We can no longer hear the voice of the rivers, the mountains, or the sea. The trees and meadows are no longer intimate modes of spirit presence. The world about us has become an ‘it’ rather than a ‘thou.’
~ Thomas Berry
What is needed is a new pattern of rapport with the planet. Here we come to the critical transformation needed in the emotional, aesthetic, spiritual, and religious orders of life. Only a change that profound in human consciousness can remedy the deep cultural pathology manifest in such destructive behavior. Such change is not possible, however, so long as we fail to appreciate the planet that provides us with a world abundant in the volume and variety of food for our nourishment, a world exquisite in supplying beauty of form, sweetness of taste, delicate fragrances for our enjoyment, and exciting challenges for us to overcome with skill and action. The poets and artists can help restore this sense of rapport with the natural world. It is this renewed sense of reciprocity with nature, in all of its complexity and remarkable beauty, that can help provide the psychic and spiritual energies necessary for the work ahead.
~ Thomas Berry, The Sacred Universe
I don’t entirely agree with the first quote from Thomas Berry. I think there are many people who hear the voices of rivers, mountains, trees, birds, meadows, and the sea. There are many people who take the time to listen to the voices of the earth and her other-than-human beings. Not only do they listen but, after a time, they find ways to interact with the land and water and air, and the others who live in these realms. I think there are more and more people taking the time to listen, who are teaching their children and grandchildren to listen, and that gives me a sliver of hope for the future.
As you might have guessed from the opening photos, I’ve spent some time in NE Ohio again visiting with family. It was spring break for the boys, and we packed the days we were there with plenty of activities. Hikes, an early Easter celebration, an early birthday celebration (the Little Wookie’s birthday is tomorrow and he will be 6 years old), and plenty of rainy day activities since it tends to be rainy this time of year.
Our trip out was an adventure in weather. We started with light rain, ran into some sunshine and warm temperatures (almost 80 degrees F) in time for a picnic lunch, light rain in the mountains of Maryland, on and off heavier rain in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and then we went through the Tunnel That Leads to Winter on the Pennsylvania turnpike. It’s the tunnel before Somerset when you’re heading west, and it seems like there is always an abrupt change from one side of the tunnel to the other. On this journey, the temperature eventually dropped into the 30’s and we went from rain to sleet to snow to hail before we left Pennsylvania and entered Ohio.
It seems the people of Pennsylvania and Ohio have decided the pandemic is over. I think I saw one person (other than us) wearing a mask throughout the trip. Who can blame them? We’re all tired of it. I feel the same way, and there have been many moments recently when I thought I should just get it over with. Be exposed, get sick, and whatever happens, happens. As luck would have it, I did win a virus lottery. I have something that started with a seriously sore throat, a stuffy nose, and has developed into body aches, a slight cough, and utter exhaustion. I haven’t yet tested because I am not going anywhere while I’m sick. I won’t be exposing anyone except for M who has already been exposed somewhere along the way anyhow. He’s fine, by the way. Healthy as a horse. (Isn’t that an odd saying? I think it is. All horses are not always healthy, all of the time.) If for some reason I have to go out, I still wear a mask. (And, in case it needs to be said, did wear a mask when we were out and about in public. The boys were a bit sniffly — as kids that age tend to be this time of year — and I suspect I caught a cold from one of them.)
Two of our hikes during this trip were urban hikes in Kent and Akron. The boys enjoyed the tunnels, the river, and walking along the towpath and canal in Akron. I think they liked that almost as much as being in wooded, more natural areas. Spring is taking its time in NE Ohio, but that is true here on the Eastern Shore, too. We’re ahead of them, but it’s been a gradual unfurling of buds and blossoms instead of a rush to summer. The temperature when we returned home on Thursday was 86 degrees. We were ahead of a cold front that reduced our highs into the 50’s now (lows in the 40’s).
It feels so trivial to be going on and on about weather given all that is happening in this country and in the world. A glance at the news this morning was more than enough. Perhaps later I’ll read some of the articles (we subscribe to the Washington Post). I did skim through an interesting opinion piece that claims 40 percent of Americans now identify as independent rather than affiliating with a party. I’m in that category lately. While I would never vote Republican again (it’s happened, rarely, in the past), I am not happy with the Democrats, either. They appear to squander their opportunities, and I’ve yet to see them intelligently counter the misinformation being loudly broadcast by the extremists on the other side. It looks like a head-in-the-sand approach. I am not sure it works. You’ll have to pardon my pessimism. We did turn on the TV at night while in Ohio and the political ads were horrible. The Republican candidates are competing with each other to see who is the craziest, nuttiest, worst possible candidate imaginable. One candidate goes on about how he stands for God, guns, and that guy that can’t believe he was voted out of the White House. Who “stands for” guns (never mind that guy)?
Alas for him, it did him no good. The Big Lie guy decided to endorse the celebrity (writer) rather than the God and guns guy. Someday I should write a book review about that writer guy’s book. I regret to say I read it (and watched the movie based on it). I thought it was a terrible book. I base that on knowing the area he writes about, and on how he wrote about it. Tremendous waste of time and money.
It’s not that I lack hope or don’t see some good possibilities emerging. But I do wonder if we’re like addicts in that we haven’t yet hit a bottom that is far enough down, bleak enough, to require some action on our part. Or, to put it another way, the pendulum still hasn’t swung quite far enough for it to begin its swing back. Many of us can see where that is leading, but not many of us know what to do about it. Maybe because we lack the experience in dealing with this kind of threat.
In other news, before the trip to NE Ohio I was graced with some time (four days!) alone. M was in Philadelphia (a city of great smarts when it comes to enacting mask requirements BEFORE things get out of control, in spite of the criticism coming from those who should know better by now) for a conference. It was the first time since before the pandemic that I’ve had that much time alone. I used the days as a kind of retreat. I did a lot of reading, writing, drawing and painting, walking, meditating, and yoga practice. I avoided the news. One of the things that emerged was an interest in learning how to keen. A definition, from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
“lament loudly over the dead, bitterly wail,” 1811, from Irish caoinim “I weep, wail, lament,” from Old Irish coinim “I wail.” Hence “to utter in a shrill voice” (1893). Related: Keened; keener; keening. As a noun from 1830.
It is, as you can see, a traditional form of expressing grief or sorrow, usually for the dead. Did you know that there are keening songs? I didn’t, but then, I don’t know as much about my lineage as I should due to assimilation and homogenization. Keening songs are repetitious in nature, with just a few basic lines that can be shortened or lengthened depending on the singer and what the times and feeling dictate. Here are a couple of videos:
- Robin Williams Teaches Carol Burnett to Keen. (Showing my age, but you might enjoy it.)
- Aine Minogue, Song of Keening.
Keening — or wailing and singing in lamentation — is not limited to the Irish and Scots, of course. Other cultures have their own forms of it. At one time Sir Walter Scott compared Gaelic keening to the ululations of the Romans, and (according to Wikipedia) the “Irish word caoine or cine is cognate with the Hebrew cina, a lament involving the clapping of hands, which could suggest an ancient link between the two traditions.”
I’d like to look into my Eastern European (mostly Polish) roots, too, when it comes to grief, mourning, and lamentations. As I write this, I wonder if this is a natural progression from the course about death I took last year.
Speaking of writing and as I write this, it’s morning here as I type. I like to write in the mornings. Words and thoughts flow more easily. There are storms coming this afternoon and I’d like to get outside before that happens. I can come back and fix what needs fixing in this post later. Perhaps brighten it up a bit. That’s another reason to write in the morning. It gives me time throughout the day to edit before scheduling it to post in the afternoon.
Thank you so much for visiting with me today. I will be back soon with something lighter and more springlike. In the meantime, if it’s not already storming, join me out at the Point for sunset this evening. It’s scheduled for 7:42 PM. In the event of rain, let’s try again tomorrow.
Please be safe, be well, and be heartful(l).
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,986) Time with family in the Bogs. 1,987) Safe travels, in spite of weather and crazy drivers. 1,988) The privilege of being able to rest and recuperate when I’m sick. 1,989) The beauty of keening songs. 1,990) Beginnings, new growth, the resurrection of the land in spring.