A couple of hours after reading the Trump administration’s devastating climate report, I was assaulted by Tangerine Nightmare’s ignorance, his tweet: “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS—Whatever happened to Global Warming?”
Later, I lay in bed, angst-ing about the children, mine as well as yours. I’m visual, evoking a landscape not unlike images from The Walking Dead. Sometimes, when I can’t relax, I count backward from 10, focusing on each number. Yet numbers can bring additional anxiety. How many years? How many years before ecocide, omni-cide?
Seems the experts’ consensus is a bit conservative though, erring on the edge of hope. Hope? As if some genius will discover a medical therapy for Earth’s disease. Like using chemicals to block the sun.
Anyway, finally, finally, I slept. And then. . . . . . wham, waking from a dream with a cortisol jolt and pounding heart. In this dream, I was with my sister Laura and our mother in the house where my siblings and I grew up. I stood, looking out the living room window and saw a flash, what I imagined was an attack. Flames rose across the horizon, almost hovering as sheets of ice and snow exploded to the ground. I ran outside to search for my children. No more flames and the blizzard had ended. I trudged through snow, snowdrifts, and silence. Suddenly, the snow opened beneath my feet. I fell. And I fell. And I continued to fall. And I knew, knew no one had seen me, knew I couldn’t climb the soft snow, knew no one could hear my calls for help. Knew I would die there when my children needed me. Knew I would be unable to save them.
When I ran the following morning, Sunday, the dream ran with me. I thought of the flash of light and flames that I’d perceived as an attack. They were and are. These latest fires that have ravaged California. Hell came to Paradise. Paradise lost. Like being in a war zone, according to a rescue worker.
Just ask the Other. Just ask the Other about war zones. War zones like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Gaza, and, oh, god, Yemen. The starving children of Yemen, their begging eyes, begging for food, begging for water, their ribs exposed, their faces haunting us, haunting my sleep. I want them both out of my dreams yet grasp the necessity that they remain, although I don’t need more reminders of what it means here and there, what Empire and this diabolical capitalist system exact, the suffering and barbarism.
As I ran, I obsessed on the burning of fossil fuels, conjuring acridity. Then this: the amount of energy required to kill men, women, and children in the countries where US troops stomp their blood-drenched boots. Powering titanic planes to carry servicemen and women thousands of miles away to lay waste to their own lives as well as the lives and the environment of mostly brown people. The enormity of transporting military personnel, contractors, and war weaponry.
Next: thoughts of my mother, my engaging, entertaining mother who became unbearably pessimistic when she was in her 80s. “I think the world should end,” she’d announce. Fine, I’d respond, but please avoid saying this in the presence of my children.
I’ve become my mother. It’s not because I think, as she did, that the world should end. I just believe that it is ending. That we are witness to its death, and for a reason she never acknowledged: global climate change.
My mother wouldn’t allow us to say “shut up.” She thought it was crude. I say it, not to defy her but because it’s expressive, tweaking it slightly. And I’ve told my children to say, when I’m annoyingly cynical, “Mom, I love you, but shut the fuck up.”
“Why would anyone bring children into this world?”
“Mom, I love you, but shut the fuck up.”
Shut the fuck up, Missy.
Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.