SOLASTALGIA (n): The homesickness felt while one's home disappears.
A lot of us might be experiencing solastalgia this week. Solastalgia is the homesickness we feel while our home disappears around us. Heart piercing for those who barely escaped with their lives, whose homes may never return, who have no escape from the elements, or who still await word from missing loved ones.
But if any of us can't know when we'll breathe fresh air again, if our little ones can't play outside, if we're expected to continue working in toxic environments, or keep pretending it's ok, then solastalgia seeps into our lives like a creeping dread. It's an apparition born from the foundational lie of this country, that we get to destroy and forget. We continue benefiting from a lineage that emerges out of native american genocide, slavery, the prison complex, war profiteering, rape culture, extractive economies, and runs right off the cliff into cascading ecological and societal collapse. The beings and truths we've made invisible have overtaken us. What we ignore chokes us. The incessant insistence of bullshit we eat daily from that almighty asshole only accelerates our collective poisoning. We are not better than or separate from the 70 million displaced people worldwide this year, climate refugees following migration routes more ancient than the borders they cross. This country's karma is a wave cresting over our well-intentioned lives, and sooner than we wish something will sweep us up too.
Does radical uncertainty nudge us towards nihilism? If it's all fucked then fuck it all? Or will we still plant seeds for hopeless harvests? Will we try again to offer our best abilities in service to all the justice-hearted solidarities and healing transformations we can still nurture? Hope and safety are unfortunately fleeting, fantasies that have arisen from privilege, fruits worthy of cultivation but likely to squish under our entitled death-grips. Courage and commitment, learning and love, renewable resources after all, are sourced most sincerely from shared commonalities across diverse communities. Whether or not we ever witness how fully what we love may be destroyed, folks at each stage can continue to learn how best to show up for each other, and try to share better.
While we wait for things to worsen, the understandably terrible responses to calamity ~ feeling numb, overwhelm, intense despair or fury without healthy or creative ways to channel it all ~ can often soften with regular time set aside for real surrender. Solastalgia in its early stages is a gift too, to slow down and grant our attention to how our home is shifting, to reconnect with what we love and are willing to fight for. We can compost what we've moved beyond and nourish what still grows in each other.
Feelings can be paralyzing though. Inner and outer suffocation reflecting one antoher. Some of us projecting ruin onto everything may even root for a shocking end. Maybe we’re turned on by apocalyptic chic mask fashions, or allured by the dire orange thrill of escape videos, disaster porn. However, held with kind support, our fears and shames can start to mend, foster imagination, even yield integrated strategies. If you're able to escape the smoke this week, please take the time to feel as much as you can. Do it alone and with loved ones. The close at hand relationships ~ sharing meals with family, music with friends, protests that shut down the major bridges of your city ~ it's these intimate and vulnerable moments that support our continued affirmations of life, even as the longer cycles pour towards death.
Every moment becomes precious and vital. Gratitude grows. Especially given our compulsions (drilled into us by the dominant greed-fed and fascist-ascendant culture) constantly telling us to avoid, to fall back every chance on comforting distractions, on the "but is it happening to me yet?" hit. California, even with the worst current air quality in the world, will remain one of our planet’s most comfortable places, until it isn't.
All my jobs are outdoors, which I adore, and they've all been effected by the fires. The last Watershed Witness tours of the summer were canceled by proximity of our East Bay Mokelumne River headwaters to the Donnell fire. The Oakland and SF farmers markets were closed this weekend for the first time since I started selling honey, tho I'm considering offering honey this week as a gift. Sore throats galore.
The kids were kept out of the school garden where I teach all week, but I still had to cover the citrus with frost blankets as we got down to the mid 30s, the same cold layer that kept all this smoke low to the ground. Stuck inside and stir crazy, my attempts at decolonizing the kids’ Thanksgivings included connecting local indigenous stories of Oo'-yum-bel'-le (Mount Diablo) from when its peak was an island in a great ocean, inhabited only by Mol'-luk the condor, whose wife was a rock perch.
Setting a great fire they give birth to a falcon son Wek'-Wek, who with the help of his grandfather O-let'-te the Coyote, Choo'-hoo the Turkey Buzzard, Kok'-kol the Raven, Ah-wet'-che the Crow, and Koo-loo'-loo the Hummingbird, flew around the Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley, picked out the places where they wanted villages to be, and in each place stuck up three feathers—one for Chā'-kah the Chief, one for Mi'-yum, the Woman Chief, and one for Soo-lā-too the poor. As the waters subsided, this is where the first people of our area were born.
This led to a discussion of how generations of indigenous families cared for our chaparral and forests over tens of thousands of years by setting periodic managed fires, and how I’ll be greeting the sunrise with vibrant living native communities in ceremony on Alcatraz this Thanksgiving morning (even tho it’s supposed to RAIN!!!), and how we may be headed to a time when waters cover these lands and the highest peaks become islands again. The kids wondered how high the waters will get before Wek'-Wek comes back to help us.