I've struggled as a writer this year - not because of who is in the White House (though that adds a measure to it) - but because of how clear it has become that we are facing a mixture of crises that are unfolding rapidly and which we humans do not seem to have the capacity to address, at least not in a way commensurate with the scale of the crises.
The crises we face are real, they are existential, and they have come upon us so quickly over the past few decades of industrial-technological growth, the explosion of population, the shredding of habitats, and a long, long list of demographic, climate, cultural, and other changes, that we barely have had time to breathe, to take them in, to reflect on what they mean, what they tell us about the times in which we live.
All of this is interrelated, of course. The crises feed upon one another. And I, for one, have been left feeling a bit overwhelmed, and often discouraged, when it comes to sitting with my pen and journal, or at a keyboard, to attempt to write. Often, I am left with the blank page unable to focus. Where to start? Does it matter? Is there any point to it? Does what I write make any difference at all?
I have a feeling I am not alone in any of this. I can't blame the November election because it was and is all symptom, not cause, and the point is to try to get the diagnosis right so that the crisis can be treated correctly and effectively.
As I write this, I feel a renewed sense of mission as a writer rising with passion, restlessness, some hidden rage, a fierce sense that truth above all is what writers need to write. This cancer is out of control and it is eating us from within, destroying vital organs, metastasizing to our brains so that our thinking is muddled and confused.
To mark his passing, I have been reading Brian Doyle's "Mink River," and find myself gasping out loud at times by his lyrical brilliance, weeping at times at his tender compassion for his characters, for this community of absolutely no importance to the world of this nation and its economic and political culture, but how the humanity of the people in it, however broken - at times literally - puts pols and pundits and many religious and cultural "leaders" to shame.
This is us - all tender and broken, struggling with, or avoiding as much as we can, this question of whether there is any meaning at all - except in the place of tender connection, or at the spot amidst the tall grasses on the hill where one can see the waves of the ocean breaking over the rocky shore of the Oregon Coast, the sound of the Mink River as it meets the sea, the sound of the bicycle wheels as Daniel and the bike go over the cliff, the view of the ocean from the doctor's porch.
Doyle gives us this mirror - as any true writer should do.
I don't write fiction, but I have grown increasingly attached to the "creative" part of creative non-fiction. I do write essays on the blog for the website that sponsors that "nexus" work I do, the Center for New Creation. Maybe you would have a look.
So this is what it feels like to get my focus back - a sharper view, and therefore a clearer rendering of the true state of things. The stripping away of both hope and despair leaves a space for more creative expression without trying to promote or cling to either one. I have a much better sense not only of what is being stripped away, but also what is emerging.
~ Kathleen Dean Moore, from the essay, "Overnight Fog in the Valley," in Wild Comfort - the Solace of Nature
Photos & essay: Margaret Swedish