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A Monday meander: Solastalgia

Visiting the flower garden.

The refusal to feel takes a heavy toll. Not only is there an impoverishment of our emotional and sensory life, flowers are dimmer and less fragrant, our loves less ecstatic, but this psychic numbing also impedes our capacity to process and respond to information. The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more creative uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies.

. . .

The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present, and when you’re worrying about whether you’re hopeful or hopeless or pessimistic or optimistic, who cares? The main thing is that you’re showing up, that you’re here and that you’re finding ever more capacity to love this world because it will not be healed without that. That is what is going to unleash our intelligence and our ingenuity and our solidarity for the healing of our world.

~ Joanna Macy

Exploring the surface.

The intense desire to be organically connected to living landscapes is, in part, a desire to overcome solastalgia by finding an earthly home in connection with other living things on this Earth.

~ Glenn Albrecht

Gladiola glow.

Have you heard of the word/term “solastalgia?”  It’s a new word for me.  I came across it a few weeks ago and realized that this is what I have been feeling.  Solastalgia.  Wikepedia describes it as “a form of mental or existential distress caused by environmental change.”  It’s a kind of homesickness in which you don’t leave home.  Solastalgia can occur after a sudden event, such as a hurricane, a tornado, a volcanic eruption, anything that changes the landscape in which you live.  Glenn Albrecht, an environmental philosopher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, coined the term.  He wrote that solastalgia “is the pain or sickness caused by the loss of, or inability to derive solace from, the present state of one’s home environment. Solastalgia exists when there is recognition that the beloved place in which one resides is under assault.”

One of the little ones roaming the area.

Solastalgia is the definitive disease of the 21st century but only a few even know its name. The symptoms include an underlying sense of loss, a vague sensation of being torn from the earth, a general out-of-placeness, homelessness without leaving home. You have probably felt it without knowing what it was. Solastalgia is the unease we inflict on ourselves as we create a world we don’t want to inhabit, a world stripped of nature.

~ Stephen March, How We Cope With the End of Nature

Bubble rainbow.

I’ve felt this way for a while, this grieving for something that might be lost, that we may already be losing.  I think I’m also grieving for something that needs to be lost.  There is fear there, too.  My fear is not the loss of the cultural system we currently live in, but the building of something worse.  My hope, my active and very strong hope, is that we’re seeing what that something worse could be, and that there are enough people who will not stand  for it, that enough people will stand up for something better.  I have money in the game, so to speak.  Grandchildren.  Like most grandparents, my wish is for something better for them.  At this point in my life, it’s about passing things on to them rather than seeing what’s in it for me.  (That is not to say that those who don’t have children and grandchildren don’t also wish for a better future for the earth and the beings on this earth.  I am just explaining why it’s important to me.  Also, I like to think I’ve never been a “what’s in it for me?” type of person, but maybe we all are to some degree.)

A rainy day last week.

It’s strange to me that although most of my being is convinced that the world as it is, the system as it is, needs to collapse and be replaced, there is still that part of me that wants the safety of the system.  I’m okay in this world.  My family is mostly okay in this world.  We have food, shelter, water, and a ton of luxury.  And yet, there is also a knowing that it isn’t always going to be this way, nor is it this way for many, many others.  Something has to give.  The world as humanity has created it is not a sustainable one.  Growth cannot go on forever, cannot thrive without death of some kind.  All you have to do is look at a garden or pay attention to the seasons to see how that works.  We’re just putting off the inevitable.  An implosion, perhaps, which seems apt since, in my pessimistic moments, I tend to see this culture/system we’ve built as a black hole of grasping neediness.  A hungry ghost of our own creation.

The butterfly bush is attracting lots of visitors.

People (in general — many, probably most if not all, of my readers are not included in this generalization) appear to keep missing the point about how connected we are to everything.  To each other.  To every other being and thing on the planet.  I think it’s because we’re missing the point — or maybe it’s human arrogance — that we don’t recognize how everything is communicating in some way.  Sometimes it’s subtle and easy to miss.  Sometimes it’s not.

An opening.

Friday evening, while M and I floated around in the water in an effort to stay cool in the summer heat, two bluebirds came up, flapping their wings and raising a ruckus.  They flew over to the garage, pointing downwards, screeching at something.  They went up into a maple tree, came down and repeated the flapping and screeching.  M got out of the pool to look.  There was a black rat snake by the garage.  The bluebirds were out with their fledglings, teaching them to fly.  They wanted the snake gone.  M retrieved his long snake catching stick, picked up the snake with it, and carried it away to the marsh area, far from the bluebirds.  The bluebirds chattered and sang him a little song, then happily went about teaching their babies to fly.  We saw them later on, out front on one of the perches we put up for the birds.  They were on the far perch, three fledglings with their parents.  The father came to the nearby perch and looked in the kitchen window.  I don’t know if he saw us or not, sitting there eating dinner and watching as the little ones learned to fly.  Maybe he nodded.  Maybe he didn’t.

Brilliance.

That sort of thing happens all the time around here.  You wouldn’t notice it, though, if you weren’t paying attention.

While waiting for M to go out on a bike ride yesterday, a dragonfly landed on my hand.  I fussed around for a few minutes, trying to capture a photograph of it.  That involved all sorts of one-handed maneuvers (retrieving the phone from my bike bag, swiping the screen, putting in the pin number to unlock it, opening the camera app, etc.).  By the time the camera was ready and I’d focused on it, the dragonfly took off.  S/he came back a few seconds later and sat on my bike bag for a while.  I managed to get a picture of it.  But I’d also wasted time trying to capture what I should have been paying attention to.  It’s a photographer’s dilemma, the choice between being in the moment and capturing it.  I’m trying to spend more time being in the moment, but I also want to capture and share the beauty that we have been given in the hope that more and more people will rise up to save it.

Tilting towards the sun.

I’m going to end with a longish quote from the book Active Hope:

Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued . . . .
by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store,
strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to discover the strengths
in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope
and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,
our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,
our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity,
the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence,
the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.

~ Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone

Through a fogged lens. (Last night’s sunset at the Point.)

Thank you for stopping by today.  Our sunsets have been interesting lately.  Join me at the Point later and we’ll see what there is to see.  Sunset is scheduled for 8:25 PM.  Moon rise (and it’s almost a full moon) is around 6:45 PM so the moon will be there with us.

Be good, be kind, be love.

Last night’s moon and clouds.

A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy:  1,101)  Pink sunset clouds wrapping around an almost full moon.  1,102)  Getting lost in the sunset.  1,103)  Sitting with a dragonfly.  1,104)  New words, new ideas, new ways of thinking.  1,105)  An almost constant breeze this afternoon.  It makes it feel a little bit cooler and more tolerable.

Flying off into the sunset.

Some interesting reading and practices:

Color above and reflected below.

Author:

Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

14 thoughts on “A Monday meander: Solastalgia

  1. I first encountered that word ‘solastalgia’ while reading The Overstory (recommended by you) and it made such an impression on me – as did that entire book, which made it into the top five of my favourite reads ever. Since then it keeps coming up. I hope it is because more and more people are becoming aware of it and what it means. For me it was an ‘Aha!’ moment. It is a word I hope to see being universally used and understood. I always look forward to reading your thoughts and quotes and what you are reading Robin, I’ve long adopted the habit of paying close attention to what you read and checking it out for myself. I have spent several hours listening to podcasts from Emergence Magazine recently and been led to investigate even more people writing on or around this very subject of ‘solastalgia’. Everything you say here is echoed by me and I am one of those with no further descendents to follow me. It hasn’t made me care less, it hasn’t stopped me campaigning – it has however made me look harder at the young people coming up and there I see much that adds to my sense of hope. I am inclined to think as Max Planck suggested that just as science moves forward one funeral at a time, so also might the survival of the planet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Pauline, for your input. There are so many good writers and books and websites out there. It’s difficult to keep up with them all. I, too, look at the young people and they have given me an enormous amount of hope. I had forgotten that I originally read about solastalgia in The Overstory. The word has cropped up a lot for me, too, since reading the book. The Overstory is on my list of favorite reads, too. I just read a review of it at another blog I follow and was surprised to find it a bad review (she thought the book was too long and too pessimistic).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I once read a book and hated it and then, many years later read it again and loved it – sometimes we just don’t ‘get’ the book first time round 🙂 The thing I loved about Overstory was that despite the idiocies that kept on rampaging through the various story lines was that the story lines kept right on going and there was always someone else coming up with another aha moment, another possibility, another way through, another solution. I thought it a very honest and hopeful look into our collective behaviours.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think Solastalgia is what is infecting me too. A sense I’d hopelessness, of lack of interest in tending to many things like my yard – hopelessness, because it’s all become so temporary. Thank you for the introduction to a new to me concept.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, thank you for this new word. I love learning new words and this one is a particularly good one for me to know now as I continue what feels like incessant packing of boxes in preparation for moving from the place I’ve called home for so many years. I understand there is a macro application of the word that applies to our global home, but I’m also deeply aware of my individual sense of being untethered. Sometimes it feels like freedom, the other side of my personal solastalgia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, and thank you, Amanda. 🙂 I know just what you mean. I’m not from here (where I’m living now) and went through something similar when we moved to the Eastern Shore (Maryland) six years ago. It was a mixed bag of feelings, for sure, and I still miss the area where we used to live. Fortunately, I get to visit there occasionally.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Frank. 🙂 As for all the crap, maybe we need to let it get to us. Not in a raging way, but in a way that moves us forward to make the changes that need to be made.

      Like

  4. Powerful quotes and lovely photos, Robin. You often echo my thoughts and feelings. I try not to go to fear, but the possibilities seem more limited the further down the road we kick the can. Though I know anything can be created if we put our hearts and minds to it, we just need that ‘hundredth monkey’ to turn the tide.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This poignant post truly resonated with me, Robin. Thank you for expressing your thoughts so beautifully.

    I have never heard of solastalgia before, but it must be what I’m feeling when I go to visit my childhood home and find the hemlock trees naked and dying, stripped and killed by the woolly adelgid infestation. My heart is broken and my childhood memories seem so dreamlike and far away. Sigh.

    I’m with you worrying about the world we are leaving our grandchildren. The way things are now is not sustainable. May they survive the tumultuous change that is inevitable and live to thrive in a new way of being.

    Like

Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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