23 April 2019

the right to be present, to attend, to be astonished

Halfway through the first episode of the BBC's The Earth from Space you can see how a vast cloud of red sand from a dead lake in the Sahara desert is slowly and gently carried by the winds all the long way across the Atlantic to the Amazon rainforest where the fine sand is rained onto the thick canopy delivering its nourishing minerals.

You ask yourself, surely this is not coincidental? You admit that it seems nothing short of a miracle and immediately, you can think of a string of such miracles (see the video below for example) which so obviously reflect how Planet Earth is looking after Planet Earth - without human input, our useless, destructive, cruel human input. Also, miracle, what a stupid word, how limiting, how human to describe what appears to be self evident, practical, sharing, caring. There, I said it, caring!

Early in 1982, I was with friends whose baby refused to be born on time and what should have been a short visit turned into two, almost three weeks of hanging around, playing cards, and going on shorter and shorter walks. I had a lot of time on my hands and - as you do - started a very amateurish translation of James Lovelock's book Gaia: A new look at life on earth. On a typewriter, while the mother-to-be was napping. 

The baby arrived when I was halfway through, it's a slim book. I finished the translation much later, pregnant myself, full of mother hunger, and sent it off to my father, a messy folder of typed pages. 
I suppose I wanted to impress him or maybe shock him. He was disappointed with me at the time as usual. I had dropped out of my university career. No longer the shining achiever at one of the oldest and most glorious universities, I was living in a small country that was falling off the edge of his world, baking bread.
He wasn't impressed at all. He told me, would not waste his time reading it.

Many years later, though, at one of these family events where we all stand around, glasses of something in our hands, fake smiles and faked interest, I heard him, he was standing a few steps in front of me, talking to his cousin (who had invented something of photovoltaic importance and thus had earned some respect from my father): yes, Lovelock, indeed, of course I read his first book many years ago. 

Now, another decade later, he calls me and we remember, as if it was yesterday, how he received this folder from me and how impressed he was reading it, still is, and yes, yes, Lovelock, amazing, just recently, someone mentioned him on tv.


  1. Dare I say that your father is a narcissist?
    Thanks for that video. It's the most optimistic thing I've seen in awhile.

  2. I really like the video, on so many levels. As for your father, I don't want to overstep, but "insufferable pill" comes to mind. I think you deserved better. Of course that's true for so many of us. Perhaps loving parents who we don't like has some meaning? Perhaps not.

  3. the video makes it seem so simple and in truth it is but convincing humans to stop interfering, to get them to coexist with wild animals, to let the land just be instead of destroying it for profit, is not so simple. getting religion to stop telling it's adherents that humans are better than anything else that exists, made in god's image as if nothing else is, would be a good start.

    my father was usually disappointed with me and my sister as well, the two girls. the sun rose and set on the high achiever son. and while he supported my effort to be a working artist, even that was a disappointment as I wasn't the right kind of artist. I was supposed to be a painter that had gallery shows.

  4. I’m sorry he didn’t value just for you, not for what you do, who you know or how much you achieve.

  5. You always give me plenty to think about. Mother hunger. Fathers. Gaia, the mother goddess who presided over the earth. I'm noticing that you translated that book in the context of mothers and babies. Caring.

  6. The earth can heal itself and us if we let it. And your father? Well, you taught him something, even as you went your own way.

  7. We need to embrace nature and wildlife, respecting how natural systems interact and support one another. The complex can be simple. Appreciate the video.

  8. I don't think humans are up to the task of letting nature recover. I wish it were different, but seriously I think we are on a path of ultimate destruction. I wish it were different, in the same way I wish your father had been more kind. Oh the potential is there, but the will...

  9. Interesting how your father's initial response turned into something much more enthusiastic over the years. I hope these shows about earth and its wildlife are opening people's eyes to the predicaments and unexpected joys of our planet -- but I can't watch them myself. They depress me.

  10. My father gave me the best compliment I have ever received. "You are a good mother."

    On the other hand, my mother.....

    As I grieve for the loss of habitat and bugs and creatures of all kinds, I have faith in the Earth to recover. Humans just won't be around to witness it.