Almost everyone I know has tiny escape hatches out of their daily work, spaces to go blank, or sort out muddled feelings. My husband plays computer games that emit maniacal sounds of crows, machine guns, and cards being dealt. A couple of other friends knit things that seem to say brightly, “see I’m productive, so there, I’m not wasting time.” Other friends wander around social media, then wish they hadn’t, and make announcements about leaving.
My latest escape, while working maniacally this summer, has been to draw online astrological charts, which offer a large variety of interpretations depending on which system you choose. Don’t like the placement of that moon? Try the sidereal interpretation which makes the protagonist seem a little more likeable. But that same chart then yields an icy Pluto that screams “sociopath”. The fantasies and alternative life-path-stories created by these charts are quite entertaining. One result for my own chart yielded something that one online astrologer called “the shouter in the library”. I quite liked that one. It brought back memories of sitting in some orchestra rehearsals and having the urge to yell out over a sea of passive colleagues (and no, I never did).
This idea of creating alternative narratives – and futures – is a powerful one as we face our Sixth Extinction, sending even the most stolid of scientists into a panic. Some hardline critics like Derrick Jensen (definitely a shouter in the library) push against the “cosmeticisms” of much environmentalism. Jensen doesn’t seem to know what to do with us. We live in a petrochemical, rapacious nightmare, no matter what measures we take to be more green. I have been trying to reconcile my love for culture with Jensen’s view of how drastically humans must change. Climate change is one of the most difficult narratives for us to explore, and each potential move forward seems to also tip us further over the edge.
Both upcoming concerts within the next week (Inuksuit in San Francisco, and Ocean Dust at the Britt Music & Arts Festival) celebrate and mourn the sea, the earth and the life process. In certain moments my breath describes the tidal quality of the sea, of life itself, using a conch shell in Inuksuit and alto flute in Umi Sajin. During rehearsals thoughts have wandered through my mind about the ironies of being a modern human. That I’m merely part of the “nature as fetish” crowd. That we make earnest, beautiful tributes to the earth, while stomping all over it. I hope though that I’m helping to create some breathing room, however fleeting.