Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 216

Hi.

Coffee: Almond Milk Latte, Bottled, Starbucks Brand; was a bit lighter than the dairy stuff; a road drink, caffeine to get you places, the formaldehyde linger of sugar

I was four feet out in the lake where the water got up to my shins. A dead fish passed by. The sun was out, a few white clouds. You were so far away, it seemed, even more so with the way the water was moving.

Today was preoccupied with climate change. After morning, the sun got higher and hotter and we were sweating 90’s. I came home and sat under a ceiling fan. I listened to a podcast panel talk about how the climate crisis is informing peoples’ decisions to have children. We’re all scared, basically, and none of use know what to do.

There’s this performance that’s been going on around here for 20 years, The Paperhand Puppet Intervention. I heard about it a few weeks ago for the first time. Today, after the lake, S invited me to see it (she was going anyway, she’s got family performing) and I said ‘Sure.’ Driving over to Chapel Hill, my car read 98 degrees. The performance was outside, but thankfully under old UNC trees.

What’s worth fighting for? The play was a predictable kind of magic, bred from the bones of this old liberal town up on it’s hill. They danced on stage as elaborate papier-mache monsters, circling birds. S’s son was mostly mesmerized. The story went like this: the heavy hand of industry strips a forest of its trees and builds up a city filled with rampant pollution; only the hope of three children and a magical acorn can push back the pollution; a pastoral return to romantic dreams of sassafras trees and frog-filled countrysides.

Halfway through, a kid runs out of the amphitheater and comes back with a plastic bag of chips. He’s loving the performance, and loving it even more with his pre-packaged snack. His shirt has an ad for electrolytes. Five or six families have brought out their silicon-chipped, electricity guzzling phones. It’s a big amphitheater, so two large speakers project the songs all the way up the audience. They’re selling shirts at the entrance made in China and printed in chemical dyes. We all took our cars out on the winding highways to attend the show.

The more you say you want something, the less you see it for what it is. How much comfort are we willing to give up? Will we leave the forest to the trees and stop using paper? Will we fill in the silicon mines and plant flowers on the graves of our iPhones?

S told me she bought her son a toy excavator for his 2nd birthday. When the big machines came out to cut down the forest, he was happy, he cheered. People started clearing land for a reason. We let industry burn away our ozone because there’s beauty in this too. We all want the answers to be easy. But they never are.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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“But now,” says the Once-ler, “now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 207

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

There was a lizard in the office. It had a fat gut and a long tail. I saw it in the lobby, then it ran to the break room. I tried to chase it. I wanted to take it outside. In the end, my coworker caught the lizard. She told me she had a lot of them at her house so she was a pro. She took a tray for utensils and tipped it over. She caught it, then held him in with a stack of paper plates. I was disappointed. I’d wanted to catch the lizard myself.

I found a frog on the footpath outside my apartment. She was scrunched up like a vanilla wafer and staying still. She saw me. I knelt down. I was worried someone might step on her, but I was also worried I’d give her a different death if I got her too scared. Her back was different colors, browns and golds. She was autumn come up from the river, wheat fields. In the end, I left the frog but snapped her picture. I walked away. I hope she’s okay.

Due to climate change, the earth is rapidly losing its amphibians. Jury’s still out on reptiles. I remember my mother talking about how much she’d be missing all the polar bears, or the rhinos, but never heard her talk about the frogs. That said, I’m sure she’ll miss them too. I think sometimes about the world I’m making. I’m a little conscious, but not so much that I won’t absently suck on a plastic straw.

Last weekend, I wast at a friend’s house. As long as I’ve known her, she’s kept away from paper towels. When dinner was done and there were dishes for washing, we scrubbed them down with a wet rag. With breakfast, I wiped my lips with a cloth napkin. It was strange at first, not being able to throw anything away. Then it felt natural. Like this is how it’s always been, like my hands are maybe made for saving, no more disposable soul.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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That is the way it is done, the way it has always been done. Frogs have every right to expect it will always be done that way.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 194

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

There’s a man in a long tweed coat walking hundreds of miles to meet me. He’s got a long stride. He keeps his hands in his pockets with bent elbows. He keeps his hair tied up in a wide-brim hat. Nobody knows how long it is.

On his coat he’s woven pictures. They’re scattered like tattoos. Bright white fishes spring like chickens on the hem, dancing wildly around underwater mountains. His back is seabirds, and he’s fixed old wet trees around his loin. The tweed coat is so expansive there’s no limit to what it can capture. On his left shoulder is a small picture, two children, a torn down house, and gray rising water.

There are rumors: some say the man was born just one week ago, others say they’ve seen him for a hundred years. He’s the kind of character that creates stories in dark bars or the backseats of fast-moving cars as they hurry away from something. Like all stories, he slips in and out of different colors as he’s passed along.

I heard a story about hurricanes on NPR. It said that as the world warms the trade winds weaken, so big dark storms will move slower and with more force. Hearing that made me think about a paper mill I used to pass riding with my parents on the way to South Carolina, the way it stank like scared animals, and the heavy white cloud that cast off from the factory, rising through the atmosphere, angry at having been kept cooped up for so long.

Right now, the man’s walking around Wilmington. He’s reaching out his long, sweat-thick fingers. He might not find me – I’m good at hiding – but he’ll leave his mark, making sure I can’t forget that he’s here.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 150

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

The sky got so dark today it felt like we’d made a pillow fort, hiding under until our parents got home.

Thunderstorms – there’s nothing quite like them to jog you. You could be buried in the deepest office and still hear the sky crack and clouds shake open. And watching the rain come down reminds you what it takes to grow.

We rode out the storm for three hours this afternoon while the power went in and out. The bank got dark then brighter. I was helping a woman open a checking account and tried to hurry. No luck. When we were done, she was facing the full faucet of the storm.

Now it’s cooler. The rain scooped the heat out. And we’ve already forgotten a week of hundred degree weather, content to chirp with the frogs all evening, reveling in something comfortable, and that’s okay, as long as we wake up tomorrow without forgetting what it as like to be bone-dry and half-starved, that the world is still just one week away from roasting, that we’re responsible, like it or not.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 130

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

The old creek-bed dried out. There was a dead snake at the head of the road. Now that the sun’s gone down, everyone’s coming out to walk their dogs, only the heat’s not done and the dogs are flustered, scared of the way the asphalt feels when it’s been cooked.

If your friend tells you the world’s not dying, you must smack them, aiming for the spot triangulated between their nose and eyes. If your partner tells you something similar, coax them to bed, and try to prove the world’s worth loving, breathing deep so you’re sucking up more of the hot carbon to prove your point.

This week, there were record-setting high temperatures in Europe.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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He who cannot put his thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of dispute.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 94

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I got home and filled a white bowl with tap water then set it outside. There’s a longhair black and white cat that comes around. I saw her poking under my neighbor’s car. It’s 100 degrees. She was hiding from the heat so I figured she could use the water. When I came back, though, she’d run away. I left the bowl on the ledge we use for putting down bags as we get the door. I haven’t seen go for the water. She’s a skittish thing. But I once found her meowing at midnight outside my window so I know she knows how to get here. Tonight, at midnight, maybe she’ll come have a drink.

All day, the heat was all anyone could talk about. Pundits puttered about droughts and early fires. There was a break around noon when some clouds came over but then it was right back to the convection. Most of the gossip goes like this: “I’d have to wake up two hours earlier if I was to mow my lawn today!” One guy came in with a green hat and long sleeves. He works outside, construction. The heat must have been unbearable in all those layers, but I guess it’s better than getting burned.

Every year, the same old voices are loudly denying climate change. Meanwhile, a hole opened up so big over Australia that it’s killed off the Great Barrier Reef. It’s okay, I think, to destroy something if you’ve got a purpose. It’s okay to cut down a forest to build houses for your family. But the people bearing the brunt of climate change aren’t the ones benefiting from the destruction. Mostly those too poor to move out of the way of tidal waves or heat death. That’s a bit depressing. It’s aggressive. One man turning up the temperature in all the other rooms while sipping ice-cold margaritas. We should all be fixing margaritas for each other, or else settling for a splash of tequila in a salted shot.

Burn the world a little bit if you have to, but do so equitably, and with enough sense to leave the house out of the fire.

Currently Reading: Have picked a new book but not had the chance to start it yet; more info to come

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Once again there was the desert, and that only.

Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Coffee Log, Day 355

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

The rain turned our city to a salt lick. All that urban runoff. Wet tar, natural gas heaters. Mother of pearl pools full of oil. I wonder what the rain looked like ten thousand years ago? I bet it was sweeter – nothing but the plants to soak it up.

You and I are killing our world. But it’s not really our fault. When you’re born in a world where the only comfort is consumable, you consume it. And when it’s gone you look for more. Nothing wrong with turning on the heater on a cold February day. Nothing wrong with washing more paper down the toilet. It’s the world you know. It’s an edifice carefully crafted by your grandfather. All of our grandfather’s were woodworkers, tinkering away in converted closets on spare time, trying to build a world where their grandchildren wouldn’t have to think or hurt or dream ever again.

My mother was talking about this sunspot that’s going to save us. It’s a grand cooling, where the sun will lower it’s radiation mercifully for a few hundred years. And maybe it will happen, maybe it will counteract the industrial glut we choke on daily, but to what end? So those of us with money and power can go on digging graves of dinosaurs and burning them to take trips to the beach, or our daughter’s to prom, or our ailing parents to that closest hospital that’s still a dozen miles away? Sure, because those are all nice things. Meanwhile, the people truly left behind will watch their crops shake and shatter at a change of a few degrees. One way or the other, whether the temperature goes up or down, we push off our consequences on the least fortunate.

A lovely electric glow on this computer screen. Burning time so I can write this tiny letter to you all. It’s all I know how to do.

Novel Count: 23,882

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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[I]f I can be sure of any aspect of your character, it is that you are not as I. Since all I can do here is imagine you in my image, of course I have failed. I was as fossil fuels made me. They kept my lights on. Hence I who imagine myself to be open-minded will appear to you as deservedly dead, fossilized in the stratum of my own period’s prejudices.

William T. Vollmann, No Good Alternative: Volume Two of Carbon Ideologies