1970 saw the birth of the first annual Earth Day. It also saw the publication of John Ashbery's The Double Dream of Spring. Named for a de Chirico painting, it's filled with poems nearly as opaque and puzzling as the banner image from which the title springs.
Some Trees, Ashbery's first book written in 1956, won Yale Younger Poets Prize. That year it was judged by W.H. Auden, who once talked about a poet needing a little censor in his head to cut out all extraneous words and who famously confessed he didn't understand a word of what he'd read.
Ashbery does not have that censor. Not one little bit.
I haven't dipped into that earlier book yet. However, I can attest to the fact that Ashbery's later book, The Double Dream of Spring, published some 14 years later, continues the obscurity trend, although it does also contain some poems that are more easily ingested.
From "John Clare":
I say this because there is an uneasiness in things just now. Waiting for something to be over before you are forced to notice it. The pollarded trees scarcely bucking the wind-- and yet it's keen, it makes you fall over. Clabbered sky. Seasons that pass with a rush. After all it's their time too-- nothing says they aren't to make something of it.
There is an uneasiness in things just now... That's certainly a line I can relate to in the current political climate, when I'm almost afraid to simply open links to CNN.com or NYTimes.com anymore.
Ashbery is widely viewed as a genius, not because he's so difficult, but because he freed the written line from academic constraints in a move mirroring abstract expressionism in painting. His unique style has brought out the copycats by the scores-- imitators writing poetry difficult to understand, poetry filled with both high-falutin' allusions to things like "eidolon" and to pop culture as well. But always at the heart of an Ashbery poem is a connecting thread of good, sound sense, a desire not to impose a false sense of order over a chaotic, ever-changing world.
I like best Ashbery's take on his own work, in an essay in he which he comments on Borges as well:
‘Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces molded by time, certain twilights in certain places—all these are trying to tell us something, or have told us something we should not have missed or about to tell us something. The imminence of the revelation that is not yet produced is, perhaps, the aesthetic reality.’ The imminence of a revelation not yet produced is very important and hard to define in poetry and probably is the source of some of the difficulty with my own poems. But I don’t think it would serve any useful purpose to spare myself or the reader the difficulty of that imminence, of always being on the edge of things.
This entire blog is devoted really to the sense in that line alone: to the idea of opening a space in your life that will allow for the imminence of a revelation, to being on the edge of things in order to leave the old behind, to make something new, something that will, I hope, with grace, courage, be better.
Sustainable Outfit Details:
Blouse from Greene Street Consignment in Chestnut Hill. Sandals by sustainable designer Swedish Hasbeens-- their company is all about fair labor practices and they use vegetable dyes on their leather! Crossbody bag from Tradesy-- an online secondhand site for clothing, shoes, and purses. Brass necklace from Second Time Around in Center City, Philadelphia. You can also shop their feed on their Instagram page @2taPhilly. Happy hunting!
This year has marked the beginning of a change in lifestyle, a change that's been a long time coming.
Some of the changes have been small: doing less laundry, reusing shopping bags, walking whenever possible. And some have been larger: getting rid of our second car, switching to a mostly vegetarian and vegan diet, shopping secondhand or sustainable whenever possible.
I know that these changes came about because of the election, but, recently, as I've been thinking back over this past spring and how different (and better, kinder, more textured, richer, happier) my less materialistic, greener life already feels it made me wonder what brought about the environmental movement in the larger society.
Of course, as all things in my life seem to link back to, it has to do with the 70s.
The first Earth Day was celebrated on in 1970. A year before that...
"...a well drilled by Union Oil Platform A off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, blew out. More than three million gallons of oil spewed, killing over 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. As a reaction to this natural disaster, activists were mobilized to create environmental regulation, environmental education, and Earth Day. Among the proponents of Earth Day were the people in the front lines of fighting this disaster, Selma Rubin, Marc McGinnes, and Bud Bottoms, founder of Get Oil Out."
Almost half a century later, in 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed on Earth Day by the U.S., China, and almost 120 other countries.
I fear that half century of hardwon progress is about to be rolled back again.
And so I do what I can... I walk. I learn. I share. I celebrate the Earth. I celebrate life.
Please join me!
Sustainable Outfit Details:
Dress by sustainable designer Kelly Love. Sustainably designed clothes are costlier. This was the only new dress I bought this spring, and I spent my whole spring budget on it, but it was worth it! The expense reflects fair labor practices and ethically sourced fabrics, but the cost is also reflected in the grace and quality of the garment. I got married at City Hall, so I don't have a wedding dress to pass along to my daughter. But I can imagine passing this silk dream of a dress along to her one day. My bag is secondhand from one of my favorite consignment stores: Bring N Buy in Ridgefield, CT. You can shop them on their Instagram feed now!
Well, it's been 100 days.
100 days of Trump & a 100 days since everything changed. The outside world is grim. Prominent protesters are dying in highly questionable circumstances in Ferguson. A nuclear stand-off feels imminent with North Korea. Healthcare is on the verge of being stripped from millions of Americans for the sake of ANOTHER tax cut for the uber-rich.
However, the utter helplessness that has plagued me at first is being held at bay by a few things: a renewed belief in poetry if only for the need of its soul-fulfilling function. That and a desire to be better myself if only to hold at bay the horrors of the world by shaping my own life in a different mold.
I thought these greener-living changes would be hard or sacrificial to the max. I admit I more than once imagined myself like a Mrs. Miniver doing her duty, forehead-creased and stalwart or a nun, pious and behatted, her lustrous hair kept under wraps because there are more serious things than vanity to be thought of.
To my equal parts shame and delight, my life lived green-style has only gotten more fully rounded, livelier, lovelier, and, yes, greener, too. Not hard, bitter, and penitent at all. I still have changes I'd like to make, subjects I'd like to read up on, but these small changes add up. They're not hard, and they make your life and the world better. Here are a few simple, easy changes I've made with a nod to more on the sunset-splendored (hopefully not because its a nuclear holocaust of a) horizon:
1. Reusable Cups
I very rarely buy bottled water, and I'd like to stop entirely. It's really a habit of convenience, and more and more I'm getting in the habit of always having a bright teal and therefore easy to keep track of venti Starbucks reusable cup with me throughout the day. I do also need to start using it when I go out and get coffee.
2. Do Less Laundry
Washing your clothes only when necessary couldn't be an easier to save the world, and it certainly makes the life of a mother of two small children a lot more manageable. It's like I needed the guilt associated with being lazy removed for me, and this water-saving tip is it! You can read more here. about the labor and water-saving benefits of doing loads less frequently.
3. Extend the Life of Your Clothes
"It's not eco fashion," as Livia Firth, a champion of the slow fashion movement, has put it. "It's common sense." That's a great point, because it's insane that we've now gotten to a point where we buy a garment planning to throw it out-- I saw that exact language in a recent People Stylewatch article, actually as you can see in an earlier blog post here. It's so easy to make an effort to keep wearing the clothes you already have. Another great line from Livia Firth comes to mind along these lines: Before you purchase an item, ask yourself if you'll wear it at least thirty times.
4. Switch to a Plant-Based Diet
You don't have to throw on a daishiki and chant around a fire to do this, mind you. You don't have to label yourself a vegan or vegetarian to reap many of the benefits of those who follow a plant-based diet all the time. I'm not officially a vegetarian and eat red meat about once a month, because I feel like I have to. My body only craves it on those rare occasions, and I've failed at being a vegetarian because of a tendency to become anemic. So why not mostly be a vegetarian? It was a real lightbulb moment and it really works. I don't know why that didn't occur to me sooner. Not only are there innumerable health benefits linked to a plant-based diet, but every time you forego red meat, you're helping to save 2,500-5,000 gallons of water.
Composting is my next adventure. I actually don't know anything about it. But as you can see from the picture above, I have a little patch of garden, and I'd like to grow some tomatoes-- something I did once upon a time on a rooftop in the East Village so why not in my patch of Philadelphia dirt?
Well, that's about it for some of the easier changes I've been making. What are some ways you try to live green? Please comment and share! For more easy-peasy ideas, I also loved this post on the Eco Warrior Princess.
Wearing a secondhand Ulla Johnson dress from eBay & sustainably designed (and very gorgeous) Swedish Hasbeens sandals. They use vegetable dye!
French-American dual citizen on a green journey, making a Paris out of Philly or a Philly out of Paris, depending on the day.