I am fortunate to live a life filled with many options. Physically escaping climate change, I am learning, is not one of them.
On my bad days, I think it must be a curse. Heat and drought seem to follow me wherever I go. In 2013, I gently gloated, thinking that I would be getting out of New Mexico during the hottest part of the year to go do my healing work in Alaska. Instead, there was record heat. Temperatures of up to 88 degrees were recorded in Anchorage. I drove around in my air-conditioned car from one hot workplace to another, half-hoping all my clients would cancel.
And then what? Drive around wasting fossil fuels with my AC on? Go to a movie?
The house where I was staying never got below 80 at night. Unfortunately my travel alarm shows the indoor temperature, making it harder to fool myself psychologically or, on a higher level, to transcend the heat with meditation and mind over matter. Many people in Alaska don’t have window screens, because they’ve never needed them before. But because of mosquitoes happily thriving in the unusual early summer heat, one doesn’t dare open a screenlesss window. There were several reports of toddlers tumbling out of second story windows. Miraculously, none were seriously injured.
I went home for a couple of weeks, looking forward to going to the UK for three weeks, fondly remembering the often-dismal cool gray summers that people complained about. The thought of them felt rather delicious. Till I got there in mid-July. My friend Alexandra’s mother’s 600-year-old stone house in Sussex did keep the unusual heat bearable on the ground floor, and the garden was green and blooming, soothing to my eyes and senses. But drought was aggressively stalking the perimeter as I helped water.
We headed off for our Crop Circle Tour, excited by the prospect of visiting the mysterious formations. Doggedly, we forged onwards, Alexandra’s British stiff upper lip beaded with sweat, my mobility-challenged American friend in her 70’s stoically doing her best with the long walk out to the formation, while I wilt and try not to whine, determined to enjoy the experience despite my pounding head and fluttering pulse.
One night over a late dinner in the hotel pub in Marlborough, Alexandra, who had grown up in Kenya and traveled the world, turned to me and said, “I feel like I’m in India. I’m eating curry and sweat is pouring down my back.”
A week later I am in Scotland, at the Findhorn Community, fulfilling a longheld dream of visiting this magical intentional community based on inner listening to guidance, co-creation with Nature, and work as love in action. It’s about 80 degrees Fahrenheit as I walk the fabled gardens slowly. Even the chickens are gathered in the shade. Locals are for the moment enjoying basking in the unusual warmth, even though they are conscious and aware enough to know that it’s really not a good sign, but an anomaly due to the New Abnormal of climate change.
I’m excited to go to a real Scottish ceilidh, an evening of traditional song and dance, in Universal Hall, the community’s beautiful assembly hall graced with stained glass angel wings on the front door. People are welcoming and make sure no one who wants to dance is left out. I enjoy the first half of the program even though I am sweating and missing lots of steps and messing up the dips and turns beneath raised arms.
But at the break I am relieved by the night air, at last cooled down, and wander off to join a group of people of all ages singing Dylan and Joan Baez around a guitar and some organic cider. At least it inspires a scene in Weather Menders between Tara and Xander!
Back in Southern England, Alexandra and I join a dawn ceremony at Stonehenge for the Mayan Day out of Time. It is blessedly cool and misty, drizzling actually, when we reach the great stones in the pre-dawn hour. Together our group tones in the sunrise with sacred sounds and wishes for healing of the planet.
As the day goes on, Alexandra and I sway in the heat during the Water Blessing Ceremony in Avebury, so she begs off the Peace Gong ceremony. She chooses to sit in the car with the AC on, but kindly insists that I stay. The ceremony is beautiful in its intention and our group journey. We first do a procession around the ancient and sacred stones, passing through the Cove of the Moon to our chosen spot. Between the ceremony and the heat, I am in an altered state, and in that state the first scene of Weather Menders is born—Tara dozing in the shade of one of the tall stones, hearing her gray cat Georgie mind-talk to her for the first time, and the Time Travelers from 2350 showing themselves first to her step-greatgranddaughter Leona the Shaman, then to Tara and Georgie.
By the time I join Alexandra in the car, I too just want to get out of the heat. We decide to stay in the West Country another night, as it feels too daunting to drive the 75 or so miles of winding, often traffic-clogged country roads back to her mother’s home.
We check into an inn in Devizes, Thomas Hardy country, lying down in the breeze of a fan we begged off the management. It wasn’t this hot in Thomas Hardy’s day.
Ah, if only I could live with the “what is” of climate change, of heat following me wherever I go. In metaphysics they say, “What you resist, persists” and generally I find this to be true. But having had serious heat stroke in Pakistan in 1982, when I was a journalist covering Afghan refugees, my body no longer has much resilience to heat. It frightens me. I often feel there is no escape—and that summer in Pakistan, there was no place to cool down. Though I threw myself into an irrigation channel when we finally reached a mountain village, and hydrated with some very suspect water that had not been fully boiled, for days I remained dazed and off-balance with vertigo. I had forgotten, until I re-read my journals recently, that I had very nearly tumbled off a wooden bridge into a rushing stream, literally saved by my blood brother-in-law Saifullah Jan Kalasha grabbing my arm as I started to go down.
Heat has continued to plague and follow me almost everywhere I go, to the extent that I’ve considered hiring myself out to people living in areas where they are getting too much cold and rain. For the price of an air ticket, “Drought Bringer Deb” will come and visit—heat, sunny days, and no rain guaranteed.
All joking aside, in the past two decades it’s become a real challenge to pack lightly for any trips. We’re almost guaranteed to have hotter than usual weather. Back in 2000, it was still an anomaly to be in Chicago in November in a light sweater, or the next week to tour Japan in a tee shirt. Even I, long aware of and concerned about climate change, did not read the signals right, preferring the comforting denial of the anomaly category.
This summer I rented a house in Arroyo Seco, a village north of Taos, a hundred miles from my home in Santa Fe and a thousand feet higher. Once again, the joke was on me. Two weeks after having mini-split AC installed at my house—a luxury for which I am immensely grateful—my listless cats and I lay around all afternoon in a house that offered no escape from the building heat. “At least I can get out and hike,” I had thought, as alpine trails are a 15 minute drive away. That was before they closed the National Forests due to fire danger.
The irony is that my house sitter at my home is Santa Fe is the coolest of us all. Most nights a gentle cooling night breeze comes off the mountains, but a few nights have been breathless and still, smoke from thankfully distant wildfires burning my eyes. Needless to say, on those nights I don’t sleep well. Not everyone suffers as much as I do from the heat, but many friends—canaries in the proverbial coal mine of anthropogenic climate disruption—echo my sorrow.
On a good day, a good night, I cope through meditation, through breaking the illusion, through realizing “this too will pass.” On a good night, I dream of shifting dimensions to the New Earth, of healing Timelines like the Time Travelers in Weather Menders, from 2050 and from 2350, have to figure out how to do together.
On a bad night I toss and turn and weep, not just for my own discomfort—really that is a small piece—but for the suffering land, the dying trees and brown clumped grasses, and my resident bobcat who I haven’t seen in months.
And for the humans far less insulated from climate change than I, cocooned as I am to a large degree by wealth, privilege, and location. On hot nights I think of the children separated from their parents by the current administration’s cruel policies, and weep for them and their bewildered asylum-seeking parents. I think of the refugees sweltering in the sun on the Mexican border, prevented by current cynical policies from their legal right to claim asylum. I think of islanders in Kiribati, not many years from losing their homeland entirely, and the Inupiat people in the Alaskan villages of Shishmaref, Kivalina, and Newtok. They are faced with soon losing their homes and livelihoods, their traditional lifeways, and the stories of millennia.
Are all of us not One with all of them? It is sometimes not fun being an empath, yet wishing to continue to be one, insisting on it in fact. If we don’t have empathy, with suffering humans and suffering non-human animals and plants, then what are we?
My only solutions are spiritual ones—a twin hope of massive Sacred Activism in the present Timeline, coupled with turning inwards in an attempt to raise my own vibration to one of greater compassion, greater wisdom, greater non-attachment. I know that millions around the world are doing the same. We are pendulum-swinging between empathetic despair for the immense suffering of the world, and returning to center, returning to Hope, returning to the great let-go. Paradoxically, it is this very let-go that can assist in rebalancing the climate, eco-system, and our social systems—which have not been truly balanced since the patriarchy’s hostile takeover around 5000 years ago.
A week later, spotty monsoon rains are edging their way through the Southwest. Rain has fallen, here in Arroyo Seco and at my home outside Santa Fe, and fire danger is thankfully down. But the dried grasses are not greening up overnight as they always used to do, and in the re-opened mountain forests the watering holes are still dry, their bottoms cracked like an illustration of drought.
Everyone—and doubtless all non-human animals and plants in the region—is feeling a tentative relief. I no longer feel quite so trapped in a room that I wish were darker and cooler. But I’m still keenly aware that my only choice is to create my own cave of enlightenment where I can visualize the healing of the Timelines—and my fictional Time Travelers in Weather Menders as one inspiration to the Sacred Activism necessary to make this envisioned healing real.