It's as lovely a day today (Saturday, May 23) here at the east end of Orcas Island as one could possibly imagine. If weather were the sole indicator of Paradise, today would define this place, this time, as The Moment. It can't get any better. Or rather, I can't imagine how it could get any better. The air is fresh, the temp in the upper 60's, there is a cloudless sky, a slight breeze off the water; it is silent save for the birds, the only human sounds were muted voices from a gaggle of kayaks lazily moving along the shoreline.
I suspect that the subtext of my vision of Paradise is the location of the balance point between human and the remainder of the natural systems that comprise life (and everything else) on earth. Right now, right here, the human presence is essentially insignificant in the landscape. What presence there is moves gently, by human power, with the goal (if goal is a concept that could be said to apply) to simply appreciate it.
I sense an impulse, certainly a component of my motivation to write Potholes, to preserve this balance, or at least to initiate a conversation. Who would sit at the table?
Decades ago, a law review article mutated into a book entitled "Should Trees Have Standing?" (Christopher Stone, 1972). Using the argument that to deny "nature" a voice in what is done "to" her just because she can't speak English is entirely insufficient to deny standing (a legal term which permits a plaintiff to press charges, analgous to the argument that children and certain disabled individuals need a guardian to represent them), I could see a whole host of characters (or their attorneys) at the table discussing how the entire variety of life, energy, resources and other "earth" players might "work out" a plan to accommodate everyone's desires. Imagine earthworms, fungi, bacteria, bugs, viruses, elephants, sequoias, wrens, blue whales, granite, coal, deep ocean water and magma (for starters) all having an equal voice with less than a handful of humans. I imagine the concensus would not (today) be human-favorable. In the context of The Garden (Eden, Paradise), we wouldn't need a Supreme Being to kick us out. We'd be voted out, or at least put on work release, probation, and required to do a lot of community service.
Anticipating this encounter, how would we prepare our arguments? What would we say? What would we offer?
Saturday, May 9, 2009
A commencement is at once an ending and a beginning. In my case it is the ending of the writing, editing, fine tuning, reviewing, submitting, authorizing and self-publishing period, and the beginning of the oh my period in which my first book, Potholes in Paradise, is brought into the public sphere. In perhaps an acknowledgment of my buddhist tendency, I find myself only distantly attached to this first offspring even as I proceed to go through unfamiliar motions like schlepping it to bookstores and somewhat awkwardly planning some kind of outing. I have no idea what kind of reaction I may receive: some may like it, some may dislike it, some may find it uninteresting or irrelevant. I suspect it will find its way into the eyeballs of those for whom it is meant. It is an offering. I felt an urge to create a record, as if to say, everyone, yes you, this is a precious place. Don't take it for granted. If you love it, protect it. Be proactive. A stitch in time saves nine. And so on. As if to say, (as my mother would say to me: put this on my tombstone): "It says here, I tried." Tried? To bring an awareness, in a cheerful (or mostly cheerful) way, of the difference between conscious stewardship joined with proactive attention and an enormous imaginative poverty by which most of us allow others to create (and change, or perhaps abuse) the world which we all share. Orcas is small—the effects of change are visible; the trendlines are transparent. There is much love here—perhaps my form of this love is to serve (I write on the day before Mother's Day 2009) as a tenacious protector of this landscape and what appeared, at the beginning of my life here, to be a balanced, sustainable way of being on the earth. Potholes in Paradise reflects the richness of being engaged in a complex, undefined, ongoing unfolding. I hope you enjoy it.
Posted by Joe at 4:35 PM