“They drank a bottle of wine and opened another. They were so in love with the world and so disappointed in every aspect of it, that drinking another bottle while they sat at the kitchen table was the most obvious way they could honor it all.” –Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King
This blog is my equivalent of opening another bottle. It is what I do to honor it all, the beauty and the disappointment of the world of nature, of humans, and my own internal world. Nothing I do or say or observe is unblemished. There is no simple love, there are no simple answers.
We watched a beautiful documentary last night about a terrible thing. “Chasing Ice” is about climate change and, at the same time, it is about the heartbreaking beauty of glaciers and the oceans they are crashing into, shedding chunks and whole peninsulas with unbelievable speed, in unbelievable spectacles. It’s called calving, giant cow glacier mothers giving birth, but it is not life; it is death. The glaciers are dying and their calves do not grow up to be glaciers; they melt into the sea and will, eventually, flood us out.
In a huge irony, before watching this documentary I had made reservations to travel next week to a place that may no longer exist in a few hundred years because of sea-level rise. It is ironic because it is a trip totally for myself and some might say it is frivolous. The plane that carries me to the Gulf Coast of Florida will be spewing out the greenhouse gases that cause glaciers to melt and seas to rise. But I am making the trip because my soul urgently needs the particular beauty of sun and sea. It is ironic because, as an environmentalist, I should know better than to take frivolous trips. But it is not altogether frivolous. I need a restoration and I know a place to go for that.
And so I will go, under no illusion that I am doing anyone, or anything, except myself a favor. The wine of this blog is a toast to the beauty of Sanibel Island, which will not last, and a confession of my sin against that place by choosing to go there. And I know that, as humans, at this stage of development and in these numbers, we sin against our habitat in practically everything we do. We, too, are beautiful and terribly disappointing.
Then we watched another documentary, “Birders: The Central Park Effect.” Same thing. Birds are dying out because cities are overtaking their habitats and crowding them out. But because of this, little patches of green like New York City’s Central Park become magnets for thousands of birds that pass overhead in migrations. So in the spring and fall, the birds concentrate themselves in astonishing numbers, variety, and sheer beauty in that man-made park in the middle of Manhattan. People come out to look in wonder at what we are destroying because they are still there and still beautiful and they remind us of who we are, beautiful and flawed creatures ourselves.
I’m not saying there is nothing we can do right, nothing we can do to help. And our love of birds and glaciers is a large part of what keeps us doing what we can to save them. But sometimes the only way to honor the inevitable contradictions of the human condition is to open another bottle of wine, or write a few words.