It seems that a lot of us are mourning the loss of our lives as we knew them, or how we assumed they'd play out. We're grieving, and mourning the loss of a safe Mother Earth, mourning the loss of habitat for wildlife, mourning the loss of work we thought we'd do, mourning the loss of farmland that's sold and turned under for new shopping centers (ironically designed to look like small quaint shoppes and villages), mourning the sense of security we've always had about our food supply and mourning the loss of weather patterns that we've known our whole lives. Right now, here in Central Texas, many of us are mourning the loss of thousands of acres of state parkland (and the resident wildlife there), consumed by runaway wildfires in the area---something we thought we’d never have to worry about.
Personally, I'm mourning the loss of work I thought I'd do. As a writer, I'm mourning the changes in the publishing industry that seem to have come at break-neck speed. I can get paid a tiny fraction for an article today compared to what I was paid back in 1978--if I get paid at all. How do you build a sustainable career based on that? You can't. Bookstores are closing; publishers are canceling contracts, not signing on new authors and not promoting the back-lists of their existing authors. There are huge wastes in the publishing industry.
I know I'm not the only one mourning losses. But sometimes I wonder, is this too radical to think about these things in this way? Do I worry too much? Alternatively, CAN we worry too much, given what we know and have seen? Now I understand why my grandmother was such a worrier--she had a right to be, because of the things she lived through and the changes she saw. That's the operative phrase...lived through. She didn't give up, and even until the end of her life, when she was living in a horrible rest home (if you could call that living), she kept her wonderful sense of humor...and hope. To her last days, she had a tiny flicker of hope that she'd be able to pack that little suitcase of hers and go back home. And that hope kept her going for many more years.
There is a bright side to some of this. Some publishers are taking sustainability seriously and forming groups like the Green Press Initiative, using recycled paper, publishing more e-books, nurturing their authors and taking a more intimate, small press approach to business. In a move to survive, some authors are having to become more self-sufficient in order to further their careers, publishing their own work and taking on the huge responsibility of finding a market for it and as a result are connecting with their readers on a closer level than ever before.
Artists are striking out on their own, bypassing the traditional galleries to sell their work in "indie" festivals across the country, using alternative selling venues like farmer's markets or online websites to connect with people who appreciate handmade.
Some of us are planting front yard gardens, growing food out in full view of the neighbors and collecting rainwater and turning our kitchen “wastes” into nourishing compost. Groups are forming community gardens that give folks a sense of belonging and a small patch of soil to call their own. Urban farms are sprouting up in many parts of the country and getting healthy food to people who otherwise would have no access to it.
In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross said there are five stages of grief---denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I think there should be another one added to that list...moving on, with just a little flicker of hope. Doing what we can, in our own little way, to make the outcome a different one. The gloom 'n doom theories are just that---theories. Nobody knows, even with all their new high tech weather prognostication tools, that the drought in Texas will last for another year, or another five years. They are just predictions. Many predictions do not come true—especially when Texas weather is involved. I could be awakened by a thunderstorm in the middle of the night by that sweet sweet sound of rain plopping on the metal roof. It has happened before; it can happen again.
We all need to all do our part to make sure many of these dire predictions don't come true. We can change things; we can take baby steps. We can plant a tomato in a pot on our porch, or seek out a community garden in our area and connect with like-minded people there. We can choose not to drive so far for shopping and instead support our local economy. We can turn off the lights when we leave a room, or work by the natural light shining through the window. We can take a new, slower, different approach to our work and work at making a life in our own little patch of the universe.
All of these are choices we can make. The ending to this story has not been written yet. We have the power, as long as we still have a tiny flicker of hope.
Today, I’m hopeful as I walk through my otherwise pretty much dead front yard garden and notice that the Texas sage (cenizo) has bloomed overnight. AND that there are hundreds of bees partaking of its sweetness. I haven’t seen many bees lately; this gives me hope. I will definitely plant more of these native Texas beauties this fall!
As opposed to the non-native shrub right next to the cenizo:
In another part of the yard, the esperanza is blooming, and has been blooming throughout this horrible summer. I recently learned that this plant is also called “yellow bells” and I like that one very much. I believe that “esperanza” is the Spanish word for “faith.” Also fitting.
Happy trails from Texas, where it is ONLY 79-degrees!
Bobbi A. Chukran