Plastic Challenge

Would you ever knowingly swallow plastic? Yet the North Pacific Gyre is swirling with plastic from all over the globe, a garbage patch three times the size of France. Fish and birds ingest it, and so, eventually, do we. Off the Carmel coast the sea floor is white, thick with thousands of golf balls.

These plastic pieces were found in the stomach of a Laysan albatross chick on Midway Island. From an exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

When I was a girl, Aunt Ellen’s blueberry muffins were a special treat. Now blueberries are a year-round staple in my diet, piled on top of yogurt or nibbled mindlessly as a midmorning snack. So healthy, so delicious! But whether organic or conventional, sold in plastic.

My neighbor Dick jokes that if you walk down the street in Santa Cruz, you must be accompanied by a dog on leash, talking on the phone, and/or carrying a cup of coffee; otherwise you risk getting a ticket. Usually the cup in hand is paper with a plastic lid. Of course, you’re probably like me and bring your own cup with you to the coffee shop, but here’s a confession: at work my breakfast is Bob’s Red Mill organic oatmeal in a “convenient on-the-go cup” with plastic film over the top, and lunch is often a prepackaged salad from Trader Joe’s. For years I virtuously recycled those clamshell containers, but a few months ago I learned that, in Santa Cruz anyway, they are not recyclable.

Living in the Netherlands back in the 90s, I got in the habit of taking my own shopping bag to the grocery store, but too often when I order takeout, I forget to say that I don’t need utensils. Serving dinner at the winter homeless shelter last week, we supplemented the VFW’s plates, cups, and forks with paper napkins and plastic knives for forty men. I only volunteered there one night, but it must be the same every night all winter long.

We all know the slogan Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, which probably goes back to the beginning of the environmental movement in the 70s. It’s catchy, practical, good for the planet — and for the soul. In his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, Pope Francis deplores our throwaway culture, and he has proposed adding care for our common home as an eighth work of mercy to the traditional list of seven.

Last year the Church of England encouraged Christians to reduce their plastic use during Lent. Over the years I’ve given up candy, alcohol, Facebook, even chocolate, but plastic? It seemed way too hard. How could I go forty days without acquiring or discarding plastic?

Ash Wednesday is March 6th. Let’s see.

What Shape Waits in the Seed

When humans begin to play

in the workshop of the Mother,

we cheer at the fireworks

and admire our reflection

in the miracles we have wrought.

She welcomes her co-creators,

but how proud we are

to loosen the strings

and toddle away.

It’s easy then

to mistake a warning shot

for the starting gun

and take off in a carbon-fueled race to the stars.

Few notice when winter snows come late

and monarchs lose their way.

Hungry engines keep boring,

while tinkering fingers slide up the double helix.

 

monarch butterfly

What shape waits then in the milkweed seed,

and who will hear the cries

when caterpillars stop turning into butterflies?

 

 

Title from “What to Remember When Waking” by David Whyte

Written upon learning that monarch butterflies will likely be extinct in twenty years.

Image courtesy of Kenneth Dwain Harrelson

 

Epiphany

He could be Walt Whitman,

sitting here with a saw outside Bookshop Santa Cruz.

To the bashful but curious toddler in his father’s arms

he might look like a grandfather

the boy hasn’t met yet.

“How ‘bout I play you a song you know?”

Saw handle between his knees,

the old man bends the blade and guides a bow

across its flat edge.

Haunting tones float over us,

and the little boy recognizes the tune

at the same time I do.

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star …”

Played on a musical saw,

the humble notes are ethereal as starlight.

Does the old man know that 

today is the Feast of Epiphany?

Or is he, like father and child,

an unwitting king,

the three magi

offering their gifts here on Pacific Avenue?

Statue of a musical saw player
Photo courtesy of Ali Eminov

Prayer in a Time of Fire

I hear your voice in my sweetheart’s lullaby.

Let’s share the moonlight, he sings

in the waltz time melody he wrote for me.

I hear your voice in the notes of his ukulele

and the whir of hummingbird wings,

bamboo fluttering in the breeze

and the silence of the butterfly’s flight.

 

But in these days of smoke and ashes

my ears yearn to hear you in the rain,

falling on leaves and roof,

sliding in rivulets down the windows.

Oh, won’t you pour into the eave-guarding gutters

And gurgle through the downspouts?

 

With chapped lips and a dry throat

I praise you

and raise my rough and calloused hands.

You soothe us now with our own tears,

but I implore you,

sweeten my song with freshwater,

let us fall asleep to your voice in the rainfall.

raindrops in a pool

River Journey

I’m thrilled to introduce the Kingdom of Enough’s first guest blogger: my friend Sarojani, a wise poet and member of the local Celtic band Innisfree.

empty canoes in a river

There is a bend in the river.

Boat’s gotten too heavy.

Gotta keep what’s worth keeping.

Gotta let some things go.

 

I remember floating

weightless

only water and sky.

It was simple then.

I did not know

grief or climate change,

the ravages of war

or a young black man’s daily danger.

 

I believed in presidents being

good and smart leaders

with dignity and integrity:

true public servants who helped

make things better.

Never doubted there was enough

food or water for everyone.

 

But now I believe in the more immediate politics

of loving kindness,

the cast of burnished sunlight

in the late autumn afternoons

through the old growth redwoods,

the gift of longing for ongoing communion

with The Beloved.

 

I remember a day in the Irish landscape

at Croagh Patrick

the Holy Mountain

in the town of Murrisk, County Mayo

where for centuries

pilgrims have been making their way

up the rocky path

to leave their failings,

make their promises,

cry their fervent prayers.

 

I set out that day with the only plan

that I would go as far as I could.

I was older now, heavier, not very agile or confidant

in my uphill climbing abilities.

But I knew my heart was true.

Before very long and way after many

had passed me, I sat on a large rock overlooking the beauties of Clew Bay

and the surrounding landscape.

I had already reached my limit.

 

There I meditated for awhile

with the light of the swiftly moving clouds

and the full presence of the Irish wind.

I settled in to a deep stillness

and felt to be in a place of solace and guidance.

When I finally opened my eyes

I saw pilgrim after pilgrim passing me,

making their way up the steep slope

and I began to greet them and then

silently bless their journey.

 

It felt right.

I had been rightly placed.

I knew that I had my own special place on this mountain

and was doing what I had been prepared for

in this very moment;

that we all have a particular path,

places we are planted, people who seem to come randomly into our lives.

The medicine we all have for each other.

 

I thought of our dear fragile earth,

the fabric of our government that appears to be coming apart at the seams,

the potential for mass despair and feelings of hopelessness;

that somehow we are helpless in the face of our
daunting circumstances.

But then I remember the Holy Mountain;

the one we each are climbing every day
in the best and only way we know how,

climbing In the way we were made to climb.

 

I see step by step

each of us

being given pieces to hold to fight for

to help heal.

 

The Water Protectors.

The interpreters of whale songs.

The research scientists relentless in making their pleas with hard evidence

in giving voice to the earth’s cries.

Those striving for peace in thought, word and deed

choosing diets and lifestyles

that protect animals and ecosystems.

The poets, artists and musicians who stay true

to keeping beauty alive and well in the world.

There is a bend in the river

and I see boats

of every shape, size and color

making their way safely

through the tumultuous channels

and abiding the ever-changing currents.

“But where will we all land?” do you ask.

 

I guess that part is up to us.

 

By Sarojani Rohan

 

The Ground Beneath

 

IMG_3813In the centuries before the friars built a mission here, in all those autumns of acorn gathering, how many native feet trod the ground beneath this house? When its foundations were laid seventy years ago, did the builders find potsherds or old Spanish coins? Did they find bones?

In the shadow of the yellow Victorian next door with its turrets and gingerbread trim, what inspired the architect to look further back in time to cloister arches and thick adobe walls?

The answers are lost in lathe and plaster. I like to think that the laughter and music and poems that bubble up in our home mean that it was constructed on happy ground, that in the five thousand years before the missionaries came, children played here. Boys walked up the hill from the river to hunt rabbit and squirrel; girls came to find berries.

Before the road in front of our house was paved, wagon wheels carved ruts in the earth. Now ten thousand cars a day drive by, and only small islands of forest and grassland remain where the city has grown.

Yet, still, acorns fall to the earth every autumn, and sometimes, sometimes a hawk circles overhead.

 

 

(Images of Ohlone village life from murals at the Wash & Dry on the corner of Water St. and Branciforte Ave. in Santa Cruz.)

The Last Oozings

grape clustersLeaves on the spent canes of the
boysenberry vine crinkle and fade,
while congregations of Concord grapes
swell with purple sweetness.
Into the green globes hanging from the persimmon tree
an orange stain begins to creep.
Slowly the garden is bending towards autumn.

Unlike me
it surrenders its greenness willingly.
In a long, languid season
of praise for the light
it consents to the coming darkness.
May I join my voice to this
thanksgiving song,
reach for candle and cup,
and trust in the secret gifts
the roots know
in the belly of the earth.

 

Title from “To Autumn” by John Keats