During the last year I have been struggling with the catastrophic effects of Climate Change like never before as I witness the continuation of a drought that is withering plants, starving tree roots, shriveling our wildflowers and wild grasses, leaving our mountains barren of snow, and changing the face of the high desert for the foreseeable future. With forest fires leaving me literally breathless from plumes of thick smoke that turn the sun into a ball of orange flames at dawn, unable to cope with 100 plus degree heat, my body forces me to surrender: I will not be able to make my permanent home here. Instead I will migrate like the birds do – from south to north and back again.
Coming to terms with the ravages of Climate Change brought me to my knees; it has been one of the most difficult adjustments I have ever had to make. I mourn the death of the trees, plants, the loss of precious frogs and toads, insects, birds, lizards – every plant and creature is under attack and few of us can thrive (let alone survive) in such an unforgiving climate.
By far the worst manifestation of desert drought is painfully obvious – the astonishing lack of rain (In my front yard here in Abiquiu, New Mexico I measured three inches of rain for the entire year of 2018). Red Willow River has shrunk into stone.
Almost never having the luxury of smelling the unbearably sweet scent of rain, gazing at scrub that glows sage green after being bathed by the Cloud People, or just listening to the healing sound of a precious deluge as it soaks into parched ground creates a longing in me that runs deeper than the deepest underground river.
I know now that I had to come to the desert to face what is.
To paraphrase poet and writer Barbara Ribidoux ‘the world as we know it is broken.’
When I read this little book of poems with which I am now in intimate relationship with, I know there is another Indigenous woman out there that is living with what is.
Barbara’s words bring me hope – not hope that all will be well – but hope in the sense that I am not alone in either my grief – or in my belief that I must take refuge in the present in order to survive this holocaust. What ‘taking refuge’ means to me is to be strong enough to stay with what is and to find joy in each moment spent appreciating each bird or tree that still lives on this precious blue – green planet that is also my home.
Barbara reminds me “ the elements of earth, wind, fire and water all contribute to an ever shifting landscape that displays tremendous beauty (italics are mine) in these changing times.” I think of her as I begin each day watching the sky turn golden or crimson in the pre –dawn hours as I kneel before my wood stove giving thanks for warmth, and the gift of one more precious chance to feel Life and Love in motion. The bittersweet orange wings of Flicker in flight evokes a gasp of wonder.
Barbara also notes that this is a confusing time for some bringing me closer to accepting that many simply don’t see.
“Fire and Water rage. Murderous storms kill thousands. With every massive earthquake the earth changes the tilt on her axis.”
Barbara also tells stories that might speak to a future as yet unknown (excerpt from Out of the Ashes):
Tonight the crescent moon holds water,
refuses to release rain on this dry town.
The old ones tell stories
in time the earth will dry
fires will transform the land.
Out of the ashes we will live again…
“The Storm Left No Flowers” is an unforgettable book of poems that will accompany me on the journey through these last years of my life, bringing me comfort and joy, assuaging loneliness, reminding me that living in the truth of what is can be endured with integrity, dignity, and honor.
I encourage anyone who loves this Earth, who grieves her losses, who fears for an incomprehensible future to be-friend this collection of poems that speak in tongues of flame, grace, and splendor.
Barbara Robidoux’s book can be ordered from Amazon.
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.
23 thoughts on “When “The Storm Left No Flowers” – A Review by Sara Wright”
Thank you for letting us know about this book. We need such guides and companions in this time we are witness to the disorienting, devastating change our kind has caused. We need to courage to witness and to do whatever part is ours.
Yes, Elizabeth I feel the same way about how important it is to have these guides to help us to have the courage to witness what is… This woman has a ground level connection to Nature and the Indigenous peoples point of view and is, in my opinion, a writer who truly is a master (mistress – me) storyteller as author Linda Hogan writes.
I am presently reading another book of hers – a collection of stories of life on the Passamaquoddy Indian reservation – called “Sweetgrass Burning”. Gosh, I highly recommend this book as well.
I live in Southern California, where drought and wildfires have become almost a way of life. The wildfire season used to be limited, but anyone who reads or hears the news knows what happened here this past fall and winter. And now it’s rain on top of fire, which means people who live in the burn areas are dealing with mud and flood. Yes, it’s climate change that’s largely doing this to the so-called Golden State, but it’s also people building huge McMansions in canyons and on mountains where the bears and coyotes should live undisturbed. They’re helping to change the climate here. Yes, we need to work to cherish and save our Blessed Mother Planet.
I recently heard forest specialist criticize the desire to live in nature by building in forest land. It is ironic. People want more nature but they don’t realize that building in forests is harming nature.
Oh Carol, this is so true – what we need is small communities that leave most land untouched – that means getting along with neighbors and not choosing isolation. I live in a situation much like this here in Abiquiu – it helps.
Oh Barbara, yes we do!
Thanks for this ecology post, Sara. It’s good to remember that there is hope, especially if we speak out. Recently I read that “after the Clean Air Act’s first 20 years, in 1990, it prevented more than 200,000 premature deaths, and almost 700,000 cases of chronic bronchitis were avoided.”
My city too is so much cleaner now, all those old smoke stacks are gone, no such thing anymore, they aren’t allowed. There were also constant sounds of airplanes flying low over the city, and the planes were so loud you couldn’t hear yourself speak. The planes are banned now also, they have to fly much higher and outside the city, so that’s a great gift too in terms of the environment. We can make a change, if we keep speaking out and if we never accept human-caused environmental problems as normal.
I grew up in Pittsburgh. In the ’50s there was a major effort to clean up the air pollution, which worked. Then Viet Nam came along, and the environmental protections fell before the need for more steel for the war. I agree that we “should never accept human-caused environmental problems as normal”. I did not understand this as a child, when I watched the slag dump as entertainment.
I think the most distressing news I have heard is that as of December 2018 carbon emissions were up for the first time since 2010 – If we don’t completely reverse this trend within the next few years it will be too late. I believe that authentic change depends upon the human ability to witness and stand in the truth of what is – meaning that first we have to absorb the bad news instead of focusing on solutions that can’t possibly occur unless we have sufficient funding to create these lasting environmental changes…All we ever hear about throughout the world is the economy, and here, our current American obsession with building a stupid wall for billions of dollars. The disintegrating Earth and the critical loss of non human species doen’t make the front page of the news…How is it that we can continue to turn a blind eye towards such a dark future? I am at a total loss to answer this question. Earth, is after all our home.
Thank you Sara. Sometimes I feel like I’m alone in my grieving for our planet and the abuse we heap on her/ourselves. I’ve been voting for Green Party candidates for a few years and now volunteering in a by-election. It helps the grief to do something – but sometimes I think the only solution is the extinction of humans – which I see as a real possibility if things continue as they are.
Are there no options to buying from Amazon, another invasive corporation with a poor record of respect for it’s workers.
You certainly are not alone but those of us that are in this grieving process are carrying grief that others won’t own… it’s a heavy burden.
And yes, I feel as you do – that the only hope may lie in human extinction – but that probably won’t happen until we have killed everything else off.
As for Barbara, it may be possible to order directly from her publisher – my book is lent out so I don’t have it but you certainly can google her…
Finishing Line Press website also carries the book as does Barnes and Noble (much the same problem there.
This was astonishingly timely for me. I am struggling and grieving as I witness the inexorable slide into the next Great Extinction. Talking this morning with a friend I asked “How do we bear the next several years, watching our Mother die?” Then I read this. Thank you so much for letting me know that there is a great community out there that is also grieving and searching for moments of transcendent joy.
All I can say is that there are some of us who are connected to what is happening. I survive because I keep advocating through my writing – I also try very much to appreciate what is right in front of me – like the coming sunset – my dogs – i could go on but you get the point.
I am so sad I often cannot read the latest eco-news. I have accepted that the worst case scenario is happening and probably will continue to happen. I have also vowed that I will continue to try to save the world we love. And to enjoy it as much as possible. But the extinctions hurt, every one of them. And climate change and climate extremes are here and increasing.
I feel just as you do Carol.
Thank you for introducing us to this wonderful author. I was deeply touched by the insistence that we not accept the devastation as inevitable, that we keep working to stop what is happening. This past week I was invited to be part of a community effort called “community resilience,” in order to plan for the catastrophic effects of climate change and, while I understood the desire to plan ahead, every cell kept shouting “No! We cannot accept that this will happen! Let’s spend some of our energy stopping it rather than planning for it!” I’m still trying to think of how to say that to the group in a way that is constructive rather than judgmental of what is meant to be a good intention.
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We can start by reducing carbon emissions, plant millions of trees, divest ourselves of toxic plastic… oh there are ways but we must take action on a global scale to interrupt this holocaust – unfortunately I don’t see this happening. – (Where is the funding? why it’s going into a 5 billion dollar wall. )it’s no longer enough to act locally.
Beautiful and helpful in these awful times, Sara – thank you for sharing these thoughts. I loved this part- “not hope that all will be well – but hope in the sense that I am not alone in either my grief – or in my belief that I must take refuge in the present in order to survive this holocaust. What ‘taking refuge’ means to me is to be strong enough to stay with what is and to find joy in each moment spent appreciating each bird or tree that still lives on this precious blue – green planet that is also my home.” – I have been struggling with the lack of hope, as well, and how to help my young children face this terribly dystopian future. Bless your work and your journey.
Oh, I am just glad to be helpful.
Earth is dynamic and alive – we pretend and dream that climate and other conditions have a “normal” and “permanent” base level but they don’t. I hate to see pollution tip the balance but cosmic cycles in our living and interconnected cosmos play an even bigger role. You quoted from the poems: “the earth changes the tilt on her axis” – I couldn’t agree more – my most recent book was on the evidence for the coming POLE SHIFT. Spiritual awareness and preparation are key, don’t get lost in doomsday prepping. https://www.amazon.com/Pole-Shift-Evidence-Will-Silenced/dp/1986785130
Until we face the life death choice we are being confronted as a culture we will continue to destroy ourselves and the Earth without whose body we do not live. This is NOT doomday thinking – it’s our REALITY.