Mermaids II

If I were a mermaid living in the ocean, I’d be angry with humans.  The ocean is, afterall, my home.  I want my environment to be pristine.  For myself and all the variety of wondrous sea creatures who also live here.  When my environment is polluted by the ignorance and greed of humans, well I can’t just get up and walk away, can I?  The integral relationship of the ocean with the moon and our ecosystem that keeps things “working” is being drastically damaged by destructive human activities.  Witnessing the devastation that humans have wreaked on my home, I’m wondering what I can do to wake them up!

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As we get more and more distanced from nature, we are going to feel the effects.  Because, as John Muir has said, “Nature includes us!”

As sophisticated as we might think we are, as much as we think we’ve conquered nature and that we are civilized above and beyond the natural world…that’s false thinking.  We are nature, nature is us.  We have a biology and so does the earth and the sea and the whole ecology in which we are included.  I’m likely preaching to the choir here!

This mermaid reminds me of a warrioress.  She is both tender and tough when necessary.  She is ready to go to battle for her home, the ocean.

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In 1995, an amazing film was released, The Secret of Roan Inish.  The music was haunting, the scenery enchanting, the acting authentic and the story–magical and mythological.  This is where I first heard of “the Selkie.  And, I feel that the sea is portrayed as a character itself.  Effective personification!

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The phrase “If I were” is a good way to begin writing.  Especially when you’re feeling stuck…”If I were…”  Those three little words open the door to imagination and possibility.  Go ahead, WRITE!

Who Is Your Mother?

Last week, I viewed the film…Never Cry Wolf once again.  It had been awhile since I’ve seen this film.  The main character, a Canadian biologist named Tyler, is flown on a small bush plane and dropped off in the vast, wild and white unknown of  the Canadian Arctic wilderness.  His job is to discover why the caribou population is declining.  It is believed that the wolf packs are eliminating the caribou and so he is there to study the feeding habits of the wolves.

This time, a few things struck me as I watched this film.  The vastness of the wilderness contrasted the minuteness of man.  There was the wild beauty of the scenery.  Then, when a nomadic Inuit man rescues Tyler, I got a sense of the land as experienced by its native inhabitants.  They are in a deep, daily conversation with their environment .  They have to be!  Growing up there, steeped in the traditions of their people, their own interactions with the climate, geography and the animals upon which they directly depend for their clothing, food and shelter…this added another dimension to the story for me.

In his book, Earth in Balance, Al Gore, politician and environmentalist, discusses how we have been taught “to live so separately from nature that we feel so utterly dependent upon our civilization, which has seemingly taken nature’s place in meeting all  our needs.”   Gore elaborates:

“The food on the supermarket shelves, the water in the faucets in our homes, the shelter and sustenance, the clothing and purposeful work, our entertainment, even our identity–all these our civilization provides, and we dare not even think about separating ourselves from such beneficence.”

Yet, there are natural laws that supersede government provisions.  We are disconnected from the natural environment and because of this, we don’t have a real understanding of our place within nature…as John Muir has said “Nature includes us.”

An excerpt from a metaphorical
poem I wrote concerning this vital relationship:

If I don’t know my mother,
how will I care for her
when she is ill and nearly used up?
Why would I sing her sweet lullabies
or hold unrecognizable her in my lap,
rock her into recovery?
If I don’t see that she’s ailing,
or that we’re even related,
why would I pause in my hectic life,
seek her out and say
I love you, I’ll look after you now.
Why would I care if she is a stranger
and I don’t talk to strangers?

The Babushkas of Chernobyl

A few days ago, in a local cafe, a friend posed a question about the environment and morality.  Do we have a moral responsibility to protect the environment, not only for humans but for the other species with whom we share the planet?

He also asked “How did we arrive at this place of direness on the planet?”  “What is the source of our disconnect from the earth?”  And, “Is it too late?”  Good questions.

I have no answers.  I also sit with these questions and wonder what we can do to alter a course that seems bent on its way facilitated by humans who don’t seem to realize that
earth is our host planet, home.  And, that we have a responsibility to live in a reciprocal relationship to the earth.  Sustainability.  Why aren’t we awake to the facts that we are doing irreparable damage by the way we live?

Within his questions, was a sense of helplessness.  However, he was proposing that we discuss these things and other topics relevant to survival on planet earth.  Not to depress everyone but to wake ourselves up to the facts.  We can’t know what might arise from such discussions.  Growing awareness, brainstorming and potential answers.  No one really lives in isolation.  Everything is affected by everything.

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I watched this documentary film, The Babushkas of Chernobyl, at another friend’s recommendation.  Afterwards, my initial feeling was that everyone should see this film.  I watched it through Amazon Prime.  It impacted me deeply for many reasons.

History Repeating

Last week, I attended an artist reception in a nearby community…the exhibit was entitled “Latent” and was about an area not very far from where I live.  Tulelake, CA.  The Modoc Indians once inhabited this land.  Here lies a sad and bloody history.

During World War II, this site became one of ten Japanese Internment Camps across the United States.

This same land, degraded and impoverished, has most recently been a shambles for migrant farm workers and/or meth labs.

The curators of this show, two young women photographers, visited the site several times and took present day photos.  They were battered by the heavy winds, astonished by the starkness of the land and confronted by local habitators as they took their photos.  They got a sense of the deep sorrow in the land itself.  Having researched the history of the area, along with the photos they took, they related the stories of this desolate place and the peoples who had lived there.

I’ve returned to see the exhibit a second time.  It’s almost too much for the psyche to take in the magnitude of this story.  I plan to go again.  One comment that I heard more than once as I attended the artist reception was “It’s happening again.”

There is a phrase that has been used to describe the importance of remembering history so that we don’t repeat it.  The phrase is “Lest we forget.”

Writing Prompt:
Is there something historical in the place where you live that shouldn’t be forgotten?  How would you tell this story, lest we forget?

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The Influence of Place on Your Character

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What sort of creature was I growing up and living beside the ocean?

What sort of creature am I now living in the mountains?

 

 

There is an age-old argument about the role of genetics versus environment in a person’s development.  We’ve heard stories of identical twins, separated at birth, reared in different environments…how these twins share idiosyncratic traits though they haven’t “met.”  A preference for certain foods, a predisposition to particular physical ailments and even that they vacation on the same Florida Beach!  This seems to apply more to identical twins than fraternal for some reason.  Fascinating, right?

We can say that genetics influences our physical appearance, preferences, predispositions and some behaviors.  However, external environment is also an influential factor in development, lifestyle and opportunities.

My 17-year old grandson is taking an elective class, Human Geography.  Recently, we had an interesting discussion about how environment shapes development.  Of course, things cannot be separated out…it is not an either/or.  Can we safely say that both genetics and environment affect development?

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As a writer, what role does place play in the development of your character?  In a real sense, place is its own character.  This is not about using personification in describing place.  If place figures prominently in a story, then, it needs to be described.  As the writer, you explore and expose the relationship between your character(s) and their environment.

The harshness of the sou’wester storm in Maine causes your character to go indoors and batten the hatches for days on end.  They are forced to be reclusive.  Either they like this proscribed reclusiveness, they are apathetic towards it or they hate it!  Either way, there is a relationship between your character and these storms, this place.

There was a time that I didn’t enjoy reading long descriptive scenes in a novel.  I felt that they halted or interrupted the story.  I wanted paced action and dialogue to move the story along–quick revelations, rather than long, drawn out descriptive paragraphs.

These days, I have a better understanding of the value of effective descriptions of place.  And, when rendered well, I appreciate the relationship between character development and environment.

WRITING PROMPT:
Who would you be if you lived in the desert?  Or, if  you live in the desert already, who would you be if you lived by the ocean?  Take fifteen moments to describe a desert or an ocean scene.  Then, insert yourself there and show us who you are in relation to this, your environment.  Engage the spirit of imagination and play.  We’re not looking for exactness here.