1 August 2022
Vol. XII, No. 7

August 2022

I know that from here you cannot escape by plane—/you have to be able to fly on your own./Cats in the house, so many cats,/gathered from the whole neighborhood/(how did they catch a whiff of my departure?)/not our cats but feral cats,/although there is no such a thing as a cat gone wild./Cats as a warning and threat to my flight/as a bird,/they notice a red spot on my chest/like a linnet’s,/so I’m forced to take flight in the form of a dandelion seed:/I leave the house in search of wide open spaces,/past my garden and into the street/and float toward/a direction very remote—/now the wind gusts will/carry me away, away!I Fly Away in the Shape of a Dandelion Seed,by Vasyl Holoborodko, Trans. from the Ukrainian by Svetlana Lavochkina

“I Saw You First,” by Emma Kohlmann, 2020, Watercolor and Sumi-ink on Paper.

“I Saw You First,” by Emma Kohlmann, 2020, Watercolor and Sumi-ink on Paper.

“Sleeping in an Apocalypse,” by Emma Kohlmann, 2020, Courtesy of Jack Hanley Gallery.

“Sleeping in an Apocalypse,” by Emma Kohlmann, 2020. (Courtesy of Jack Hanley Gallery.)

From Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: In the fiery month of August, we open with Canadian naturalist Kevin Van Tighem’s meditation on solitude, and the hermit thrush. Climate scientist (and Planetary Hospice Director) Dr. Guy McPherson follows, from another corner of our burning planet, with a disquisition on so-called “peak oil.” Dr. Diane Fortenberry (of Mississippi, by way of London, England) then reviews Rebecca Solnit’s Orwell’s Roses; and Diana Farr Louis, from Andros, writes of the ill wind that has all but blown her island off course this summer. Poet Claire Bateman shares work by another native Mississippian, R. Fellows Rivera. And playwright Helen Noakes, from San Francisco, follows on, opening Pandora’s box. Our August issue closes with a short end-0f-summer essay dotted with embedded audio and video by Elizabeth Boleman-Herring.

About the painter featured on our August Home Page: Emma Kohlmann evokes a contemporary feminine mythology in her lush ink washes and watercolors, which position images of plants, butterflies, and birds alongside enigmatic faces and figures. Since graduating from Hampshire College in 2011, the Bronx-born Kohlmann has exhibited at galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Portland, Athens, Tokyo, and Copenhagen. Kohlmann enjoys a lively market for editions, clothing, artist books, and zines. She has created album art for musicians and illustrated for publications such as Vogue. Kohlmann drew as a child and was a ballet dancer until her senior year of high school, when, after working with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, she decided to leave dance. In a 2018 interview in Amadeus Magazine, Kohlmann explained the personal nature of her artwork, and cited her home in Florence, Massachusetts as a place dominated by liberal ideas and activism, which she says have informed her work. (Follow Kohlmann on Instagram.)

“Hermit Thrush on Black.”

“Hermit Thrush on Black,” by Ray Henessey.

While I Draw Breath

“Hermit Song,By Kevin Van Tighem

COWLEY, ALBERTA Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—1 August 2022—Perhaps it’s just natural that a lifelong loner should have an affinity to hermit thrushes. We share a common habitat, after all—that of solitude. But that’s too facile an explanation; my love for those birds is more nuanced than that. Whatever the case, when Gail and I arrived in the timberline forest near the head of a subalpine basin the other day and stopped, as one, to listen again to the wistful beauty of a hermit thrush singing somewhere back in the dim, it evoked a host of memories and associations. For those who aren’t loners, it might seem that those of us who are like to be alone. Not necessarily. Back in the late 1970s, I landed what seemed the perfect job for one who likes himself better when hanging out with wild things in wild places than when with others of his own species. That wildlife inventory work took me into remote corners of Jasper National Park, alone, for days on end. More often than not, when I climbed out of my tent or stepped out of a patrol cabin into the pre-dawn shadows to begin another day of field work, there would be a hermit thrush singing somewhere in the cool secret places beneath the trees. And late in the evening, as mystery spilled down from the peaks to darken the world, again there would be a hermit thrush, intoning its wistful benedictions into a stillness we shared. (Read more . . .)

The aerosol masking effect.

The aerosol masking effect.

Planetary Hospice

Peak Oil Has Gone Away (NOT),By Dr. Guy McPherson

BELLOWS FALLS Vermont—(Weekly Hubris)—1 August 2022—For many years, I have reported on the dire impacts of global peak oil at Nature Bats Last. My reports from August 2007 onward indicate the potential for peak oil to terminate industrial civilization. Without further investigation, terminating industrial civilization and its horrors seems like a good idea. However, that aforementioned further investigation leads directly to the best-kept secret in climate science, the aerosol masking effect. Once I discovered the importance of aerosol masking, I realized that even a relatively minor reduction in industrial activity will trigger a rapid rise in regional temperature and then in global temperature. As long-time climate-science researcher and professor James Hansen frequently points out, the aerosols produced by industrial activity fall out of the atmosphere in about five days. Indeed, peer-reviewed research resulting from the loss of aerosol masking associated with the ongoing pandemic indicates regional increases in temperature have already led to regional increases in precipitation. (You can find the results quite easily with a simple Internet search.) Fortunately, these impacts have not yet gone global. Rather, they have remained regional in scope. In other words, industrial civilization has its horrors. (Read more . . .)

Orwell’s Roses, by writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit. 

Orwell’s Roses, by Rebecca Solnit.

Outside of a Dog

Orwell’s Roses, by Rebecca Solnit,By Dr. Diane Fortenberry

LONDON England—(Weekly Hubris)—1 August 2022—When a writer of fiction creates a character based, however loosely, on herself, it’s called authorial self-insertion. When a writer of non-fiction tells a tale in which her story is almost as prominent as that of the subject, it’s called journalism. The personal insight thus engendered can be very powerful, but the practice is not without risks—specifically, to objectivity and neutrality. You must have an interest in the writer (and journalist) Rebecca Solnit as well as the writer (and journalist) George Orwell to get the most out of Orwell’s Roses. There are many other biographies of Orwell, among them the more impartial George Orwell: A Life (1980; latest revised ed, 2018), the first full-length biography of the writer, by the political philosopher Bernard Crick, with which Sonia Orwell was so incensed that she tried to prevent its publication; Christopher Hitchens’ polemic, Why Orwell Matters (2003); novelist D. J. Taylor’s Orwell: The Life (2004); and, more recently, the esoteric Orwell’s Nose: A Pathological Biography, (2016) by the critic John Sutherland, about the “scent narratives” in Orwell’s work. Solnit homes in on Orwell’s love of gardening, and from there ranges far and wide, from the geology of the Carboniferous period to Stalinism to the commercial growing of roses in Colombia today. One thing leads to another, there are links and diversions, and, from the first page, Solnit weaves the personal into her account. (Read more . . .)

What I was hoping for this July.

What I was hoping for this July.

Eating Well Is the Best Revenge

An Ill Wind,By Diana Farr Louis

ANDROS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—1 August 2022—Does your life feel like a microcosm of what’s going on in the greater world? That everything that could go wrong is going wrong? Nothing as dramatic or appalling as being targeted by missiles fired from the Black Sea, but sliding or lurching out of control? I admit that mishaps can become magnified as one gets older; that something you would brush off as a trivial annoyance can feel like a mini-catastrophe when you’ve entered your ninth or even tenth decade, but sometimes it does look as though we’re not the only things that are crumbling. For one thing, a major part of our social life comprises . . . funerals. We don’t go to parties anymore. I don’t even know if people throw them, except for weddings, and we’re not invited to those. Our friends’ children have already done that (or not). And we probably wouldn’t be up to dancing till dawn in any case. Now, having survived three winters of pandemic without, touch wood, even catching a sniffle, but rarely meeting people indoors and never shopping without a mask, we thought we’d feel the usual liberation once we got to our house in the outer outback of Andros. Greeted by perfect conditions at Easter, we believed we would just unpack, dust a little, roll up the rugs, relax, and enjoy the summer. ‘Twas not to be. Even before we arrived, we knew something was probably amiss with our water supply. Friends who’d gone to water our long-suffering lemon tree discovered the tanks had run dry. (Read more . . .)

Poet R. Flowers Rivera. (Photo: Whitley Danielle Smith.)

Poet R. Fellows Rivera

Speculative Friction

The Poetry of R. Fellows Rivera,By Claire Bateman

GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—1 August 2022—R. Flowers Rivera, a native of Mississippi who now lives in McKinney, Texas, completed a PhD at Binghamton University and an MA at Hollins University. Xavier Review Press published her debut poetry collection, Troubling Accents (July 2013), which received a nomination from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters and was chosen by the Texas Authors Association as its 2014 Poetry Book of the Year. Rivera’s second collection, Heathen, was selected by poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller as winner of the 2014 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Prize. Her short story, “The Iron Bars,” won the 1999 Peregrine Prize, and she has been a finalist for the May Swenson Award, the Journal Intro Award, the Gary Snyder Memorial Award, the Paumanok Award, the Crab Orchard Series, and the Gival Poetry Prize. Rivera’s collection-in-progress, Gaynette, Undaunted, bears poetic witness to the life of her maternal grandmother, Gaynette Cox Flowers Pugh (1916-2019), a single mother of four who, despite her eighth-grade education, brought up three children to earn masters’ degrees. A Civil Rights activist, Pugh worked with the Mennonites, served as a regional coordinator for Head Start, and, at the age of 65, earned her BS from the University of Southern Alabama. (Read more . . .)

“Pandora Crowned by the Seasons,” by William Etty

“Pandora Crowned by The Seasons,” by William Etty.

Waking Point

The Beautiful Evil,By Helen Noakes

SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—1 August 2022—Hesiod describes Pandora as kalon kakon, beautiful evil. Is this reference to women as evil, written sometime between 750–650 BCE, the first such recorded calumny against the gender? Perhaps not. The Judeo-Christian reference to Eve as the source of all evil in the world is well-known. Indeed, the story of the pagan Pandora is similar to that of the biblical Eve in multiple ways. Both were created by all-powerful deities. In the case of Pandora, it was Zeus. Both were called “the first woman.” Both have been accused of unleashing all the evil in the world by succumbing to curiosity. Both stories, shaped by patriarchal bias, have multiple errors. Eve was not the first woman. She was the second. The first woman, according to biblical Hebrew texts, was Lilith. She is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah, in ancient Mandaean myths, and in Jewish mythological texts dating from 500 CE onward. Lilith, like Pandora, was fashioned from clay and created at the same time as Adam to be his equal. The latter designation seemed to be intolerable to the patriarchs who wrote the creation story, so they purged Lilith from their text, and designated her as a demonic creature, an epitome of evil, whose origins they never quite clarify. These stalwart souls of patriarchal dominance decided to have Eve fashioned from Adam’s rib, subjected her to Adam’s control, and defined her as the weaker vessel. My question to these imaginative gents is: “If Adam was superior, why did he take a bite of the apple?” But I digress. (Read more . . .)

In California, c. 1955, the author, surrounded by Rain Birds. (Photo: F. Jack Herring.)

The author surrounded by Rain Birds.

Weekly Hubris

Still Under the Rain Bird’s Spell,By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

PENDLETON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—1 August 2022—Bear with me, and close your eyes. If hearing is the final sense to wink out, at the very end of a human life, it is also, I think, the most evocative. Proust would differ with me: “When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered . . . the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls . . . bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory.” So much, I say, for Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel, and his petites madeleines . . . .  For me, the most powerful human sense involves what comes in at the ear. And one sound in particular can conjure up for me my entire, sweet childhood, from my first moment of consciousness till the summer I left for Greece, closing behind me the door on Rain-Bird-drenched California. I hear a Rain Bird, and I am back in 1950s Pasadena, where water made all things green (and human) possible. Without water, what would Los Angeles have been? (And whatever will it be when the water is gone?) Sitting on our porch here in South Carolina, half a century later—half a long century of privilege and plenty defined by who has water where and when—I still look out on a lush garden made possible by irrigation, and greenery maintained by a humble network of soaker-hoses. Our small patch of lawn is kept green by a sprinkler I first encountered in Pasadena, in the 1950s, and, if I close my eyes, I am still back there . . . and my age still a single digit. (Read more . . .)

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