Friday, December 20, 2013

En route from Marion, Massachusetts, to New Haven, Connecticut

Et in Arcadia, ego
156 miles, 12.5 hours
 
This morning I slept through my alarm, set for six AM, and had to run to catch a bus leaving from New Bedford, supposed to allow me to transit in Providence to get into New Haven before noon. But the company failed to mention that I was supposed to change buses, to Greyhound, at a random transportation plaza in downtown Providence, rather than going to the bus terminal.  Now it already is after four and I'm stranded in Hartford, eight hours into what will probably be a fourteen-hour journey. It was supposed to be three.

I'm going to Connecticut to pick up a car belonging to my family, a car that I intend to drive back to Marion and then to Chattanooga, hopefully tomorrow, and thence to Atlanta, where the flight to Bangkok departs on New Year's Eve. But today's snafu has me questioning all sorts of things. Namely: what the heck am I doing planning for six months of constant travel when I can't even manage one lousy bus transition, in my own backyard, when I speak the language and can read the signs? How am I going to survive in Burma? Or Cambodia? Or anywhere?

It makes me want to buy the next bus ticket to the County and hole up for the winter. I find myself wondering what I'd be doing there. As I write here, in blue pen on paper, it's barely light in Hartford, so the County is already dark. I'd be back from my solitary walk, like the one on which I took the picture above, having seen the light glowing above the washout. Maybe I'd do yoga, think about dinner, make a pot of chai. I'd be putting more wood in the woodstove, petting my cat, listening to NPR. I'd be cozy in my office, with a blanket around my knees, working.

Instead I sit huddled in my down coat on a bench at an old train station, drinking fountain soda to stay awake, pretending to listen to my iPod to avoid contact with strangers. I've already burned through all my reading material and am debating buying more. They have a newsstand at least. And I see months of this kind of life laid out before me, months of sleeping in train stations, of existential angst, of constant fear that I'm on the wrong bus, train, platform.

I said to myself, during my first three-hour bus station wait of the day, that this day had a nightmarish quality to it, and then I stopped, because this is exactly my recurring nightmare: I'm in a bus or train station, or in an airport. I have to be somewhere by a certain time, or the time is already past, or I'm already too late, or I'm supposed to be elsewhere. My itinerary keeps changing, and I have to be shuttled across town in bad traffic. My plane's already left, or it's going to leave, or I'm going to miss it, and then, generally—I lose my suitcase or wallet or passport or ticket. Then I wake up.

But here I am, putting myself in a position to experience exactly that same sequence of events again and again and again, for months. Why? Because it's what I want, or claim to want. This is what I wanted. This is what I've always loved.

It's exactly the part of travel I've always loved—the fear, the missed connections, the life balanced on a knife's edge. Travel, especially in a foreign country and an unknown language, is a constant state of existential crisis. One never knows anything for certain. One swims in a morass of uncertainty, with a delicious frisson of danger running beneath its surface. Uncertainty becomes the water in which one swims, the water which one breathes. It's what I love, or what I'm addicted to, what I crave, what I long for. And the payoff is so great! The relief, when arriving at a long-sought destination, is a crescendoing climax, an utter release of pent-up adrenaline and anxiety.

The human heart is a mysterious place. Human desire utterly unpredictable. Even my own is a mystery to me. Once I heard Amy Frykholm read from her book See Me Naked, an excerpt about a girl so anorexic she'd become unable to identify her own desire for food. She couldn't recognize her hunger as hunger, so couldn't identify what she hungered for. My best friend's husband is a doctor who works with obese diabetics, trying to help them change eating patterns, and he says that many of them have never even had the experience of being hungry. They don't even know how it feels.

I am certain this trip is something I am hungry for, something I've hungered after for a long time. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart,” says the psalmist. More and more I think desire is a road map for life, a signpost pointing each path forward. The more I live closer to the bones of my own desire, not from fear of what anyone else thinks, or what others want from me, or for me, not according to cultural dictates, but closer to what I want from my own life—the closer I am to fine.

What I want, what I've always wanted, is to travel. Despite it's inherent labyrinthine torture. I am certain of that. Maybe not forever, but for now. And that certainty limns the waiting, lights the way forward.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Aroostook County, Maine

Eating as much garlic as we can.  It's especially good in hummus.  Most of it will probably freeze.

On the drive back here, back home, it was white-out conditions north of Millinocket, the entrance to Baxter State Park, the way to Katahdin. All the way into Aroostook County, it snowed. At first I thought it was dust, the first truck I passed. Or maybe fog, swirling around. It was foggier and foggier, and then all of a sudden the fog was snow. I woke K up and he drove, thirty miles an hour slower than I'd been driving. The county always welcomes us with snow, embraces us with cold.

Tonight it's one degree on the thermostat, the diesel fuel burning in the hall from our jury-rigged plastic jugs. No need to fill the tank—we're only supposed to be here a couple of days, days that stretch into weeks. We're out of wood, down to one log of tamarack, that we're saving for something. Who knows what or when. The house will freeze while we're away, and we're preparing for that, packing up canned goods. What does freezing mean for the books? The vases? The dishes?

Nonetheless, we're leaving it all behind. K's coming with me for the better part of two months to Thailand, the country where I grew up, the place I've been wanting to take him since we met, nine years and eight months ago, and I'm staying for an additional three. Or that's the plan, at least. As we've progressed together, I've had to learn not to plan. Sometimes I realize that's the deal we've struck, the deal I have to live with—definitely the deal when it comes to Spirit. We could decide to sell her tomorrow. We could sail for the next nineteen years.

But right now, the plan is, as much as there is a plan, for me to be alone for three months, live my dream of a bungalow on the beach. When I was a kid, we used to drive down the peninsula for family vacations and find a beach resort in the off-season, just “winging it,” as my mom said. One time we went later than usual and the resort where we stopped had no one in the place, except one guy. A German, a writer, staying all the way in the thatch-roofed bungalow at the other end of the beach from us. I never saw him, just heard about him through my family, talking to the waiters at the open-air restaurant. They cooked for him. He had the run of the place.

I've dreamt of ithat ever since, and I've even thought of trying to find that exact beach resort—Shell Beach, we christened it, for the crushed shells of its sand. Now I have three months to find it, or some place else, some other version of my lost home.

And in finding that lost home, chasing into the past after it, I lose this one. The cozy orange cat nestled in winter coats. The wood smoke. The brisk purity of cold.

I just finished reading Eat Pray Love for the first time, the book that was such a sensation a couple of years ago, and I was impressed by it. Its ruthless honesty, and Elizabeth Gilbert's fearlessness. Somehow it's still shocking for a 35-year-old woman to step out alone. We all still live in Scarlett O'Hara's Atlanta, where a lady needs accompaniment.

I'm also reading Dave Eggers again, A Hologram for the King, whose prose I nestle beneath as if below a zero-degree sleeping bag. He says: “We've become a nation of indoor cats. A nation of doubters, worriers, overthinkers. Thank God these weren't the kind of Americans who settled this country. They were a different breed! They crossed the country in wagons with wooden wheels! People croaked along the way, and they barely stopped. Back then, you buried your dead and kept moving.”

But I feel resfeber, a word I recently tumbled: traveler's fever. “The restless race of a traveler's heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together.” I'm going back to the land of my youth. The land I call my heart's home. I'm going there with my one true love, and he's giving me the gift of time alone there too, and what if it's a bust? What if I hate it? What if I fail? Somehow I'm still setting this high bar for myself when my only job is to marinate in the language, food, and culture of my youth, and to write about it. To write. To write, to keep writing. But what about my notebooks and pens here? My office? What about my typewriter? My beaver-pond facing desk? Worse, what if I fall in love with the land of my youth? What if it is my true home? What if I never come back? What does that mean for this place and my life in it?

I practice my Thai penmanship, look up words in the dictionary, memorize my guidebook. I watch television on the couch. I sleep late, and miss most of the five-hour day. I burrow. I read. I vacillate wildly between abject terror and breathless anticipation. I count down the days. Nineteen. Now eighteen. Can it really be true? It can't be true. It's true.

The word in Thai for adventure—I looked it up, to be able to explain what I'm doing—is gaanpha johnphai. It means, literally, to battle danger. I love that. I love the idea of taking up arms against danger, of fighting it, rather than letting it rule my life through fear. There are so many, many things to be afraid of, and I'm just sick and tired of being afraid of them. Maybe I'm finally ready to live, or maybe I'm just heading into the next phase of my life, my middle age, where I'll do these things and worry less about the what and the why and the for how long. What's great about Eat Pray Love is—spoiler alert—she ends by dividing her time among three places: America, Australia, Bali, and Brazil. A ridiculous arrangement, she agrees, but she loves it for its neat rhyme scheme, its internal echo. I see no reason why I can't, like her, become a hummingbird and absent myself in the winter, during these dark days that require fortitude and endurance and vast amounts of carbohydrates and sleep. Why not build my own migratory pattern, spend the carbon dioxide of a tankful of fuel oil on a tankful of jet fuel instead, and fly away? I'm thinking a four-month schedule, equally divided among Southeast Asia, Aroostook County, and Spirit. With Spirit in the Mediterranean. Or the Azores.

No matter where I am, I dream—or at least daydream--of being elsewhere. Are all of us like that or is it only me? I dream of being elsewhere than where I am, here, now, even while mourning my exodus from this place, my castle in the snow. Sometimes I remember and I stop nesting, mourning, cataloging, cooking. Instead, I retreat into myself before I jump into the great wide world. Instead, I look out the window. Try to watch the blue light of afternoon drift across the white swamp.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Marion, Massachusetts

K, me, and Spirit in October at the dock

Spirit arrived at the house on Front Street today and tonight she sleeps in the driveway, her mast unstepped and in the grass of the front yard. It's been an eventful and difficult few months. We discovered shortly after my last post—or maybe before—that the wooden mast probably needed to be replaced. There are a couple of prospects for aluminum replacement masts, and another option is the repair of the existing wooden mast. My preferred option, cutting a spruce tree in Aroostook and allowing it to cure, was not chosen. My second preferred option, wrapping the thing in duct tape and sailing to the Azores anyway: also shot down.

Autumnal sea grass at Old Landing in Marion
We also didn't live aboard as much as I would have liked. I stocked the boat with groceries and toiletries and dishes, but the comforts of a family dwelling—laundry and electricity and hot water and plumbing—are often too hard to turn down, as they also were seven years ago, with Secret. Can it really have been that long? Yes.

The last row of the season
Exactly three nights were spent at anchor, two nights in harbors we'd already visited, once off the Elizabethan Islands alone, open to the current. We didn't make it to Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard. And still I focus on the things that were not done, rather than those that were. Spirit, herself, is exquisite. Beamy, roomy, comfortable, warm, thoroughly equipped. She's the perfect boat, already a personality, a boat I cannot bring myself to call an “it” whatever you landlubbers may do.

Mast coming down at sunset, as the boatyard dudes pounded down the boom gallows with a rubber hammer, far more viciously than I would have
But she is not yet a home. I remain perennially homeless. The most stressful thing about these in-between periods, the stretch between adventures, is a feeling of constantly imposing on the kindness of strangers, or at least friends and family. So we're in a holding pattern, and in the meantime, as we mast-hunt and paint and powerwash and decommission, draining water from the holding tank and the engine and the water bladders, we prepare also for another winter ashore.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bridgewater, Maine

September 29 -- 2009

Leaving the farm is going to be harder than I at first thought, I must admit. I also must admit that I've been grieving for much of the last month, maybe still grieving even for the objects I lost at sea—not exactly the objects but the ideas. The leather notebook with five years of story seeds. The dream journal with four months of dreams.

I know I must regard these things as ephemera, as things that are lost, and I feel I should be strong enough by now to let the things go. To let all things go. As I must let this place go if we really decide to adventure again. But I am dragging my feet.

The longer I farm, or whatever it is we're trying to do here, the more I realize that it's simply an act of heroic emotional resilience. I understand why farmers don't want their kids to be farmers. Because there's tragedy in it, and death, and I simply can't bring myself to eat or harvest the food in the garden as I write, knowing that I'm leaving it, that I'm leaving this land. I simply don't have the emotional strength for it.

Which maybe is okay. Maybe all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. Maybe it's okay that I just ate four leaves of kale with my rice tonight. We've learned, also, that the boat needs its wooden mast replaced, so whatever departure may not be as imminent as I'd hoped. And of course as soon as I learned that I was desperate to leave this place—leave this earth, these roots—always wanting what I cannot have.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Aroostook County, Maine


I came back home to find a house infested with fleas. It's our fault, really—not for the fleas but for the mice, and not really for them either but for the cat, which was left out to become feral and live in a truck. Which didn't work to keep the mice away. Mice are the reason we adopted him in the first place, less than a year ago. It's the reason why, catless, we had fleas last summer—we'd catch one mouse, and the next would move in, bringing with it its own troop of fleas.

So I was unsurprised to find a mouse dead between layers of crocheted afghan on my second day back. It was big, too, bigger than the tiny field mice with tails as twice as long as their bodies, the ones that generally move in. I thought it was dead because of the clouds of methoprene I'd sprayed on everything for the swarming fleas. I kid you not. I could see them squirming on the kitchen floor.

The mouse was big, with a big belly, and the next night the cat caught three baby mice in a row, in the same spot, and ate them all, nose to tail. I was told, later, that I should have snatched them away and bashed their heads in. I was cowering in horror in the back part of the house. However strong my fear of being a girly girl, I hate mice.

So the fleas are driving me to depression, and new appreciation for the quotidiana of medieval life. One day, I thought to myself: if they're like that here now, we're going to have to start preparing for black plague. (One should assume by now that I will correlate any entomological shift to climate change.) That same day, driving to the store for yet another chemical (I'm on my fifth), I heard there's a case in Kyrgystan. Black plague. The first in twenty years. Probably from fleas.

Fleas also bring a form of shame. It's not the shame that comes with bedbugs or lice, but it's pretty close. It's the same feeling as when you find mouse turds in your condo--everyone leaves bread in the bread box, fruit on the counter, dry pasta in the cupboard—but suddenly your doing so is a condemnation: you! You there! You're not clean enough! Do you see the way you live? It's disgusting.

And that empty popcorn bowl that you leave for morning becomes a scarlet badge.

So the last week has been a bit depressing for me. But the fleas—and grief about the things I have lost, still—and grief at leaving this place for an uncertain expanse of time--and leaving now, with summer's end in full bloom, giant crickets jumping away from the weeds around the back step, echinacea with drooping purple heads, yellow jerusalem artichoke named for the sun and smelling of honey and love, burdock beginning to tangle, and sugar maple beginning to turn—all of it is breaking my heart.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

From Aroostook County, Maine, to Newburyport, Massachusetts, and back again


I have awaited long the day when I could announce with a drumroll that I am again Casting Off, not merely metaphorically, but actually. I thought I'd be able to say that last month, when K. signed on the dotted line for our new boat, a 36' Mao Ta cutter, Spirit, Secret's successor. She's a blue-water cruiser, a double-ender, an ocean crosser. We are, or will be soon, at last Casting Off. Here she is:


Three feet longer than Secret, but wider, beamier, bigger in every dimension. Already I am in love. So this post was intended as triumphant, as with Caesar's armies returning from Sparta, or wherever—but instead I have chaos and disaster and loss to report—although also their underbelly, their paired twin: hope and light and freedom. Here's how it went.

It's our second day on the boat, August 1, and there's a grand festival going on in swanky Newburyport, our current hailing port. The Yankee Homecoming, of all things, featuring live music all week, dinghies piled up on dock, fireworks, fried dough and clam chowder in the streets. The whole nine yards. We come to town to buy a guidebook and charts and an Eldridge for tides plus to stock up on groceries and water. We drop $350 among West Marine and Home Depot and Market Basket. I send out my money-earning email at the library. Then we wait at a bench beside the dinghy dock as the RIBs motor drunkenly away, and the band cleans up, and the teenagers engage in elaborate mating rituals.

We await the turning tide so we can cruise gleefully back to the boat with nary an oar stroke. Two days before we'd been unable to row against the outgoing current on the Merrimac River. This time there's almost a full moon, and we use the oars more to steer than to row. We get back to Spirit briskly and tie up. K. hefts a few bags on deck but leaves more bags below to steady the dinghy while I clamber aboard.

Then the fatal flaw of hubris. We don't drop the teak ladder. I don't ask for it, and it isn't offered. Both of us think I can make it over the freeboard (far higher from the water than was Secret's) without assistance. After all, I did it more or less effortlessly two days before.

I don't. You can see what's coming, but I couldn't. It's just like when people talk about car accidents. All I remember are brief snapshots, everything happening at once. I remember having one foot on deck and the other back in the dinghy, and feeling spreadeagled, like I wasn't going to make it. I remember looking back at the dinghy and seeing water coming over the side. I remember floating away, with the blue-colored paper bag from West Marine floating away in front of me, and thinking: that's $100!

K. yelled after me to grab the next mooring ball. (Moorings, for the uninitiated, are like anchors permanently affixed to the bottom of the harbor, to protect the ecosystem and to aid the mariner.) I tried, but was unable to. It was then I realized what a fix I was in. The current was sweeping by at a rate of at least six knots. I realized I had to swim, and swim hard. The next mooring was the last before the open Atlantic. The water was cold. The tide had already swept off one of my shoes, and was threatening to carry away my flannel.

I swam hard. I caught the mooring ball. And then I realized I was in a deeper fix. Could he see me? Would he know I was safe and not swept out to sea? How long would it take for someone to find me? How long could I hold on? How long before hypothermia set in?

I didn't know then what I know now: that the dinghy had completely overturned. That everything in it was lost. That my partner in crime managed to hold on, barely, and pull himself on deck to immediately radio the Coast Guard. When I thought of my backpack, containing my computer and my camera and my purse—everything of value I'd brought with me onto the boat—I assumed K. would have rescued it first thing. I just worried about my computer getting wet.

I used my yoga breath. I took turns with my arms, holding on with one side, then the other. Even then, I realized how quickly I'd become tired. I thought about letting myself drift back, thinking that maybe I could hoist myself onto the stranger's boat and find a way to get warm and to radio my location. But then I stopped that line of thought: if I let go, there was almost no way I'd be able to grab onto anything again. My body was carried back in a straight line by the current, parallel to the boat's waterline.

Then I saw the Coast Guard light up its boat. I started to yell for help, worried that they'd go out to sea rather than see me at the mooring two boats down. They heard me, and minutes later I was wrapped in a blanket and safe. I can testify that the major emotion one feels on being rescued by the Coast Guard is embarrassment. I couldn't believe that I'd made such a fool of myself. If only I'd been skinnier, stronger, more limber, I could have made it over the freeboard. If only I'd been humble enough to ask for the ladder. If only I could be a responsible human being, for once in my life.

As I expressed my humiliation, my apology, they were resolutely affirmative: “It happens all the time. There's nothing to be embarrassed about. It's our job.”

Thank God for the US Coast Guard and George Washington who established them, lo those many years ago, at this very port, Newburyport on the Merrimac River, for exactly this reason—wicked tidal currents and related carnage.

After I was warm and safe and drinking hot tea, I began to worry about my computer. Had K. put it on deck? Of course he had. It would have been his first priority. It had to be safe.

But of course it wasn't. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde by way of Dave Eggers: to lose two computers is a tragedy. To lose three seems careless.

These are the things I've had to think about over the last three weeks, as I've begun to process not just the loss of $2500 worth of gear, but also a five-year-old Moleskin, almost full of story ideas, my dream journal, my everyday journal, my legal pad with assorted yoga notes and boat lists. I am attempting faux Buddhism about it: they are just things, after all. It's just money. The important ideas I'll remember.

And in another universe, if the abstract mathematicians are to be believed, I am dead. In another universe, the computer is salvaged and we are just pissed at each other. In yet another, we're still looking for the perfect boat. In another, we have never met.

In the last universe: I didn't lose my data when I bought a computer two years ago. I didn't institute a rigorous weekly backup process. I didn't recover everything despite myself, as a result of my own insane persistence. I'm not typing right now into a file recovered from my Aroostook backup, on a program recovered from the backup, listening to music recovered from the backup, using settings recovered from the backup.

All this to say: nothing was lost except some money, ephemeral ideas, and my pride. God has his reasons when we don't understand his reasons. If you'd told me that when I was beating my breast over my computer data loss two years ago, I'd probably have hit you. But you would have been right.

So maybe now, in my 35th year, halfway to 70, I'm starting to learn some things. I'm learning that the life I've chosen is one of risk. I haven't lost three computers because I'm careless, but because I've chosen to risk valuable things in order to achieve a higher goal. To some sheer adventure as a cause celebre is insufficient—especially maybe to our families, our parents. But we've chosen this life because it's the one we want, even if it means losing things. Losing money. Losing health, whether by hypothermia or by shoulder bursitis from too much backpack-carrying. Losing dreams, and ideas, and the stories that may have been borne from them.

That's our tax on the life we've chosen. The life we continue to choose. So all hail Spirit, our new vehicle of destruction and rebirth. We live in Spirit while Spirit lives in us.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Tweedle-dee Dee—he’s on his hands and his knees


My Papou does battle with the spirit of Robert Johnson (as I said once before)
Saying, “Throw me somethin’, Mister, please”
“What’s good for you is good for me”
Says Tweedle-dee Dum to Tweedle-dee Dee
So today maybe a coherent post. I've been working on a series about Bob Dylan and plagiarism, my ongoing thesis that Bob Dylan stole every line of “Love & Theft”--also his only album with the title in quotes on the cover, and itself a theft of another title, the academic book Love & Theft:Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Last week, doing research, I learned from the definitive Bob Dylan trivia and fan forum, expectingrain.com (taken from “Desolation Row”--the place where “everybody is making love, or else expecting rain”) that my long-held thesis is commonplace. JohnnieRay says, “Just my contribution to the 'every line in “Love & Theft” is stolen from another source' myth.”

It's just a myth, and you can read my contributions here [Dylan], and last week Bob did battle with the spirit of Robert Johnson, as did my Papou in the above photograph. Robert Johnson stole from the devil at the crossroads—you know that old legend, surely: he went to the crossroads, the place where the devil visits, with only his guitar, and when he got there he traded his soul for the ability to play. And Bob stole from Robert Johnson, and the American working class stole from black culture it attempted to “control and repress” by using blackface minstrelsy.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
But maybe what we also hand on along with misery is art, and artifact.

A brilliant article by Robert Cohen in the Believer, an issue of which I haven't read cover to cover since my commuting days on the Chicago El, says it better than I ever could:

The Hebrews ripped off the Canaanites. Virgil ripped off Homer, Dante ripped off Virgil, Mathew and Luke ripped off Mark; Shakespeare ripped off Plutarch, Eliot ripped off Shakespeare, Dylan rips off everybody, and—my sweet lord—George Harrison ripped off the Chiffons. And so it goes.”

He ends: “...still impelled onward, I would argue, by the same old longings, the same old methods.”

Friday, July 05, 2013

Into the eye of the storm

Bad, blurry photograph taken to legitimize my existence to you, dear reader, thus proving that I am, in fact, at work

During the second week of my (genuine, not textual) solitude here, I have committed to putting a new plant in the ground each day, no matter that we're already into July, no matter that I am unable to commit to a place enough to be sure that I won't be in Laos when these things fruit. Or, more likely, that they'll freeze in the middle of fruiting, which breaks my heart every year, and every year I plunge headlong right back into it. Nevertheless: I am planting.

Today I gave in and went to the greenhouse, where seedlings are half-price, which means I am late but not hopeless. The greenhouse, a tubular structure with sheeted plastic flapping in the breeze, was empty save of robust seedlings. I took what I wanted and left my cash beneath a pen near the door. That's a small town for you.

This fall, at least, we will have cucumbers, squash, and peppers, those warm-weather vegetables I always procrastinate starting. And I came home and dug the cucumbers right into the ground. I have so much more ownership being the only one responsible for doing everything—even taping the hose where the lawnmower ran over it, even skewering the sprinkler into the ground, even missing the roots and frying leaves of my plants this morning, despite knowing better. If I don't do it, it doesn't get done, and if I do it badly, that's only my fault, too.

So every day I go dig something into the ground. I use a trowel and s three-pronged pitchfork that probably has a fancier name to dig out weeds. I am combating my tendency to work for twelve hours one day and do nothing for eleven, when I know, truly, that it's better for my soul to work an hour a day for twelve days in a row. Consistency is the magic, ephemeral spell.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Thunderstorms within your purity

Arugula, lettuce, radishes, and radish greens

Dinner tonight is more or less the garden's first harvest. Arugula, lettuce, and radish piled high on a bed of grocer chicken and tortilla. Someday it'll be my chicken, my wheat (unless the catamaran gets to me first). The first week I was here, the vast quantity of what remained to be done immobilized me, but this week I've been attacking the wild in manageable chunks.

Every single day past the equinox always feels too late, even February when I could be starting beet seedlings, and in fact it's never too late. I still have all of July to plant late crops, and every day I can hack away at another corner, and harvest enough to eat. In December I can harvest jerusalem artichoke and kale (unless the catamarans get me). So for the last three days in a row I've had dirt under my nails and deer flies biting my ears.

I can't explain how happy it makes me to have brand new plants in my body for dinner. As always I'm also towing around a trail of guilt, as for anything good I accomplish I experience simultaneous pride for my accomplishment and guilt for my pride, but then if I abandon my farm to weeds I feel guilty about that, too. The psychologists of joy attest that gratitude is linked to joy—but I feel guilt rather than gratitude: guilt for what's good, for showing off, or being cheesy, or bragging.

Well: arugula vitamins banish guilt with their peppery verve.

I think sometimes about how we old sailors have managed to swallow the anchor so thoroughly, the old adage about sailors who leave the sea. They swallow the hook, and we've beaten ours into a plough-share. It's the same kind of nesting, the digging of the hoe into the dirt, the way an anchor buries itself in sand—but there's a feeling that the earth is swallowing us too, as we dig our roots into it, or struggle to get away. The dark ground is a blank slate on which I paint with tools, nesting seedlings and making rows, and the future is, too—blank, unknowable, and potentially delicious.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Bridgewater, Maine

Cat and dog love each other

Well, the rain beating down on my window pane
I got love for you and it’s all in vain
Brains in the pot, they’re beginning to boil
They’re dripping with garlic and olive oil
--Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee
It has been raining here almost constantly on the days when there are not deer flies buzzing around in the sun.  If that sounds like complaining it's because it is and also an excuse for everything that's not planted, everything that's not done.  The thing they don't tell you about farming (or maybe they do) is what hard work it is.  Maybe that's why everyone wanted to get out of it.

Which makes me--or maybe it's K.'s continuing adventure across the Atlantic, where he lost his rudder and two sails and ended up stranded adrift amid the gulf stream, essentially--more on that when I have more details--spend all day looking at Wharram catamarans on the internet.  Here.  I'll show you the one that made me fall in love, years ago:

I don't know why that particular photograph made me fall in love, but who can explain love?  And all my love for all of the Wharram cats in southeast Asia is all in vain, as Bob Dylan so elegantly quoted himself quoting Robert Johnson singing to Willie Mae.  My grandfather used to eat brains with garlic and olive oil, but I can't help thinking that the brains in a pot reference is to Macbeth, because everything comes back to Macbeth.  Brains with garlic and olive oil are what Greeks eat for Christmas.

Maybe I've been alone with my cat and dog and garlic scapes and boat searches and Dylan for too long.  I want the rain to stop.  I want to get on a train with a suitcase in my hand and ride and ride.  I want to find a catamaran and beach her amid ruins and then sail wing and wing away.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Aroostook County, Maine

We bathe in oil.  We drink it.  We clothe ourselves in it, line our homes with it, feed it to our babies and animals and plants, baptize ourselves in it like water.  We suck the earth dry of its dinosaur marrow.

That much is true.  What is less certain is how much our atmosphere will change as a result of our 450-year-long binge.  I applaud the president's stance yesterday, his resolve to do what he has the executive privilege to do and the Supreme Court mandated, however little what he is able to do may matter in the face of looming apocalypse.  The challenge is that even his first stab at the 40 percent of electricity emissions--which is huge, don't get me wrong--but doesn't count fracking or meat or cars--not to mention Walmart or airplanes or agriculture--is nowhere near enough.

What he deserves the most respect for is his affirmation of this quest as a moral one.  He is doing what he as one man can--and although he may be the most powerful American alive, although only perhaps--it's about time for us to realize that we live not in a democracy but in a corporate oligarchy and that our real leaders are CEOs and Chairmen of Boards--and his call to us is to do the same, to do the best we can as singular people.  For me, yesterday, that meant calling my bank.  Perhaps moved by Obama's announcement that he would pursue an executive oil strategy, giving up on a bipartisan one, I finally called my mutual fund company and initiated divestment.

On NPR, a coalworker called to protest, angry, saying:  Of course I care about my children's future--I have two boys and I'd do anything for them!  But I have to feed them first!

Feed them, yes.  But what would you feed them--dust?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Om bhur bhuvah svah


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, as framed by Earthbender Iris Jenks Henry,
immediately before the battery in the camera died
One of the things I've been doing is writing sixteen-sentence prose pieces. I call them essays, or something. My favorite thing about modern essay, other than the blog, is the way it combines various ideas into one, read Brian Doyle and Patrick Madden and the Festival of Faith and Writing (the best conference in the greater US of A), and the way it can jump from one idea to another, the way it does with this sentence, and this short story at Haystack, and the way I keep thinking that I can self-publish, like a self-titled EP, Melissa Jenks, the Short Stories, but I'm too chicken, and then I think about the article I read in fu**ing Oprah about vulnerability. Of all places.



It reminded me of a lot of the things that I've been reading about brain chemistry and human evolution (pop quiz: what happened 100 million, 1 million, 100,000 years ago?) and how scientists (of the hard and not the Christian variety) believe that homo sapiens evolved its complex brain architecture in response to compassion. And that dogs evolved their domestication with us at about 40,000 years ago; and that many of the things about the ways that our neurons map up against our evolutionary architecture has a connection to morphogenic fields; and Darwin wrote about red fields of algae bleeding from South America in Voyage of the Beagle (nota bene: he was a 25-year-old biologist aboard a clipper rounding Cape Horn by sail, in the noble day of sail, when Captain Josh Slocum was out there in his Spray, and all of us and our bilious climate change were just a gleam in their eye, praise Jesus); and now I carry my Shadow behind me and he pees on my floor when he is anxious and I am alone as my life partner sails across the Atlantic and I realize how Ahab's wife must have felt, not to mention all the wives and sweethearts that were never to meet. I'm here with my dog, my Shadow, and my shadow, my terror at the silence of the strawberry moon. And also the television, the only thing aside from meditation and dreaming that offers alpha waves for the evolved brain.

And the internet, I suppose. I propose this as a cautionary tale. I am home, like Emily Dickinson who wouldn't leave hers, but I have MBPN and factory-farmed pork and myth and the USPS and the future falling backwards behind me as I look up at the stars and thunder in the sky. Yeah, I'm home.

Whatever that means. With my Southeast Asia on a Shoestring and Joy of Cooking laid out in front of me. It's weird, being here, the end of June, one month of spring already gone, half the garden not planted, because of us, our pursuit of adventure or art or whatever it is. Rolling thunder rumbles.

(Answer, inverted, if I could figure out the html: dinosaurs explode because of asteroid, neanderthals evolve tools, and homo sapiens emigrate Africa.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Grand Rapids, Michigan (by way of Marion, Massachusetts, and Muskegon, Michigan)


An Ingrid interior--a boat on the boat list
Traveling again, this time for my parents' fortieth wedding anniversary (believe it or not) and a three-day camping trip with Sonia and her two beautiful boys. We pulled into a campground I'd chosen on the internet, sight unseen, with thunder roaring and lightning cracking directly overhead, rain flooding the ranger station, at ten at night—me coming directly from the airport and two awake children in the car. Luckily the kind ranger allowed us the use of a cabin for one night, because when we pitched the tent in the morning, we discovered we had no poles. Not to worry. The 1920s army tent we'd brought as a playplace for the children pitched just fine. Another victory for the brave, foolhardy, impulsive travelers who do not plan.

As is this one: K. is currently in the middle of the Atlantic, racing to Bermuda. Check here. He is on the little pink boat, Elusive, almost dead last. It's okay. It's a rookie boat, class C, and although we'd had our names on the crew list since last year, it was only when we took the brave and foolhardy step of waltzing through the yacht club doors to handwrite our names on the bulletin board that we got a call. So he gets to cross (or half-cross—let's call a spade a spade) the Atlantic before I do.

I'm not jealous. Really, I'm not.

Okay, I am. Desperately jealous, but also so immensely thrilled and pleased for him. His first real ocean race, his first experience with a structured watch list, and five blessed days in blue water under sail.

He'll come back either ready to settle down and farm again, or even hungrier for one of the steel ketches he's been surfing online, the ones with built-in woodstoves that we could sail to Iceland or Greenland or through the Northwest Passage. Casting Off has been metaphorical for a time now, but it's a good reminder that it could always become literal.  Again.

And tonight we dined on kale and beets and local fennel sausage in downtown Grand Rapids, a town which has suddenly, and without my noticing, become hip. I used to say, when I visited my family here, that it was like stepping back in time to 1952. But now it feels the opposite—like stepping forward to, say, 2020—a place where all cafes have their own greenhouses, and art galleries host their own deejays, and every bar stocks jalapeno-infused local vodka. One can only hope.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Aroostook County, Maine

Ann Armstrong, in the fabric studio

And just like that, it's gone. So fast the time passes, even if I was able to accomplish much of what I wanted at Haystack: even flax paper haiku. I wrote almost every day with Betsy Sholl, former Maine poet laureate, an absolute gift—she is an astonishing wordsmith—and now have friends dotted around the hemispheres: in Grand Rapids and Poland and Capetown and Austin and Providence. And the best thing about spending two weeks with a community of artists is the new beauty I find in the world.

These people see all material as a substance to be crafted, to be shaped according to the muse, to be made more beautiful at all costs. Maybe some people think that's unimportant. But those people are wrong.

I came home (you know with what effort I type that word) yesterday, limping in the Volvo, praying the whole way, and using Deepak Chopra-style visualization along with deep breathing and a light touch on the gas. Within in ten minutes of being here, K. had the engine cover off and discovered oil leaking into my spark-plug wells. Which means he had the problem fixed in another twenty, but it also means I could have lit my engine on fire during the twenty-minute drive home. Allegedly. Thank goodness for small mercies.

I even assisted: bringing a tool as requested without having to figure out what the word meant. And I cleaned some receptors with alcohol, q-tips, and paper towels. I'll be a mechanic yet.

The bridge off Deer Isle, though. The thing is a blue behemoth, with a 25-mile-per-hour speed limit, and all week I stalled every time I dropped down to a low speed and climbed a high hill. No shoulder—only ocean—on the bridge. All I could think was that I'd stall at the top, which panicked me, so I imagined instead the relief I'd feel on the other side. Or the relief I'd feel, pulling into the white trailer, with its dim traces of mold, and my Shadow, and the partridge nesting, and the jerusalem artichoke as high as an elephant's eye. Saying: I didn't stall once!

So: I didn't stall once. I left my haikumobile as ephemera, a minor tragedy, but only a minor one. And now the bell no longer tolls my hours and my meals—I am responsible for myself again. The respite is over.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts


Birchbark canoe at the Haystack Gallery, built according to ancient Penobscot tradition
One thing that has been a constant source of conversation around here—and maybe it's just because I keep bringing it up—is the intersection between art and commerce. Maybe I'm an idealist in believing that it's possible to make objects that appeal to a wide audience, in such a way that they can sustain (read: feed) the artist, and these things can also achieve critical success. These are not easy questions. I love the things being made here—they are exquisite, magical, beautiful—and gradually coming into being, made by my friends—but I worry that these things aren't accessible to a wide audience.

Some people simply say: no. They aren't. 99 percent of people will never understand art and aren't even worth trying to reach. But I vehemently disagree.

Yes, we have a major problem in education in this country. Many people don't understand art, or can't see its value, because they've never been taught to. But people can still consistently recognize beauty, and they could not fail to see the beauty in the work being created here. Maybe its purpose, they could question. Beauty for beauty's own sake.

A friend of mine back home, a beer-drinking Nascar-watching member of the hoi polloi, has recently fallen in love with Beethoven and Mozart. He sits in his backyard, listening, as arpeggios swell, and this to me is proof of the triumph of music. All of us have little beautiful things we treasure—maybe just for the memories they bring us, of a beautiful moment, a beautiful time. I'm still not sure what art is, if I can define it.

Although, to paraphrase Emily Dickinson, I know it when I feel like the top of my head has been blown off.

We had a lobster bake on the picnic rocks by the ocean last night. My first lobster bake, my first lobster eaten with my hands by the sea, and maybe my first Maine lobster ever, believe it or not. It was delectable, of course, ambrosia of the sea, no more so than when sucking the juice from the claws, distilled ocean nectar. But I have to say—and please don't shoot me—Cape Cod lobster gives them a run for their money.

In other news, my car broke down on Friday. Which leaves me with a mechanical problem to solve during my four last precious days of focus. I am trying not to play the martyr. But seriously. Could I have worse timing? Of all the gin joints in all the world where a Volvo could funk out.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Deer Isle, Maine

Town of Stonington

The idea behind an Open Studio Residency is that the studios of all different disciplines are open to artists of various disciplines, to visit, explore, ask questions, and perhaps experiment with others' materials. And almost all of the studios here are of disciplines I've never explored: wood, metal, jewelry, pottery, glass, paper. I am drawn most to the paper and book artists, which makes sense. So yesterday I made paper for the first time, from shared flax, small discs of paper on which I hope to type.

After that, I don't know. Maybe I will sew them in a circular binding. Maybe I'll frame them in leather and hang them as a haikumobile. Maybe I'll convince an assistant to teach me to weld. Maybe I'll have the 3D printer build me a three-dimensional story. Maybe I'll carve in clay so I can tile a bathroom with words.

Certainly, ideas are not lacking after spending even three days together with people such as these. The most freeing thing about this openness is the way it makes any idea viable. This place is nothing if not fertile loam for creative growth. Stu Kestenbaum, a poet and the director here for twenty years, talks about the creative process seriously, in a way that makes clear the decades of hands-on experience he's had making it happen, watching it happen. There's a depth behind his words that makes me as serious about it as he is. He's spent his life watching artists grow, cultivating them the way others would plants.

Always, my subconscious rewards creative play. It's almost as if we have to distract ourselves for image and imagination to germinate. The question I continue to return to is: how do I know what I want? How does that part of myself decide? The diversity of craft represented here is mind-blowing—artifacts that I could not have conceived. But still somehow all of these people have the same level of certainty about their craft, and not just about their craft but each specialization within it, materials within each specialization, each shape, each color, each microscopic decision.

Maybe choice is the central player in art, even when the number of choices is infinite. Maybe we like talking about that less—the numinous subconscious goop guiding all of these decisions—because whatever part of us choosing is a mystery. And still, somehow, a part of us knows.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Like you and me


View from Deer Isle.  Also gives a sense for the weather we're getting.
It is an odd thing, coming together with other artists, especially because all I really need to work as a writer is a desk, silence, solitude, paper, and pen. Already, after dining, I have to sneak away to find some table I can appropriate as a desk, some quiet room where I can hide away. Which seems counterintuitive. Why would I need to come together with others if all I need then is to get away from them? Why should they waste space and electricity and reverse osmofied saline water on someone who's not going to use the welders or the Fab Lab?

Perhaps because I am most likely the only person already parsing this experience in language, already an anthropologist and journalist among all of these strangers. It's an odd assortment. There are the academics, who earn their living closest to their craft, but along with academia comes its fellowships and grants and college politics of tenure and which dean funds which piece of equipment. As much as I love academics, there's a sense that they are most calloused to what they do.

In conversation so far, it's those that are closest to art as creation who resist ascribing meaning to it most strongly. Those that make things into other things, who manipulate matter into a different form say these things have no intrinsic value, that they need not be ascribed monetary value.

But then what use does all of this serve? Even these words, as always I am meta-metafying. I'm a firm believer that art must hold its place inside capitalism, in commerce. We tell stories so they can be heard. Created objects are vessels that hold meaning.

It is all that makes us human. First we find food. Then we find caves. Then we paint the caves. This is what we do, what we have always done, for better or for worse. Homo Aestheticus, as a book in the library here claims. A quote: “art is a biologically evolved element in human nature.”

So why am I here? Already I contemplate engraving haiku on stone, paper, wood, cloth. Although I haven't written a poem in ages. Already I mull turning stories into objects, somehow, turning stories into poems, “covering” someone else's poem as a haiku. The shortest of short forms are fascinating me, for some reason, what I can excise from my work and have the work still stand alone—this as a result of already talking to sculptors and blacksmiths and metalworkers who talk about the division between work with subtracts and work which adds, speaking a foreign language, an unintelligible tongue that still somehow satisfies.
Stairs and corridors and cabins
at Haystack
 





Friday, May 24, 2013

En route from Aroostook County to Deer Isle, Maine


Here now.  My room.
 194 statute miles

Another traveling post. This site started as one devoted to travel, and so it remains, as long as my feet remain itchy with wanderlust. I resolved silently, a while back, not to mention my alternate career as a fiction writer for at least a year; I'm not sure I made it. So again, I'm coming out as a writer of fiction, something I hesitate to mention on these pages.

Nevertheless, I have been accepted to the Haystack Mountain of Crafts (donate!) Open Studio Residency for artists of all disciplines. I applied almost on a whim, the day I received my first rejection for the Iowa Writers' Workshop, not thinking I had a shot at the prestigious residency, hoping at least for a chance at a summer workshop. But I was accepted for both, which simultaneously daunted and thrilled me. Especially after I searched online for some of my fellow artists.

Here is some of their work (I think, if google can be trusted):

Megan Biddle

Nancy Koenigsberg (Sculpture made of coated copper wire and glass beads)

Jiyoung Chung (Made of paper!  I think.  Korean joomchi)

Rama Chorpash (Fiber art designed according to the topographic contours of Central Park.)

Melissa Craig
People are traveling from Hawaii, Texas, Oregon, Ireland. Many have had solo shows at New York City galleries. Others are professors of their craft—metalworkers, glassblowers, papermakers, enamelists. I am an anomaly as a novelist, at least so far as I know.  They are real artists--in museums, in permanent collections.  The only other writer I discovered is a former Maine poet laureate. More exalted company than I could have dreamed.

As I sit here writing on paper during my road trip lunch, I keep thinking they've made some kind of mistake, that I'll be turned aside at the door. But it is fear, of course, fear of the magnitude of the gift being given.  Let's just say I'm very pleased to be a participant with such fierce companions in arms.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Every moonbeam

Burdock in wok
Last night I made burdock root for the first time. Here's the recipe I used, and it took much convincing both myself and others. I let the sandy whole plants K. dug up from the garden sit in the sink in water for about a week before I could bring myself to clean them, before I could contemplate eating them. When I first searched online for them, what I was looking for was an effective way to kill them.

Murder them, I should say. Their roots go sometimes three feet deep, according to the internet, and I feel like I've seen them go deeper. Even the smallest, innocent-looking little weed seedling sprouts a massive, impenetrable, herculean root. When they grow, they become tree-like shrubs with purple flowers that quickly turn into clinging prickly seedpods that cling to anything they touch, especially a dog, or a dog's tail, or gloves, or a hat, or my hair.

I hate them. I've been doing everything I can to kill them since the day I figured out what they are, but unless you dig up every last hair of a root, unless you catch and burn every last burr—they sprout up again come spring.
Burdock kinpira with pan-fried whole trout, caught at Lake No. 9 that morning--it doesn't get any more local than that. 
(Except yes, the lemon came from the IGA, and the basmati rice came from Thailand.  Sticklers.)

I knew they were, theoretically, edible. It's one of those rural myths up here. “You know, you can eat burdock.” So I was surprised to discover, that when I searched “best way to dig up burdock root” that what I discovered was urban foragers, Japanese sushi blogs, and how-to sites on making burdock tea. Evidently burdock, called gojo in Japan, and in restaurants where my sister eats, is a food perfectly designed to supplement the immune system, providing mammoth amounts of manganese and vitamin C and who-knows-what-all vitamins.

Still, I had to convince the collected assembly they were not poisonous.

The flavor is unique. I struggle to describe it—something, perhaps, like a musky wild mushroom, an oyster or a shiitake, with a hint of earth and parsnip. Surprisingly delicious, although still tough. I'm not sure if that's because I didn't let them steam long enough, or because I let them sit in my sink for a week, or because they were stringy new ones. In any case, I can check that off my to-do list. And if we ever run out of things to farm, we can always sell dehydrated burdock-root tea.

K. likes to do sushi-style bites.  This is rice with fried bluefish, from Massachusetts last year, and Thai nam chim, sweet chili sauce.  Delectable.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Walking the blues

Homo sapiens evolved about 100,000 years ago.  Incidentally, this data is a bit old.  We hit 400 parts per million last week.
Chart from Datafuzz.

Another climate change post, I know. I wrote a letter to my pastor about divestment and he said it's good if people have a “bee in their bonnet” about these things. So I suppose I have a bee in my bonnet. I've been looking for ages for a succinct infographic that can explain to people what's going on with carbon dioxide and climate change, and all along all I've needed is a simple graph.

The problem with most of the articles I see on carbon dioxide is that they only address the problem over the last couple of decades. “It's the hottest year since 1971!” or whatever. Or they address it over the last 100 years. Even climatologists will try to compare now to the 1890s. Or, if they're particularly enlightened, they address the rise of industrialism during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, how we began spewing carbon into the air at the advent of the Industrial Age.

Although that may feel like a long time, the button factories of Victorian Britain, really it's very recent in global climate cycles. So essentially we've been burning shit since we discovered fire.

Another of the challenges I've discovered in talking about climate change is how unwilling people are to accept human evolution. Yes, they believe in dinosaurs and carbon dating and the pyramids and the fossil record. Yes, they believe in the big bang and cosmic goo and the quantum mechanics that allows computers to function. But humans came from animals? Hold on there a minute. Never mind that 99 percent of our genetic material is identical to that of an ape. Never mind that we've not found just one missing link but several—the various branches of evolving primates that led, eventually, to homo sapiens.

It's more than that. It's this sense that somehow evolution devalues us and devalues our God. But if you really read about it, really study it—it's hard to imagine a more beautiful or elegant method of creation.

Faith is not incompatible with science. Can't we just agree on that? Science, itself, as any scientist would agree, is a form of faith. Faith in data, faith in abstract mathematics, faith in the power of numbers and proof and the predictability in matter in motion.

And carbon dioxide is matter. Every time you exhale, you contribute to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Trees breathe it in, we breathe it out. It's the most basic ecosystem, the balance of chemistry in our atmosphere, and we didn't even know about it till 100 years ago. After we'd already begun to contribute to the radical spike of its presence all around us.

Even if you're the brave humanist to believe in evolution, do you know the difference among what happened during the planet's history during the last 100,000, 1 million, or 100 million years? I didn't, up until a couple of weeks ago. But now I know that 100 million is when the dinosaurs were around. Neanderthals started their era about 800,000 years ago.

And homo sapiens? The first evidence of "abstract consciousness" comes from perhaps 100,000 years ago.  We started our exodus from Africa around 70,000 years ago, give or take, riding the wave of receding glaciers you can track on the above chart, riding the end of our last ice age for a very long time. Around 40,000 years ago we conquered the planet.  As far back as then when homo sapiens in Russia were burying their children with millions of beads. Then the Lascaux caves and fertility goddess figurines then Stonehenge and Jesus.

And now it's getting hot around here. Hotter than when the dinosaurs were here. Twice as hot as at any point in human evolution. Things are changing, and they're going to change more and more quickly, and they're going to keep changing until we are honest about ourselves and our technology and our civilization.

This American Life mentioned “war-time measures.” They mentioned that government climatologists, paid by us to report on the data, are lying to us because they're afraid that they'll be fired if they tell the truth.  Numerous state climatologists have been fired by Republican officials for their honesty about global warming.  These same climatologists are quietly buying second homes far, far above sea level.  But This American Life also profiled the Freedom Riders of a new generation, the founders of a movement that could save all of us. I hope to be one of them.  They also say that trying to convince us, all of us, who bathe in oil, drink it, breathe it in--too start a movement is like asking slaveholders to be the abolitionists.

I find myself becoming more and more conservative, in the truest sense, in the sense that we must conserve. When did conservation and conservative become incompatible? I am not a traditional conservative, more of a green socialist. But the only method we've found for motivating human behavior on a massive scale is capitalism, as brutal as its methods may be. Which means every breath of carbon has to cost more if we're going to bring down its level. Yes, this means that poor people will starve, will roast, will freeze. But they're going to do that anyway, and much worse, if we fail to address the actual science. Which means cap and trade, and radical disruption of our civilization, and that's if we're blessed.