Archive for Mother Earth

The Book of Leaves

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2013 by somnambulant

The Book of Leaves 


by William Maxwell


1 September 2013 to 4 October 2013


Give me liberty or give me death!


If you want to hear Mother Earth talking, listen to the wind in the trees, and she shall tell you everything.


The Earth is our mother.  Mother Earth has taken care of us for a long time now.  For five million years we have emerged from her womb, and have returned to her after death.  We have populated the planet.  We have covered the Earth’s surface with highways and railroads, cities, farms, factories, mines, and artificial lakes.  We have benefited from the Earth as she has yielded up her riches so that we might live in comfort. 


But we have been ungrateful to her.  We have polluted her waters, her air, and her soil.  We have plundered her riches.  We have skinned her, scalped her, for the layer of vegetation and animals and microbes and fungi truly is Earth’s skin.  In too many places we have replaced this skin with concrete and junk.  A person without a skin cannot survive, nor can a planet.  We have cut into her flesh with our mining and oil and gas drilling.  We are making her sick with our nuclear power plants.  All the plants and animals on the Earth’s surface are the cells of her skin, and we are skinning her.  And so are the creatures of the sea her cells, but we are pulling them out to eat, and dumping poison into the waters. The oceans are her bodily fluids, and we are poisoning her.  Daily, we are injuring and sickening her.  But Mother Earth takes care of her own.  She spanks her naughty children, and makes sure there is enough for everyone.  The dinosaurs got too big, too hungry, and Gaia ushered them off the stage of history.  Gaia is nearing that point with us.  There will soon be another correction.  Gaia takes care of her own.  This shall not last.  The pollution shall not last.  The mining and oil and gas drilling, the nuclear power plants, the destruction of the forests and grasslands, the pollution of the ocean and plundering of her creatures, they shall not last. 

The polluters, deforesters, weapons manufacturers, nuclear power plant designers, exploiters of the poor, child molesters, rapists, murderers, border wall guards, concentration camp guards, forced labor overseers, slave drivers, chicken factory managers, betrayers and abusers of children, the weak, the old, and the infirm:  You shall all feel the wrath of Gaia.  Those who are now last will later be first.  The weak shall inherit the Earth.  They shall do so not by waiting for some messiah to come.  No, they shall inherit the Earth by seizing the sword and slaying the oppressor, the many-headed dragon.  At her hand – at the hand of the formerly weak – the oppressor shall lie in a pool of her own blood.  We shall do this by organizing.  The oppressed have spent too much time fighting each other.  People shooting each other in the streets out of pure hate, or over some debt, drug deal gone bad, or girlfriend.  Oppressed workers and employees bickering while The Man walks off with all the bucks.  Progressives wasting their breath splitting hairs over ideology.  Elite intellectual leftists speaking a different language than blacks, Christians, working-class people, rural people, Muslims, loggers, farmers, fisherwomen, McDonald’s employees, auto workers, Chinese Apple manufacturing plant workers, Mexican maquiladora workers, Colombian revolutionaries, Sudanese nomads, and Cuban gay activists.  The time to organize is now.  I hereby proclaim the foundation of the Earth Movement.  You!  Organize a local chapter.  Pay dues.  Elect members to a state assembly.  State assemblies elect members of a national house.  National houses elect members of a worldwide body.  Draft and approve a charter.  The movement’s activities will be political, legal.  There will be a media front.  There will be a direct action front.  There will be marches, protests, rallies, speeches, and symbolic acts.  The movement will sue polluters and oppressors.  The movement will pressure legislators to do the right thing.  Movement members may run for and take public office without losing their membership in the movement, but the movement will never be affiliated with any political party or government.  The movement will outlast political parties and governments.  There will be education and training fronts for the members. 

Rural property owners will take down their fences.  Large limited-access highways will disappear.  Today, nature is reduced to patches in a  landscape of civilization.  Tomorrow, the human presence will be reduced to small patches in a vast natural landscape.  Nomads, hunter-gatherers, and pastoralists shall have free rein to go anywhere and take from the bounties of the Earth.  But it shall not be a human landscape.  It shall be a natural landscape, with a small, humble human presence.  Vast herds of buffalo, elk, antelope, horses, and camels will again migrate across the continents.  Lions, tigers, wolves, cheetahs will again patrol these herds and cull them.  The natural order will be restored.  In the sea, fish populations will rebound, reefs will regain their health, and the sea floor will once again look like a forest, not the Wal-Mart garbage dump that it is now.  Most people will be nomads, pastoralists, or villagers who have small farms and gardens.  People will live lightly on the land.  In the cities, people will walk to work and to school.  Their job will be to benefit the Earth by cultivating spirituality and science, not to drive around in their SUV’s while immersed in their iphones, and not to work for companies that pollute, oppress, and destroy.  There will be harmony between ruralites and urbanites, and between nature and woman. 

The victims of murder shall rise up against their murderers and worry them to death.  The spirit of Matthew Shepard shall rise up from the grave and exact justice on his murderers.  And so shall the ghost of Medgar Evers.  And so shall the murdered children.  It is not enough just to have q centers and PFLAG.  It is time for queers to defend themselves.  Queers shall karate chop gay bashers.  Domestic violence victims will throttle their abusers.  Indigenous people, religious, racial, and cultural minorities, poor people, exploited people everywhere, your time has come.  Burn your oppressors.  Ants, bite your territory invaders.  Birds, peck out the eyes of the destroyers of nature.  For truly the vines will wrap around the arms of the bulldozer operators and carry them off.

Succor the weak.  Pull over and stop and help someone whose car has broken down.   Welcome the disabled into your heart.  Don’t just give change to the homeless.  Open the door of your home to them.  For we are all sisters.  All people on earth are sisters.  The cockroaches are our sisters.  Have you ever looked into the face of a cockroach?  Cockroaches inspire disgust not because they are so different from us but because they are so similar to us.  Looking closely at a cockroach, we realize that we were all cockroaches once.  Sometimes we curse our fate, and feel like beings much bigger and more powerful than us are tormenting us.  Perhaps they are, but it is no different from someone chasing and squashing a cockroach.  The circle of life is never-ending.

People worry about the environment.  Some believe we can find engineering solutions.  Sequester carbon.  Develop efficient fusion energy generation.  But the problem is not an engineering problem.  It will take a world revolution to solve our problem.  But before organizing a world revolution, we must foment revolution in our hearts;  This is where the paradigm shift begins.  Truly a revolution from the heart of nature.  Listen to your heart.  Where the Western mind went wrong is when the human announced that the brain is the center of all thinking.  In fact, just like the ancients knew, the heart is where the mind is housed.  In fact, our heart will not always lead us to do the right thing.  It is the seat of sometimes violent and turbulent emotions.  But on a calm day our heart will sing to us and instruct us, will guide us to the right.

Nature is a good dance partner.  He dances a lively Vienna Waltz with all of Earth’s creatures.  We humans are bad dance partners.  Nature is lead, but we think we are lead.  The result is a jerky motion, very clumsy.  A lot of feet are getting stepped on.  Sometimes we forget we are dancing at all.  We sit a at a table gazing into the darkness wondering when our lover will come.  Meanwhile nature waits on the dance floor.  His dance card has our name on it.  Our dance card, his.  But we do not even glance at it.  Perhaps we have had too much to drink.  Hopefully we will sober up.  For the dance must go on.  Hopefully we will give nature our hand, let him place his other hand on our back, and we will once again launch into space in the great ballroom, on the wings of love, and twirl around, encircle the ballroom like two matrimonial doves. 

We think we should do what we think we ought to do.  Let us do what we want!  Look into your heart and do what you really want.  Too many people say, “I am doing this, but what I really want to do is…”  — do that!  Life is too short for excuses.


Be yourself.  Take your mask off.  Do not be afraid.  We are afraid that others may find us weak.  But the wise know that those who show their true selves are the truly brave.

All great dams must fall.  Rivers have flown since the beginning of time.  They flow there for a reason.  Unleash the power of the rivers to heal the Earth.  Rivers give life.  We have shackled the rivers, and it’s like arresting the milk man.  Rivers, give us and all living beings our milk once again!  Do not be afraid of floods.  If you are worried about it, don’t build in the flood plain.  In the past, floods did carry people away, but the power of nature in balance is nothing compared to the awesome power of nature out of balance.  Hell has no fury like nature spurned.  Nature will reclaim her own.  Floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes are nothing compared to what lies in store for us.  Gaia is great.  She may choose to freeze us all, or burn us to a crisp.  A crack may open up in the Earth and release enough poison gas to relegate us  to the annals of just another failed evolutionary experiment.  But we have the choice.  The choice is yours.  Do you prefer happy nature  or angry nature?

Let us sing the praise of anger.  I’m queer and a lifelong victim as a queer male.  I was the victim of abuse by a distant relative and a camp counselor.  My friends and I were gay-bashed and terrorized and robbed by men who called us fags.  I hear insults against masculine women and feminine men on a daily basis.  A black man in Chapel Hill told me:  “I’m angry!”  Hell, I’d be angry too if I were a black man in America, knowing that my son has a better chance of going to jail than to college, and  a good chance of dying on the streets before he is 18.  I’m a black woman.  I’m angry because I see my men and my sons imprisoned, beaten, and shot.  I am an Indian.  I am angry because I saw my people reduced by invading disease and genocidal killing, my land tarred, the buffalo slaughtered.  I am a Jew.  I hear the angry screams floating in the ash spouting out of Hitler’s smokestacks.  I am a Muslim:  I am angry as I see dictators imposed on my countries from afar, dictators who make a mockery of my faith.  I am a Monarch butterfly.  I am angry as I see my brothers and sisters, and my cousins, the bees, die from Neonicotinoid pesticides (where is the Rachel Carson of our generation to put a stop to this outrage?) and as Roundup-ready crops allow Roundup to wipe out the milkweed I feed on.  I am a pine:  I’m angry as my sisters were turned into tar for battleships, then two-by-fours, now into chips for low-grade particle board for the McMansions of the rich and tasteless.

The pious tell us to turn the other cheek.  The Man tells us to go slow.  No more going slow.  No  more turning the other cheek.  Revenge!  The sweet smell of revenge.  Someone has wronged me, she will feel my revenge. Someone attacks me physically, I will feed him his balls.  And so shall the black man and woman, the Muslim, the queer, the child, the Indian, the worker, the homeless.  Hide the scalper, draw and quarter the greedy.  I do not know if the Monarch butterfly will ever rise up against her oppressors, but I volunteer  to defend her, Gaia has many powerful agents.  The polluters and nature-destroyers shall be made to drink their own poisons, to be crushed by their own tree-mauling equipment.  Jesus said:  “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  I say, Brutus rendered unto Caesar what was his, because Caesar subjugated other peoples, and tyrannized them.  The wages of sin is death.

You say, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”  I say, It has been more than 2,000 years since the Prince of Peace brought his message to the world.  It has been more than 2,600 years since a certain Indian prince showed the world how to transcend violence.  And yet these two millennia have been  a sorry story of crushing, abusing, murdering, raping, and torturing the weak.  Those who are last will later be first.  The weak shall inherit the Earth.  The weak shall seize the Earth!  in a revolution  after they organize to overthrow their oppressors and the oppressors of the Earth.  They will break the eternal cycle of coups d’état by founding a truly democratic order founded on peace, love, and taking the time to know each other, on walking instead of driving; on singing and dancing, making love and good conversation.  The blood of the oppressors will flood the streets.  Vultures and ravens and hyenas will feast on their corpses and later the children of Gaia will pick up their skulls and intone with a laugh, using the skulls as puppets:  “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

I am sorry to say that, besides being sexually molested as a child, I was an abuser as well, as a child.  So by my own logic my victims should rise up against me and slay me.  And it would be right.  So it is perhaps with a callow bid to save my own skin, but also with some philosophical circumspection, that I say, Gaia is compassionate and merciful.  We oppressed, after we have escaped the yoke of oppression, may spare our former oppressors.  We may even forgive them.  For Gaia, the compassionate, the merciful.  Confidently we shall stride into the future.  We shall not let old suffering tear at our hearts any longer.  Giving our minds peace, we shall forget our abusers and oppressors of old.  But out of respect for the fact that we were powerless when the abuse occurred, we may later seize the opportunity to exact vengeance and right the scale of justice.  Or choose to spare the abuser, or pursue justice through the legal system.

I proclaim the age of the decentered individual.  Woman (I frequently use ‘woman’ to mean the generic person (formerly “man”) or humanity) has always seen herself as at the center of the universe.  We all do.  Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.”  Supposedly, all we are sure of is that we exist – you and I individually.  We shall learn to change our perspective.  See the world through the eyes of a moth.  From the point of view of a lily, a tadpole, a fish, a rock, and a planet – planet Pluto, for example.  If we all truly begin to do this, we will be far kinder to each other and to the Earth.  From our new perspective, we will learn to care about what a moth cares about.  Have you ever walked a mile in the shoes of a handicapped person?  Try it some time.  Get in a wheelchair and go shopping, and see how easy it is for you.  Put on opaque lenses or patch your eyes, pick up a cane for the blind, and go shopping.  How many people have felt what it is like to be a black person who has to navigate a hateful and contemptuous white world every day?  If you are straight, you may not know what it is like to live in a hostile society the way queer people do.  Try dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex for a day.  It will open your eyes.  It may not be as easy to be a moth for a day.  My mother is a big animal lover and animal rights activist.  She has a book about people who have intimate relationships with animals.  One man had giant African cockroaches.  There was a photo; they looked like giant shiny black larvae.  This man was close friends with his cockroaches.  They would sit on his hand, and the love would radiate between them.  Seriously:  When has a cockroach ever hurt you?  We were all cockroaches once upon a time.  Woman has the greatest contempt for the few species of animals who thrive in this hall of glass we have created, what we call the human environment.  Pigeons, rats, mosquitoes, mice, cockroaches, spiders, flies, ants, crows, and vultures.  They are a who’s who of hated animal species.  It is not enough to bulldoze away orchids and redwoods and eagles and moose.  We even declare war on the few species that are left.. Huge, profitable industries are dedicated to eradicating them.  The same goes for plants.  First the redwoods, Araucaria, orchids, and cacti go.  Now we are busily snuffing out Asteraceae, grasses, and the milkweed, the sole food plant of the Monarch butterfly.  Monsanto has introduced Roundup ready crops, which allow farmers to spray Roundup, a powerful herbicide that normally kills all plants, on their fields without damaging the crops.  This eliminates the milkweed, which the Monarch feeds on.  Its food supply is dwindling.  The other thing killing the Monarch butterfly, and many species of bee including the honeybee, is the use of powerful Neonicotinoid pesticides, which kill not only agricultural pests but all other insects as well.  From counts at the Monarch’s nesting grounds in Mexico, scientists have determined that the population has collapsed from occupation of 50 acres of forest to occupation of less than 3 acres of forest.  Nobody knows what the critical minimum for the population is.

I have a dream.  I have a dream that one day my daughter will not be judged by the color of her skin, her ethnicity, her religion, her sexual direction, her gender identity, or her gender expression: but by the content of her character.

I have a vision.  I have a vision of an Earth who can breathe:  a free planet who rejoices in the health of her creatures.  A sea of wilderness with pockets of human presence.  Fences will come down.  Highways and railroads will disappear.  People will once again roam the Earth, hunting and gathering fruits, nuts, berries, mushrooms, insects, medicinal plants, and what they nedd for simple tools, clothing, and shelter.  The air will breathe again, the ocean will drink again, the Earth will eat again.  The Earth will belong to the Earth again.  The Earth will be free!  Free to enjoy her rights as a living, intelligent being.  Nor will human civilization be lost.  There will be enough small mines, roads, and cities left for high technology to exist, and to link all of human society in such a way that cultures do not fall into isolation and repeat our history of barbarity, conquest, slavery, and scalping of the Earth.

How will people achieve this vision?  We each will have no more than one child for seven generations, until our population is one tenth of what it is now.  We will carefully plan and devise the least disruptive ways to remove railroads, highways, fences, large dams, nuclear power plants, coal fired power plants, gas fired power plants, oil-fired power plants, oil refineries, urban sprawl, from the landscape.  We will devise these strategies and ways democratically, from the grass roots up, not from the top down.  We shall phase out the use of fossil fuels well before we have sucked dry the last veins.  Right now we are shooting exploding projectiles into Gaia’s body, fracturing her flesh, desperately sopping up the black blood and huffing the gas, like an addict who kills in a frenzy to get at her drug.  Pathetic.

Sing the praises of anger, hate, and revenge!  The man preaches submissiveness, patience, and turning the other cheek.  The man wants a meek army of household, garden, and field slaves, whom he expects to work more for him under constantly worsening conditions.  He tells the slave, “Go slow,” and that if she washes and cleans her ears, then maybe he’ll stop calling her Sister Sadie.  Well, this Sister Sadie is about to pick up a scythe, a butcher knife, a meat cleaver, and cut off and feed him his balls!

Do you hate your oppressor?  Does it anger you that she has abused you and treated you like dirt?  Does it anger you that he has murdered your children, polluted your neighborhood, raped you, and bombed your home?  Then exact vengeance!

But for those of you who have manageable problems, I have a word for you.  You malcontents, you disgruntled employees and alienated students:  You apartment dwellers tormented by a neighbor’s dog barking at night.  This book forbids you to pack a duffel bag full of automatic weapons and go to your site of frustration and indiscriminately murder people.  For it is more satisfying to solve the problem than fight its symptoms, to scratch the itch.  If your boss is tormenting you, is the greedy company owner hounding her?  If the greedy company owner is exploiting his employees, is the system giving him license, even encouraging him to rape the Earth?  The answer is yes.  Organize with other victims, overthrow the system, and replace it with one that will permanently give voice to the birds, the bees, the flowers, the trees, children, women, and queers.  Finally a state of love and peace that will last through the ages.

Forsake alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, for they numb the mind and pollute the body.

Always think not only of yourself but also the ones who are down-river from you.