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Advice From a Tree

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Today I am (supposed to be) rushing around, closing up the house for winter, hauling in the picnic table, cleaning out the frig, scrubbing toilets, vacuuming rugs, packing bedding and silverware in plastic to deter the field mice who generally move in for the winter when my cats and I depart.

I picked up my winter supply of New Hampshire honey and goats milk moisturizing lotion on the way back from Willa’s grave yesterday, but I forgot to visit the Post Office so I have to go back into town.

Today is also the deadline for sending in my sermon on gentleness (done, at last!) and I so, so want to be finished with all of this in time to watch the debate with my neighbor tonight!

All to say that I don’t have time to write, but I found this wonderful message from the Sierra Club that I thought you might enjoy.

advice-from-a-tree

Dig your roots way down underground into the richest soil of life, hold on, and enjoy the view today!

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Far from Normal – Please Shut Up or Speak Up

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I want certain people to shut up, please, and I want more people to speak up. My mother didn’t allow us kids to say “shut up,” and I still consider it incredibly rude. But I’m saying it anyway, just this once. And I did say “please.”

Now that’s out of the way, and I’ll get on with my blog.

I don’t like being told what to do, but I’m going to write on the WordPress Daily Prompt challenge because it’s already on my mind. Here it is:

“Far from Normal…Take a step back, and take a look at your life as an outsider might. Now, tell us at least six unique, exciting, or just plain odd things about yourself.”

Radical, Lunatic, Way-Cold Mel

I had the opportunity yesterday to step back and look at myself from an outsider’s perspective. Fifty thousand outsiders, give or take.

I donned double wool socks, full-body thermal underwear, several sweaters, and a wool scarf and hat and went to D.C. for the humongous climate rally. In the frigid cold, we marched from the Washington Monument to the White House, clinging to our banners, posters, and flags in the whipping wind. Did I mention it was cold?

Some of my conservative friends have been poking me about demonstrating against global warming when it’s so cold outside. I guess they think there wouldn’t be any cold days if climate change was real. Jesus, God, and all who teach patience – please help me to love these people.

This is not funny. I’m the first to make a joke out of just about anything, but for real, for real, as the kids say these days – I do not have children; I am marching for your children. And your grandchildren. So please. Just shut up. Please.

These people think I”m a radical lunatic. They are Christians, too, but don’t seem to see stewardship of the earth as part of their calling.

Marching for Your Kids

Marching for Your Kids

Grandma with a Cause

Grandma with a Cause

Crazy, Judgmental, Gay-bashing Mel

Fortunately, a large and growing number of Christians have figured out that when God told us to care for the earth, God meant that we should — let’s see, how to put this — care for the earth?

Yesterday, I was to meet up with an interfaith delegation for a pre-rally; the “creation care” contingent. As I blogged before here, I think it’s important that environmentally aware people of faith speak up. So I made two signs, one from the Jewish prophet Isaiah and the other from the Psalms:

“The Earth is the Lord’s”

and

“The Earth Has Been Defiled By its People”

I rolled up the signs and boarded the metro to go downtown. A bunch of public health students with signs were in the subway car, and we got chatting. They asked to see my signs. I hesitated, but unrolled them, and the students suddenly got very interested in their phones and didn’t want to chat anymore, though I tried.

Through their eyes, I imagine I was a judgmental, gay-bashing, fairy tale believing, nutcase. In other words, a Christian.

It’s OK, I was going to meet other God-loving people. But it turns out I couldn’t find their rally, and was destined to walk the streets solo, waving my Bible verses.

Crazy, Lunatic Christian Me

Crazy, Lunatic Christian Me

Many people looked at my signs and glanced away quickly, as you might avert your eyes from someone who had peed on themselves. Especially the sign with the word “Lord.” That word is WAY out of fashion. I guess they thought I might preach at them. A few folks gave me a surreptitious thumbs up. That was nice.

So that’s the Christian me. Feeling judged and feared and avoided.

The Way-Cool, Fancy Mel

For a time, I marched next to a contingent of grandmothers who had flown out from California just for the march. They carried large photos of their grandchildren emblazoned with the words, “DO IT FOR ME.” I told one woman that I had been a lobbyist for the Sierra Club.

“Really? Are you kidding?” she shrieked. “For the real Sierra Club? Hey you all,” she nudged her friends, “she was a lobbyist for the Sierra Club. How cool!”

I guess it is. It really is. For several decades, I had a job that others dream of having.

Later in the day, I marched next to a scientist who had done studies on the climate-induced beetle outbreaks that are devastating Yellowstone’s forests. He, too, was amazed to be walking next to someone who used to direct the Sierra Club’s Public Lands program.

Students from North Carolina overheard this conversation and asked if I had met actual senators. Yes, I had. Had I met Obama? Yes, I had. They were impressed. But honestly, the senators weren’t that impressive.  Obama? He’s pretty cool.

So that’s the environmental lobbyist me. Lucky, blessed, right-place-at-the-right-time. For real, for real. I don’t think of it as all that fancy because I was there, but others clearly do.

Courageous (Crazy?) Returning Student

I met another man who had recently retired and was trying to decide what to do. I told him I had gone back to school and was working on a masters in writing at Hopkins.

“You’re kidding!” he said. (Why does everyone think I’m kidding?) “I was thinking of going back to school, but figured it didn’t make any sense at my age.”

Well, no, it probably doesn’t make sense. But I am having a blast and learning new things. What’s not to like?

“Isn’t that a crowded field?” Yes.

“Are you going to be able to make any money?” Not likely.

When I told him I wanted to teach at community college, he said that was a competitive field and somehow got off on how “illegal immigrants” are taking all our jobs. This time, it was my turn to get overly interested in my phone and find other company ASAP.

OCD, CIA, MOM

This post is already too long, and I’ve only gotten to three things that outsiders apparently thought were odd or unique or surprising about me. I’ll give you three more briefly, because that’s my writing challenge.

1.)    I have OCD and pull my hair out. I already told you that in Hey Girl, You’re Bald

2.)    I used to work for the CIA, despite my way-left leanings. I’ve told you that, too, at CIA Unrest.

(My first loves were named Gary, Dennis, Gary, Dennis and Gary. My last three were named Richard. I just thought I’d throw that in for extra credit because it amuses me.)

3.)    My mother passed away five years ago today. This does not make me unique or special. On the contrary, it makes me more fully human and more connected to our species. We all love and lose and grieve. I just wanted to tell you that I miss her today.

My Mom - isn't she pretty?

My Mom – isn’t she pretty?

Please Do Not Shut Up

I pray for our species, as some of us hide in denial about climate change, and some of us haven’t gotten around to doing anything about it. Which brings me to:

If you have even the teensiest hunch that climate change is happening, as most of us now do, please do something. Say something. Write a letter to your local paper. Write a letter to your member of Congress and your senators. It’s not that complicated; it’s not that hard.

Write a letter or make a phone call to President Obama. He’s making a big decision right now on the Keystone XL pipeline, which could waste millions of dollars, gash through some of our last remaining wild lands, and contribute massively to climate change. All to carry Canada’s tar sands to our Gulf Coast for export. Speak up.

Be special. 

Special People

Special People

Extremism in Defense of the Planet

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“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The Nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

I might have agreed with Dr. King’s statement when I was a teenager during the Vietnam War, but it’s nothing that would have been ascribed to me as an adult.

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

Dr. King

Like many people, I have been taught to be wary of extremists. Stick to the center, stray neither to the right nor to the left, and you won’t get yourself in trouble. People won’t respect you if you stray from the comfortable middle. You won’t be listened to.

Unless you are an athlete or an energy drink, you don’t want to be viewed as extreme.

When I worked in environmental messaging and communications on Capitol Hill, we learned that the best way to side-line someone was to label them as an extremist. “Out of step” is a good phrase. Likewise, industry PR reps labeled all environmentalists as extremists — “elitist tree-huggers who want everyone to freeze in the dark.” We tried hard to represent ourselves as mainstream. Just a bunch of soccer Moms over here…what, you think I hug trees or something?? (I do, get over it.)

I’ve noticed that right-wing commentators are even calling the National Rifle Association “extreme” and “out of step” these days. Curiouser and curiouser.

In Praise of Imbalance

Last night in my spiritual book group, we got to talking about whether or not we can really make a difference in the world. Should we focus on our inner growth, become the best humans we can be, and trust that this will make the world a healthier place? Is it better to march in demonstrations and wave signs? Do you have to go to Africa and build an orphanage? Or is it the simpler things that count, like working at a soup kitchen or helping with Habitat for Humanity?

“Balance,” several intoned, followed by much nodding.

This may true for individuals; I’m not sure. But I am sure that balance doesn’t help a society or a world that is badly in need of change. Balance doesn’t lead to change, it maintains the status quo. In order to move from the status quo, you’ve got to have people out on the edges tipping the scales. The type of people who go on hunger strikes, who march in the streets, who refuse to sit in the back of the bus.

The comfortable people in the middle won’t like these troublemakers on the edge; they knock things off kilter. They will label them:

Extremists.

Getting Out of Step

I’m headed for the edge. I’ve changed my mind about extremists — I’m with Dr. King.

Look where “the norm” has gotten us. If enough people don’t get “out of step” pretty damn quickly, our planet is in big trouble. It’s not enough to just vote anymore.

Hand holding a world on fire

The oil and gas industry has more money than God, and they are willing to spend whatever it takes to stop action on climate change. It is up to “we, the people” to make this change.

Even my former employer, the well-respected but slightly stodgy 120-year-old Sierra Club, has just announced that it will engage in civil disobedience because the time is so short and the stakes are so high.

Creative Extremism

I think that when Dr. King talked about “creative extremism,” he might have been talking about the kind of extremist that creates new things, builds towards a new vision, rather than simply deconstructing and criticizing.

It seems we finally have a leader willing to lead towards that kind of vision. In case you missed President Obama’s inaugural speech on Monday, he spent more time talking about climate change than any other issue:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

THANK GOD!

There’s going to be a huge climate rally in D.C. on February 17th. I’m going to make some signs and go act like an extremist. Will you join me?

Find out more about it here.

You can also make calls to help turn out other extremists — ahem, activists.

And check out this video:

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