The rain is coming down again, but this time only forecasted for a short window tonight and tomorrow morning, before we finally get an opening in this drear. Today was a lovely day, and I welcome this rain as the last kiss on the greenery before the dry. I love dry spells in the rainforest, but I am unsettled by them. Last year’s climate change SOS of a summer still looms in memory and when I see a whole extended forecast without rain I can’t help but get a little worried.
It’s strange how my gut-wrenching grief over climate change gave way, for this window of time, to the immediate fear of the pandemic and the awakening horror around the murder of George Floyd and the uncountable other Black, brown and indigenous men and women. Tonight I happened on a new paper by Jem Bendell, whose Deep Adaptation ripped off my blinders and sent me into a crushing existential crisis. I’ve yet to dip into the 10,000 words of the new paper, but I happened across it in the Positive Deep Adaptation Facebook page, where I spent some time reading a very thoughtful and respectful discussion/exchange between page participants and came away reminded again of this crisis we will all live through.
It’s impossibly difficult for a mortal of human-scale intelligence (read: me) to keep their head wrapped around all of these overlapping griefs. It seems like I can really feel into one, or at best two, of these things, without the overwhelm reducing me to something less-than-useful. I’m also constantly mired in the paradoxical thinking required of any parent or would-be parent who is awakened to any of these frightful truths. I must believe in a good future for my child. I also believe I know something of what is coming. I think often of Mr. Smith in the Matrix, talking about humans as a virus. But even if I knew with certainty we’re all in the Matrix, I wouldn’t and couldn’t give up the beauty of having a child. I read this article by Meehan Crist in the last week, and found much in it that was old, but I love paragraph, and especially the quote from Erdrich.
I can understand why some people might see having a child as a turn towards death – a fatal complicity with the death spiral of global fossil capitalism. But, for me, having a child has been a commitment to life, and a commitment to the possibilities of a human future on this warming planet. It means giving up claims to moral purity, not because nothing matters, but because things do. ‘Staying open and willing is difficult,’ Louise Erdrich writes. ‘Very often in labour one must fight the instinct to resist pain and instead embrace it, move towards it, work with what hurts the most.’Is it OK to have a child? by Meehan Crist. London Review of Books, Vol. 42 No. 5 · 5 March 2020
This helps put language around my continuing desire to have a second child. Though it’s probably insane in many ways, I also can’t separate myself from the pure, pulsing biological desire of the thing.
Whether biology itself actually permits me a second child is another thing entirely. I’ve dithered in uncertain spaces around my own parenthood for excessive amounts of my adult life, making the question one that is now quite, quite real. But no matter how much I read, how much my imagination can conjure up the hardships and grief of +1 more human, I am unable to sever the animal wanting. Call it stupidity, or outrageous selfishness, or whatever it is. It’s entirely real.
Also real: the real laughter that Auggie conjures up in me when he sits on the potty for the umpteenth consecutive night, after bedtime and reading and tuck-ins and kisses, manifesting (how!?!) yet another last-ditch sleep-postponing poop. How is it possible that the pooping of a three-year-old can make me love him so much. Is it his up-and-down eyebrow wiggling, the pure satisfaction he feels as he demonstrates for me that, in fact, he is right, and there is a poo-poo coming? I can’t help but laugh out loud, dropping my head into my hands as I sit on the edge of the bathtub across from him. Then he reaches out and rubs my newly cropped hair and says, “There Mama, when I rub your hair, does that make you happy?” “Yes,” I tell him. “And you make me happy.” He does. So much. And also, how does he know so well that his mama is oftentimes sad? I don’t want him to feel that he must perform miracles (ha!) to erase my sadness. I don’t want him to feel that my happiness is contingent on him. I don’t want him to feel that… But also, to no small extent, it turns out to be true.
In any case, this hour of dusk and soft rain, with all the myriad trees in our old neighborhood shaking and dancing in this small weather system — this is a gift for me, tonight. I am so grateful to this life-giving rain. I do not take it for granted. I see it, feel it, and am humbled by it every time the sky opens up and lets it come down upon us. May it remain relentless for many, many years into our future.