For more than ten years now, I have devoted the overwhelming majority of my work as a writer and activist to shining a light on the many heinous guises of misogyny, especially on the impact violence has on women’s lives, and also on efforts to stop that violence and to empower women. Now and again I have also tackled other topics, including environmental issues such as global warming and climate change because as we confront environmental disaster after environmental disaster at a rapidly snowballing speed, the need to address these issues as an integral part of my work feels urgently compelling, yet words more often than not painfully fail me.
What precisely can one say about ocean acidification, leaking methane from the thawing Arctic, seas that are rising faster than expected, the loss of ice in Greenland and Antarctica, (and those are just stories that have crossed my digital desk in the last week alone)? And how precisely can one say what should be said about these overwhelming climactic disasters in a way that accurately portrays the proper measures of terror, and the tears that should be streaming down our faces as we see the result of our misguided dominion while offering hope or perhaps vision? On most days, I neither know or begin to feel adequate to that task.
Not being one to suffer writer’s block or despairing inertia quietly, I have floundered about trying to find inspiration and strength, a grounded path towards coherent expression. I have buried myself in the words of Terry Tempest Williams and tackled a lengthy biography of Rachel Carson. I cheer Sandra Steingraber’s call to action about fracking and Bill McKibben’s relentless tar sands pushback and the solar-powered Thanksgiving in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
And mostly I have walked away from the computer and staggered out into the natural world, needing to take in huge gulps of (I hesitate to say fresh) air. I have sat beside the Atlantic Ocean and watched the tides roll in and out, seagulls standing watch at the water’s edge. I’ve walked along the Potomac, visited pueblos and mountains and craters in the Arizona desert and high country. And some days, I simply walk the streets of my suburban neighborhood.
The community in which I live is perhaps the embodiment of a sub-urban design train wreck–houses crammed in every available space, open spaces in the wrong places, dysfunctional streets where people live isolated lives. But even in this embodiment of Malvina Reynolds’ little boxes on the hillside “all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same”, I have looked up at the trees, and found wonder and love and grounded strength in these branches of heart filling beauty.
And where words come sometimes only haltingly, I have taken to letting my camera portray the extraordinary that we all too often fail to see, let alone honor in the ordinary of our days.
The words will continue, we must talk about what has been, what is and what will be. But we must also see the tree branches above, and feel the breezes from the sea, the hot desert sun and the path below our feet.