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 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 glow 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 Robidoux ‘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 a 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 speaks in tongues of flame, grace, and splendor.
Barbara Robidoux’s book can be ordered from Amazon.