The Brown Tide
~ Kristin Flyntz
June 23, 2018
My husband and I are at the beach, at the water’s edge. We cannot follow the sand into deeper water; the shoreline has been defiled with concrete structures, graduated planks, like the lowered walls of a moat(?) that stretch out into the water. Russ goes out ahead of me on one of them. The tide is coming in. The water is brown. At first I tell myself it’s been churned up and is full of sand, but no, it is dirty, soiled, ruined…like waste water, sewage water. I feel queasy, afraid. We run off the concrete, back onto the sand and up toward higher ground, but I am aware that even if we outrun it this time, the tide has clearly turned – the water is so unhealthy there is no denying it, and likely, no going back. I want to wash it off, want to scrub my legs and feet clean, fearful of what I might catch from it.
Initially I assume the dream is speaking only of the health of the water, how dire things are becoming and in some places, have become. Oil, garbage, industrial waste, acidification due to climate change — Mother Ocean is sick, perilously so, her body flooded with the output of our toxic ways of living.
When I tell the dream out loud, it occurs to me that it has come at the end of a week during which my thoughts have been consumed by another tide, the one comprised of refugees and asylum seekers. They arrive at our border seeking safety, refuge, asylum, a better life for themselves and their children, only to be immediately incarcerated inside converted concrete WalMarts and military tents filled with cages. The ideals of our nation have been poisoned, and we are at a tipping point. As children are forcibly removed from their parents, dispersed across the country with dubious prospects of communication or expeditious reunification, 45 refers to them in language that dehumanizes and criminalizes them.
What does this dream want me to know? It is not until I go back into the dream, relive it and feel it in my body, that the last sentence comes to me: I want to wash it off… fearful of what I might catch from it.
In this sentence I see my privilege, which for the moment keeps me at a safe distance from what is happening to my fellow human beings and to the water that gives us life. I can “wade into” these issues with intense feelings and opinions, but do not immerse myself, do not have to experience them up close; in the dream, such proximity to reality sends me racing out of the muck and back to safer ground where I can wash away the taint of exposure.
Yet as fear and self preservation kick in, I can momentarily connect with those who risk everything to flee what threatens them – whether war, persecution, drought, famine, or the myriad impacts of climate change.
In the dream, a false border prevents the natural intermingling of sand and sea. Perhaps the dream asks me to look inward for the false borders, the man-made divisions that exist within my mind and heart. Can I hold grief and fear for what is happening to the waters and migrants alongside my human desire to be safe from harm—without making the latter wrong or a source of guilt and shame? In the dream, I see a call to compassion and spaciousness, to scrutinize divisions both concrete and cultural, and to acknowledge that when our waters and the sanctity of life are imperiled, we are all imperiled, no exceptions. May it be this understanding that spurs me to action, even as I hold space for the fear and grief that are natural and necessary responses to the moment we are in.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristin Flyntz is the assistant editor of Dark Matter: Women Witnessing. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two feline companions.
Befriending the Dragon
~ Sara Wright
We are an overflowing river.Judith Shaw
We are a hurricane.
We are an earthquake.
We are a volcano, a tsunami, a forest fire…
So many women including me are struggling as never before to survive on the edge of a culture that continues to sanction the vicious ongoing rape of both women and the Earth.
The death of trees is a primary example of the latter. By logging trees by the billions or killing them in “controlled burns” we are literally destroying human and non – human species. Without trees/plants we lose the oxygen we need to breathe.
The day after Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, I found myself paralyzed with hopelessness. As a sexual assault survivor I was so depressed I got out of bed only because a very gifted Mexican/Indian artist, Armando Adrian Lopez, was part of an artist’s tour that was taking place that weekend, and I knew I needed to go visit him.
Armando’s work depicts women in a mythical context, one replete with mystical and (usually) benign images of the goddess. After being around Armando and his work for one afternoon I felt some sense of comfort, remarking to him that “today of all days I really needed to be here.”
I returned the next afternoon and asked him if I could take a couple of photographs of his work. Later, in reviewing the images, I was particularly struck by one of a woman with a dragon at her side and holding a Tree of Life with eyes embedded in her leaves.
During the next PTSD/depression-driven month I looked at that image again and again, plumbing its depth for a new personal message, eventually coming to the conclusion that I needed to court my own dragons in a more loving way.
It is a testament to the trauma that I experienced over Kavanaugh’s appointment that I am only now starting to understand what happened to me.
In depth psychology riding the dragon is still interpreted as the task of conquering and subduing the archaic instincts of the reptilian brain. As a former Jungian analyst who left her practice when she realized that this psychological approach helped keep women powerless and enthralled to patriarchy through control and subjugation of woman’s instincts, I would argue that women desperately need to develop a loving relationship with their instinctual “dragons” – anger, fear, outrage – because these instincts protect us, and help us to create change by funneling our energy outward in creative ways.
Befriending our dragons speaks to the need to fall in love with our dark sides and allow them to lead us into new ways of thinking and being in the world. The dragons of anger, grief, and outrage have helped me clarify my new position with respect to woman/Earth hatred.
I used to believe that it was critical to advocate for all women regardless of their ability to be present for other women in distress. But some women’s support of Kavanaugh (the “boys will be boys” mentality) or their neutral reactions to this man’s appointment to the Supreme Court, a confirmation that sanctions rape once again while dismissing women’s cries of outrage and grief, has created a monumental split in my thinking and feeling. To listen to women who seem to think that rape not a crime against all women stuns and horrifies me. To listen to women who attempt to “compromise” on the subject of rape repels me.
For the last few weeks I have been swimming in a sea of confusion and repressed anger. How can I continue to support indifferent women? I struggled with this question just as I struggled to contain my feelings of being betrayed by these same women.
Finally I emerged on the other side with clarity and a new perspective. Today, I can say that I am no longer willing to support women’s deliberate or tacit support of rape. Rape of Women and the Earth are egregious criminal acts and the two are intimately connected.
I have made a difficult and painful choice to separate emotionally from those women while working towards developing a more compassionate attitude towards them – a new “both and” perspective. I can do this easily when I remind myself that I too am a daughter of patriarchy and once exhibited many of the same behaviors.
After a month of crushing depression I am courting the red dragon of rage with awareness, embracing her, thanking her for helping me see that I must choose her wisely. S/he can help me survive atrocities by refusing to allow me to collude with those who would betray me, other women, the Earth. In this way of thinking the energy of my rage/grief (a form of creativity) is transformed into a clear perspective and firm boundary.
I choose to embrace my dragon energy, use the Tree of Life as my staff and guide and keep my eyes wide open.
As if to concretize my thoughts in the material world, this morning I discovered my own “dragon” in the form of one of my very friendly house lizards (who live around the outside walls of the house) scurrying across the living room floor! This one is a little female. I think she may want to spend the winter with us.
Sara Wright is a dedicated eco – feminist, naturalist, and writer. Presently she is living in the mountains of Northern Mexico with two small dogs and one dove. Sara writes regular columns that appear in The Bethel Citizen and The Abiquiu News. She also writes for Seed Broadcast, publishes regularly in the online journal Return to Mago and is an author in three of Mago’s books. Sara has Native American roots, which may or may not be why she has dedicated her life to speaking out on behalf of the slaughtered trees, dying plants and disappearing animals. Please visit her blog “Over the Edge and Beyond: Journal of a Naturalist.” http://sarawrightnature.wordpress.com
~ Emilee Baum
I am a demoness. I am huge, many stories high, and my body is black with white markings on it, stripes like a tiger, but not as regular. My face is white but I have deep rings of black around my eyes, black hair, black mouth. I am naked and ferocious, bone ornaments swinging.
Fierce, but not nearly as demonic as my male counterpart. He is huge, horns, long fangs, wild rolling eyes. He has captured me here, is taking great delight in terrifying me. We are in the middle of the road on a gray desert plane, and there might be some single standing trees, leafless branches twisting in the distance. The sky is dark and full of fire and stars. He is coming after me from down this road, and I am lying prone, nowhere to go. I watch him coming. He is going to rape me, I think. He wants me frightened.
And I am frightened, but there is no where to run any more. As he draws near I lie on the earth and open my arms and legs, my self to him. He mutters curses at me, threats, about how he can hurt me, can grow as long as he wants he will rip right through me. I lay on the earth and take him in, reach behind him with my hands. I grab fistfuls of knotted hair and pull him down to me, whispering through demoness teeth chiding
You fool No matter how big you are how long how terrible I am deeper You are with me under my stars I swallow you whole I keep entire universes in my womb Speaking, feeling the power come out of him, taking it all everything inside me, all he can give, more. Depth in my body opens infinitely, a deep well of accommodation his aggression cannot fathom. I wake immediately.
I had this dream in 2002. At the time I was living in a nunnery in Nepal, and had the entire globe as my blast shield from the cultural aftermath of 9/11. I’d left the US on 9/18 for Nepal and so was away, so very far away when the axis of evil was triangulated. I did not see the flags in the streets of my hometown.
I had this dream in 2002, but it resonates today. The violence done to women’s bodies, the body politic, the body of the earth. And the depth of her power.
Now in 2018, I feel nostalgia, an almost longing for that previous buffer, the blast wall. The assault is so relentless, so preposterous, so seemingly endless. Everything from the environmental climate to the political climate is close and hot, and there’s a sense of just hanging on through the lashing. Claustrophobic, densely pressed warm wet cotton. Maybe in places wool, soaked through.
The fatigue of a constant onslaught. Here in the American south (and all over, I think) it is tense and close. Everyone walking on outraged incredulous eggshells, feet already bruised and bleeding. Can’t speak, can’t not speak. Can’t scream, can’t not scream. Can’t stand to see it, and yet can’t look away.
Must not look away. No more running.
The dream reflects the binary violence we’re grappling with. The parallel between woman and earth is plain, the rape and violence apparent. But she has the wisdom and vastness to overcome the aggression pursuing her. Her strategy in no longer running is different than meeting violence with violence, and reminds me of tai chi – the yielding and redirecting of the energy incorporates and redirects the outcome of the power.
Wisdom holds power. There might be a swing towards violence, an outcry, but we’ve got the embrace that can hold all that noise. Vast, deep, unfathomable. A place of creation.
In the dream there is no place to go anymore. The conflict is driven to a confrontation, and there’s nowhere to go, nothing behind which to hide. It is a plain plane of dust and twigs and rocks. The landscape evokes a feeling of pressure and tension, a shortness of resources, a lack of choices. There are no other options, and the time is now.
At first is the feeling of the pressure cooker, jittering on the stove. The claustrophobia of the current climate. And then deep calm, the well of certainty, depth and clarity.
Emilee Baum is an author and market researcher based in Atlanta, GA. She graduated with an MA in Embodiment Studies from Goddard College and is working toward a PhD in Expressive Arts at The European Graduate School. Her first book, The Agency of Bliss, was published in 2012.
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