There’s Still Time

I wanted to love it, and I occasionally did almost enjoy it.  It had its moments.  Just not enough of them.  It was a blockbuster digital art show presented by the Mori Art Museum called Tokyo Lab Boundless.  It is state of the art of digital technology.  Tickets were scarce, but I got one.  I waited in line to enter as my anticipation built, while knowing instinctually that I might not like the manipulated world that awaited us.

How to describe the encounter?  It was an encounter, because the visual overload was close to overwhelming. Visualize many large overlapping spaces contained within a huge hangar. Within the hangar are rooms with different visual displays, mostly relating to nature.  Rooms ultimately morph into other rooms and the spaces purposely become “boundless,” constantly moving, shifting and reappearing. Hints of eternity?

Envision being in a space where every surface is covered with some of the following in a digital rendering; flowers of all kinds and shapes, a waterfall room where people lounged on a large rock as a digital waterfall cascaded over them.  Butterflies flitted and birds flew, thousands of straight strings of l.e.d. lights  changing colors were the Ultimate Christmas Display in my opinion, alluring and transfixing. At the top of a long flight of stairs waited a room with hundreds of suspended  lantern lamps changing colors as well.

Most of the projections were symbols of the natural world. The images covered every surface including ceilings, floors and visitors.  MIrrors added to the illusion of infinite space.IMG_1092

The spaces were crowded. Optimally, I would have liked being the only visitor. Disorientation was part of the experience, but after a while, looking for a way out of this manipulated world became a distraction as well.  There were moments when I thought “how cool, or how beautiful” but they did not outweigh the discomfort I felt at this whole idea.

With our planet in the throes of seemingly unstoppable and accelerated climate change, was this display the way of the future?  An idealized manipulated version of what was the natural world? Is this what will remain when nature collapses?  Just memories lacking the realness of texture of scent of birth and decay?

Was I the only one to interpret the dark side of this extravaganza?  Maybe to most visitors, this would be a more than acceptable substitute for the real thing.  Just as some climate deniers are suggesting we could all move to another planet?

Suddenly I wanted to be released.  Not so easy to find an exit though the endless rooms. I had to first find a worker who slipped me out of an unmarked back door, after I was insistent about wanting to leave.

Relief!  Light!  A genuine, living, glorious flower presented itself.  There’s still time. There’s still time. There’s still time.

Our Earth is Not Well

All is not right. I am asked frequently, as are most of us in our daily interactions, How are you? I’m very well, I respond. As you may be too. But the truth is the planet I am part of is not well. Not at all well. Its symptoms of illness have become obvious this year. If the planet I live on is ailing, I have to honestly say that I am not so well as I might like to think I am.  Even for those of us who admit climate change is a reality, it becomes very painful to acknowledge it regularly.

The lead headline in today’s NYTimes finally blew it out in the open.

2018 Is Shaping Up to Be the Fourth-Hottest Year. Yet We’re Still Not Prepared for Global Warming.
It’s hot. But it may not be the new normal yet. Temperatures are still rising.

Living in California this year has given us a film forum’s worth of wildfire videos burning year round. Hotter, longer and more destructive. In Santa Barbara, the current drought has just been proclaimed the longest on record.

My daughter, now visiting in Vancouver, told me that the whales are dying in the Northwest waters.

Last year, one of my favorite streets in Santa Barbara lost several of its century old Italian stone pine trees from the drought.

pine trees

From Florida come disturbing photographs of thousands of dead fish and marine mammals killed from a brutal red tide, exacerbated by warmer than normal temperatures. An iceberg is melting just off the coast of  Greenland threatening to raise sea water levels. Japan is experiencing its hottest summer on record, causing dozens of deaths and requiring cancellation of some traditional summer celebrations. The very existence of small islands is threatened and whole populations might be required to flee their homelands.  The monsoon season in India and Bangladesh brings more flooding than usual.

I watched the movie On the Beach when it was released in 1959. It left me disturbed for a long time. It’s the post-apocalyptic story of life in Australia after a nuclear war that has doomed most of the planet. Australia escapes the immediate destruction but has to live with the knowledge that the deadly radioactive cloud will be arriving at their doorsteps soon, dooming everyone and every living creature remaining. I am reluctant to admit that my sense of impending doom is tipping in that direction. We are seriously threatened. Crops are being affected. Species that can’t adapt will die off. In some quarters that means humankind.  I want to feel like climate change is being handled and addressed!

What the hell is wrong with us?

On top of the reality of confronting a most likely irreversible and catastrophic climate change, we have to suffer with a nutcase president who is a climate change denier. It might not feel so hopeless if our nation’s leaders spoke the truth and were leading the way to at least stabilize the environment.

So the truth is, I am pained. Not at an acute, not-able-to-function level, but more at the level of knowing deeply that life as we’ve known it, is in trouble. NOW.

I didn’t think the changes would be so obvious so soon. I guess I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to face the consequences in my lifetime. But here it is. I’m not comfortable with accepting this as the “new normal.” I support environmental groups who are working hard collectively to make change. But now, more seems to be required. Please tell me if you’ve personally found an answer that brings hope.

I think the Most Important question we must ask every candidate for political office is about their stand on climate change. If they waffle or deny, they’re toxic. If they’re concerned, ask what do they intend to do about it. Not just my life or your life depend upon recognizing the urgency of this issue. It’s the fate of our home planet and all the wonders it contains that are now at risk.

Fire!!

What a difference a week makes. Last week I was revelling in the grandeur of the great outdoors. This week I’m sequestered from it, seldom venturing out-of-doors because of the proximity of a fire.

The streets of our city are now relatively deserted. Two weeks before Christmas. The people who are venturing out are wearing specific kinds of face masks to help filter the fouled air. We’ve been repeatedly warned to stay inside.  Many stores and most schools are closed. Neighboring towns have had to evacuate.

Some people leave at the first sign of trouble, others hold out. There’s always a certain amount of uncertainty around these events and unless the firemen order an evacuation, it’s a judgement call.  From my personal experience,  the women are the first to say, let’s get-the-hell-out-of-here! The precariousness of a slight wind change can change the future of a life in just moments.

The world starts feeling increasingly and uncomfortably surreal as a fire progresses because nothing looks as you would expect it to. This what has become of our picture postcard town over the last several days. I haven’t shown the fallen ash that coats our trees, sidewalks and cars.

air quality

There’s a fine line between laughing and crying they say, and there’s a fine line between reactions to the spectacular nature of a major fire. Fascination quickly turns into Alarm. At first, I note a subtle difference as sunlight is filtered through the smoke. It’s like looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses. Everything becomes tinged with pink. It doesn’t register immediately as a danger sign to me.  One glance at the sun, as a cherry red disk in the sky, lets me know otherwise. That triggers a small bit of excitement within me. You understand very quickly at a primal level that you might be in for a battle. The fight/flight response is activated. Continue reading “Fire!!”