A leathery, peanut brittle, crazed, beautiful, puddle sits in a small drop of my back yard -- a hard like bakelite platter miniature landscape or abstract painting . Turquoise and cerulean blue globs and specks riddle the sci-fi black and burnt sienna scared surface -- the waste of superior algae. Just beside this hardened pool of beautiful chemical nightmare, a chinaberry tree begins life; about eight inches tall. It's a healthy shamrock green -- liking its place in the small drop of backyard that catches the scant rain.
How can a new tree take hold and thrive next to and in ground that has possibly been assaulted by some, or all of the following: xylene, ethylbenzene, acetates, isocyanates, ethyl 3-ethoxypropionate, toluene, glycol ethers, cadmium, cobalt and urethane polymers? The beautiful peanut brittle like puddle is polyurethane wood finish I spilled from a can with a hole in its side. The apparently healthy, growing little tree, rising from an environmental disaster, is one of many examples of the resilience of nature that I have witnessed over the last forty years of paying attention. Nature is simultaneously very fragile and very resilient. However, what cost will the little tree pay for its temerity? Will it not grow as tall as its Mother? Will its xylem be defective and split and check, allowing insect infestation or prevent proper hydration? Will it produce berries that are so genetically ruined that they will only inebriate the occasional mocking bird or cardinal? None the less, it will grow despite the obstacles and may even live to an old age.
Benzene killed my Father and may yet get me. My father was seventy. I have reached fifty-eight. The average life expectancy for a male in 1930 was sixty years. Many furniture oils, finishes and waxes have contained benzene as an inexpensive solvent. My Father and I both worked with and around furniture for years. Even if I go pretty soon, both me and my Father, by 1930's standards, will have lived full lives.
I recently attended a Christmas Party and listened to a young man defend fracking because he makes his money as a cog in a fracking outfit. Next Christmas he may speak of his outrage at the environmental cost of fracking and defend the bottled water industry -- he may be an engineer in a bottled water concern.
I have always been bemused by the holiday exclamations of salesmen at the various gatherings. One Christmas synthetic cooking oil will "revolutionize the food industry." The following Christmas synthetic cooking oil will "kill you" and elliptical lawnmower blades are going to "revolutionize the lawncare industry." And on and on. What do my musings have to do with the little chinaberry tree and my possible death from chemical exposure?
I started thinking about all of this after reading this article about how it's too late to fix or stop the inevitable global catastrophe as a result of climate change. I can't undo what has been done to my body. I can't save my Father. I can't retroactively clean-up my miniature chemical spill and change the life of the little chinaberry tree. But I can choose to live differently. I can speak-out and try and get others to live differently. I can write poems of the horror of unbridled Capitalism that takes someone's child and condemns them to a life (of a salesman) of ambiguity and intellectual strife.
How do we live in the face of impending, painful, global change?
Plant trees. Become aware that an idling automobile in Dallas is killing someone in Sudan. An eggplant plant can be quite attractive planted next to an azalea. Walk. Refuse to attend your friend's 4300 sq. ft house warming party. Pull the dusty orange water jug out of the shed. Hold a parade for the local producers of grass fed beef. Understand that some folks are good at raising chicken's and others are not -- buy eggs from the talented chicken raisers. Watch an illegal alien work with a shovel -- learn something. Give a favorite nephew a hammer for graduation instead of an expensive football jersey from a preferred university. Write an ode to the old, quaint, chalky white wooden football stadium awaiting demolition and post it on the bright yellow Caterpillar bulldozer parked at the site of the new five million dollar "sports complex." Talk about hand cranked pencil sharpeners and manual wine openers and Tailors. Sneak into the local elementary school at night and write the words "Kardashian No" five hundred times on a chalkboard. Start a club that supports local wine and goes around to construction sites with magnets and salvages dropped nails and screws. Pay someone in need to sally out each night and tie black balloons to the local "Green Builder's" V8 Suburban. Work out the physics of waterskiing behind a sailboat. Explain the dangers of unchecked livestock flatulence to a Republican spinster. Find that amazing pinata maker in Monterrey, hook him up with your salesman neighbor and blanket the world in Donald Trump Pinatas, made from recycled paper of course. Facing impending doom could be fun.
Disrupt, live and create with intention.