in ’em by the time they come up this far. I tell people not to eat ’em. I tell people, there’s three discharge stations up there, three. … We just put ’em back. Stripers, if they stay out of the water too long, they get stressed and they die.



There isn’t much we can do about the climate, honey. That’s all in God’s hands. But the government here in Rhode Island needs a shakeup. Communication, communication is just horrible in this state. I moved here after losing my home in Sandy and I had to go through six months of hoops just to get an ID. I’m a veteran, and they put all the veterans in one box: either you’re full of drugs that are given to you legally or you’re just brushed off … the capitol is right here, and I don’t see the people up there

Have you been talking to people about this?

I’ve been trying to connect with veterans and servicemembers. I got my resume done over at Amos House, and they asked if I had a history of mental illness, and I said, Other than the emotion of losing everything from the storm, from having hundred-mile-an-hour winds pick up my car and drop it…


I get anxious because I’m not anxious–because when you walk around on a beautiful day like today, there’s nothing to remind you of it. When you hear the scientific spokesman for Congress saying there’s nothing to worry about, and then most of the scientific community does say there’s something to worry about–We went to see a movie where this guy took a photo in the Arctic every day and you could see the ice disappearing.

But does that feel close to you?

No, it’s just like watching a war, it’s all happening on TV.

Have you noticed any changes that have to do with the climate since you’ve moved to the States?

Well, this last winter was the most unusual winter since we’ve been here.


I need help. I feel like the fumes from the buses are making me sick. Not only that, but you can’t see the stars from Providence anymore.

Did you grow up here?

No, I grew up in New Hampshire, but it’s troublesome to me that you don’t see the stars. Today I woke up a little sick–I’m biking in Downcity and I feel like the fumes kinda cluster at the lower levels. It makes it difficult to breathe sometimes. I know they’re supposed to be clean engines or whatever, but when a big burst of it hits you right in the face–I worry that it’s shaving years off my life, like when I’m 76 I’m gonna lose a week with my grandchildren … I understand that RIPTA–they’re trying to help people [drive less], it’s not RIPTA’s fault. But I love nature and I love the birds and the trees. I wanna be on earth as long as I can.


[Person 1 started out as a walkby, then Person 2 came up and Person 1 decided to stay a bit]

Person 1: Honey, you would charge a hundred dollars for what I’d have to tell you.

Tell me a nickel’s worth.

Person 1: Three dead husbands: diabetes, diabetes, suicide.

Person 2: This is cool, what is this?

[I explain that I want to know what people in Providence are anxious about, whether it’s climate change or something else]

Person 1: Oh, in Providence.

Person 2: Homelessness, unemployment.

Person 1: Thank God I got a job, thank God I got a home. There’s a lotta issues here and it’s too bad, because it’s a great city, it’s a beautiful city. I have some really good people in my life, and I have my kitty cat. [He tells her story.] My partner and I, we were on the street for three years, I don’t know how we ever survived. It was not a good time. Then we got an apartment–four months later, I crawl into bed and I realize he died. Diabetic shock. Then our upstairs neighbor, who was a crack addict, decided to burn the house down. … I have some great people in my life and I’m lucky because they keep my heart open.

[I give him a card with a hermit thrush on it.]

Oh, I know these! My mother lived in Jamestown, she had a flock of those. They’re buggers. They are buggers.


Today’s poem:


Three dead husbands

Homelessness, unemployment

Three hundred dead husbands

Homelessness because there are no homes

Unemployment because everything is undone

Under the bodies of someones

Who tended someone elses at one point

Undertake, overwhelmed: the number


Climate Anxiety Counseling: TODAY in Burnside Park!

Come see me in Burnside Park today, 3-6 pm!

On Monday, I ran into a neighbor of mine (in the building where her office is) and she said, “Oh, I have something for you. I found it in a house I was selling.” And she gave me this:

lucy music box

I felt thought of, and recognized, and known. Thank you, Jane.

Any and all of you: come see me today, and I will try to think of you, and recognize you, and know you, at least within the time we’re talking together.


Climate Anxiety Counseling: To Keep In Mind

Tomorrow is the first day of the new Climate Anxiety Counseling season–I’ll be in Burnside Park, opposite Kennedy Plaza,  3-6pm tomorrow and Thursday. Here are some things I want to remember to do and ways I want to remember to be while I’m there:

LISTEN, first and throughout.

ASK QUESTIONS, many, before (or instead of) offering suggestions.

ASK PEOPLE MORE ABOUT WHAT THEY’RE FEELING AND WHAT THEY DO WHEN THEY FEEL THAT WAY, before asking them to move into imagining or “solution” mode. I think I and sometimes also my interlocutors want to get to that point too fast, because staying in the painful feeling is, well, painful. I want to keep things open, not try to seal them off.

BUT ALSO: BE RESPONSIVE, not formulaic; LISTEN well enough to know what questions might help a person talk and think more, maybe reach for words they haven’t thought of yet.

MAINTAIN A FIELD OF CALM for myself and them; don’t get agitated and definitely don’t escalate.

If I do offer a suggestion or prescription, make it both PARTICULAR to them and CONNECTED to people, creatures, forces and things outside but nearby or intertwined with them; REVEAL CONNECTIONS that are already there

Sometimes I call this whole booth thing a “project,” and I think the various offshoots of the booth thus far have been a project, but the booth itself is more of a practice. I am practicing the world I want: a world where we observe and trust, where it is safer to be more vulnerable, where we improvise responsively, where we listen. A shared world in which sharing is possible. A world where we take care of each other so that amplitude and hardship ebb and flow but are never fixed in any one person, place or role, a world that doesn’t destroy the carer or the cared-for. I want to enact that world here. I hope you all will help me bring it out of the world we know.

Climate Anxiety Counseling Returns to Burnside Park!

Do you worry about climate change and its effects? Or is something else pressing on your mind?

Do you feel alone with your thoughts, or helpless, or disconnected?

Do you imagine the future? What do you imagine?

Come and talk about any or all of those things with me. I will be staffing the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth in Burnside Park (Washington St., downtown Providence, opposite Kennedy Plaza) on the following days:

May 11th-12th
May 15th-16th
May 24th-30th
June 8th-12th
June 20th-24th
These are a little patchy, because I’m traveling a bit (I have a new book out). Following me on Twitter or using the Facebook event page is probably the easiest way to see if I’ll be there on a given day, or you can check back here.
If you come see me and give me five cents for the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, I’ll listen to your anxieties, climate-change-related or otherwise–I might ask you some questions to find out more about them–and with your permission, write them down and post them here. (New readers: check out the booth sessions category for what that will look like.) I’ll give you a small piece of art to keep, a drawing of a creature that shares our land and water with us:
red-breasted merganser
And I’ll tell you about something new that’s happening this summer. Please come see me: as of Wednesday, the doctor is in.


Alternate Histories: 4/22, 5/5


I have four kids, between 18 and 26, and I worry about the kind of world they’re going to have. For the first time it’s made me almost wish I hadn’t brought kids into the world. I go back and forth between thinking there’s a reason to be hopeful and thinking there’s reasons to not be optimistic. I keep telling them, Your generation has to figure this out, because mine really messed it up.



Barely two weeks later, the fires broke out at Fort McMurray. J’s fingertip ticced over the news liveblog and the evacuation/relocation group, the human pleas for and offers of aid. Marie in Olds wrote, “Don’t forget that there are lots of people willing to open their homes in Central and Southern Alberta. I know it’s a long way, but if you can get here, you can stay for free.” J was in Rhode Island; no one could get to her. She donated money to the Red Cross. She sat still, refreshing the images of flames until her eyes turned red, thinking: We already have this kind of world. It’s now, it’s here, it’s burning. She tried not to think about the trees becoming carbon gases and ash, the reserves of tar and oil igniting underground–was that even possible?–and loosing their heat into the air; she forced her mind back to it.

J called, texted, emailed the children who didn’t still live with her and said, “Come home.” They came, and gathered close around her. “It’s scary,” they agreed, though they were calm. She almost wished they’d show distress so she could switch to comfort mode, but they were no longer her babies and she had no comfort to give. They were just here, in this world, and so was she.

When the fires finally died down, weeks later, Fort McMurray’s former residents slowly made their way back–many by foot, some in convoys–to bid farewell to their former home, a plain of ash, plastic siding melted into lava flows, soil calcined to a depth of feed in places, metal still pinging and cooling. Tree and house skeletons crumbled a little at a time. There was no reason for birds to be there. Those who were able made a procession around the blackened places, praying or singing, shouting or sobbing, according to their natures and their traditions. They marked their faces with the ash. It took days. When they left, each person took a piece of debris away with them.

(Meanwhile, people throughout Alberta and neighboring provinces were working to find housing, adapt infrastructure, continue schooling, provide medical and spiritual care for all the people who had been displaced, and find them new work to do in order to be useful and feel purpose, and helping them settle near each other whenever possible. J followed this process from afar, to the best of her ability. She wanted to know what to do when it was her turn. Her kids had to remind her to step outside, to walk on the beach, to eat with them. There are many ways to keep a vigil.)

Exploitation of the Athabasca oil sands was over.  As a home for living creatures, the place was in abeyance; the land was a graveyard. Later on, much later, after J and her children were dead, it became a field, and plants and animals–different kinds, that had weathered the world’s other changes–began to live there, and even do well on the rich black soil.



No LNG in PVD: Info Session TONIGHT

The next step in resisting the proposed liquid natural gas facility in the Port of Providence is to file public comments with the federal agency reviewing the project.

This meeting will help you do that and put you in touch with other people who don’t want this facility built in an already environmentally compromised and climate-change-vulnerable area.

No LNG in PVD: Info Session

Wednesday, May 4th, 6-7pm

10 Davol Square, Providence

Contact Sherrie at lngcampaign AT ejlri DOT org with questions about childcare, accessibility or anything else.