Thank you Lord, for offering me so many rides around the sun, for good family and friends. For giving me strength to get through difficulties, awareness that events that I have so rebelled against furnish me with strength. In time, if I let them…
Things we take for granted.
The mystery and wonderment at what gifted human beings can create and invent, at the incredible (if poorly understood by us) systems that support the planet, keep us fed and healthy, riding around like this on its thin surface — without falling off or being flattened onto the ground by gravity. The sheer awe of mighty oceans, mountain ranges, creatures — for the universe that lies unknowably far around us in our smallish galaxy amongst the immensity of other galaxies containing more suns, planets and mysteries than we can begin to imagine.
I sometimes wonder if it’s what we don’t know that keeps us eager to move forward.
I don’t even understand what keeps my body functioning, healing itself, getting over, so well, traumas like paralytic polio, bad falls, concussions, surgeries… The mysteries, that’s what keep curious minds marveling and going every day…
And I can’t bear the thought of not learning the truth of lost civilizations, life elsewhere, dark matter. What force, if not love for something greater than themselves, could ever bring people around the world together, family. What’s it like, exactly, to be a hummingbird? … Whatever comes after this place, I hope my consciousness will be informed about mysteries that intrigue me!
Right here and now I can’t quite seem to bear the knowledge of how horribly some of us are treating one another as well as our environment, the very systems required for life itself.
A little over two months into my survivorship of breast cancer surgery, here am I musing over how much life has changed for me since daughter Jericha helped me pack up life’s must-keep possessions after I sold my dear little home in New Mexico in June 2016, with the plan of going back to California to live.
How lucky I was to live for twenty four years in a frontier state like New Mexico, where certain great issues of the time could roll on past us. For instance, lots of what people hear nonstop in the news.
In Fresno, where we have now landed, the climate is mostly similar to hotter parts of New Mexico. This summer has seen many days of 107º temperatures, to the point that I think, “Cool spell coming!” upon seeing predictions of a few days of 95-98º ahead.
The low humidity is the same. The air there, being perhaps a mile high, feels lighter than the denser air here, only 420’ up.
New Mexico has no pretense about its role in feeding the country. They have their wonderful products over there — so many kinds of delicious chili peppers — plus captivating wild places, great art past and present, anthropology, dinosaur relics, amazing people. But nobody in Illinois, for example, expects to feed themselves and family on what grows in New Mexico.
Another key difference for me, there are friends everywhere here, alone-ness seems a spectre of the past. Though not heavily populated, the Central Valley has more people than I had been accustomed to seeing around. There is much to do, between Baha’i events and community outreach, Yosemite and Sequoia National Forest nearby, various points of interest to check out around the city and surrounds. I have not yet been to Yosemite, and a pre-surgery excursion to the powerful old giant sequoias by Jericha and me had to be scrapped mid-way due to heavy mountain fog.
Give it time. We’ll get there.
Between these and what I am determined will be my good recovery from breast cancer life is being gentle and kind to me, personally, here in California’s hot Central Valley. The San Joaquin Valley, specifically.
These lovely things are not, however, the focus of my musings here.
It is hard at present not to anticipate terrible things happening in this country and the greater world as a result of the ugliness, divisiveness, and controversies that have so filled the news for the past year and more. Learning about them via Twitter, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and so on, there are times when my stomach does not feel good.
But you out there, you share the same. No need to dwell. Here it’s that, for me, being closer than previously to a couple of powerful moral and economic life support systems has been shifting my viewpoints around.
Scientifically there is no doubt of our planet’s ability to heal itself of whatever grievous injuries the human race might inflict upon it. There is only the question of how many millions of years it will take for a new human race to evolve and take their turn at living upon it. We here now willl all be wiped out through our own stubborn foolishness.
Yet I am rather fond of the human race — that is ONE human race. There is only one, regardless of skin color, facial features, education and culture. That’s scientific fact, why do some people want to rave about being a “master race” when we are all the same within?
I am, as a lifelong Baha’i, convinced that in spite of all institutional bad decision making, the human race is going to be around for hundreds of millennia or more to come. Current lack of recognition of what we all share, however, will cause horrifying acts and results if we can’t calm down inflamed views. We are very likely going to be hit with unbearable travails.
Before I moved to Fresno I learned that the place has bad air quality, the water contains more lead than that in Flint, Michigan (in some areas), and that older people such as me might lose good years of life to these things.
Also —that the many people living and working in this great food growing basket of America are living much shorter lives than need be because of environmental issues.
Now I see, taste, feel the effects of those facts. Drinking unfiltered water gives the flavor of … best described as like the smell of new wiring, or electrical components. Driving out of the city proper to drop off and pick up a young fellow at his high school we travel across miles of vineyards, fruit and nut trees. California’s Central Valley provides the US with about a third of its vegetables, more than half of its fruit and nuts. Fresno’s not so big on the veggies, but the vineyards, fruit and nut trees go on and on beneath the ferocious sun and air that can be dark with dust and chemicals.
For those living in the midst of all that food production, what a price. Crossing fields on a highway that suddenly turns into a two lane, undivided road without shoulders the dust fills my lungs, while my eyes water with the coughing. My throat and nose burn.
Lurking in that dust can be a certain fungus that infests mammalian lungs, causing sickness that cannot be cured, only managed with somewhat expensive prescription drugs. Not unique to the Central Valley by any means, but more active here because there is vast disruption of soil.
It is especially hard on Latino and black people. Who are my neighbors in this apartment complex in a lovely part of old Fresno, close to downtown.
Inside the city of Fresno there are wonderful great trees, evergreens, deciduous and flowering, palms and a fair amount of glowing gardens and green grass. Alongside lie poorer, less tended sections of the city, where green things barely hang on, many trees are visibly dying or dead. As in New Mexico there is no attempt at landscaping of any sort in yards around homes in brown earth areas.
Outside the city, where I travel to these high schools, the houses I have observed also have little to no landscaping and might even have enormous field equipment parked right alongside them. Machines that may even dwarf some homes. The people living in these small places frequently find themselves being treated with the same chemicals being put on the trees and field crops close by. Some, particularly children and older people, get very sick, indeed. Many have no means of taking care of these illnesses.
We are lucky in this country that, by using water hundreds of miles from where it fell as rain or snow in the winter season, California is able to go on feeding America — for now. The specter of the great drought that wrenched the last moisture out of so many living things here cannot be forgotten about. The word from scientists is that longer, deeper droughts are quite likely for California as global warming strengthens its grasp on the earth.
Man made global warming, that is. That’s the kind that scientists are almost universally certain is causing harm, capable of causing much worse.
When I came to this area there was the idea that by changing the region over to different agricultural methods, such as no-till, the horrible air quality and poisonous effects of so many fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on the environment and the people might gradually be lessened.
I have no pretense to being knowledgeable regarding agriculture, especially now, seeing the vastness of just this one section of the Valley that grows so much food for people. The first person I ran into here who worked within the agricultural sector happened to be a chemical salesman. His company moves him from one section of the western US to another every couple of years, depending on where their “enchancements” are needed/will sell the best.
In talking with him, I realized how fervently he believes that these chemicals are absolutely the country’s salvation against the dire threat of starvation that he suspects western civilization will soon be sharing with peoples in places such as African countries — who are tragically habituated to starving and dying in droves.
There was also the undertone that I caught in our talk, the sense that there may come a time when the chemicals are no longer effective.
Meantime, those same crop enhancing chemicals are poisoning earth, streams and oceans at an unsustainable rate. They also interfere with the natural fertility of soil, a situation that no-till farming practices address. Native Americans of the southwest had a wonderful understanding of wildland farming before Europeans with their predilection for making everything geometrical with the notion that they were smarter than anybody else and therefore need not inquire into the steady food supply the Natives got from their arid, nearly rainless environment.
Then there is another dilemma of a more directly moral nature regarding the Central California food supply — immigration.
Farmers hereabouts have been having a difficult time getting the seasonal help required to hand pick the miles and miles of closely packed grapevines. To gather the almonds and walnuts, apples, oranges, lemons, peaches and so on. The reliable help of workers from Latin countries has greatly dwindled for them in this time of government terrorization of certain vulnerable people.
A lot of area farmers are accustomed to hiring the same visiting workers from Mexico year after year. They understand one another, what is needed, there is a comfortable level of trust.
Recounting heartbreaking stories of the would-be workers who now live in both the US and Central America and the farmers who desperately need them is not something I am prepared to get into here — you, too, see these stories. What is needed are changes in the rules that allow (or don’t) Latin Americans to stay in the US for periods of time to work in agricultural and tourist jobs, jobs that most Americans don’t apply. for Around here people vouch for their familiar workers from the South, who have no interest in remaining in the US, only in earning steady money for a few weeks, enough to see their families through for longer periods of time.
The point is that here is another life-support system that is in danger of collapsing because of xenophobia, a certain false sense of American self-reliance, and refusal to promote scientific growth and application.
I never felt these matters so keenly as I do here in Fresno. We absolutely require big changes in our country’s practices, the kinds of laws we create and enforce regarding food production, workers from other countries and protection of public health.
If we don’t prioritize these things even the big mouths in the big government will not have food to put between their choppers — unless they want to come out here and pick their own grapes, nuts, fruits and veggies before they rot in the fields. And choke on the bad air while they do it.
O CHILDREN OF MEN! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.
Excerpt From: Baha’u’llah. “The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh.”
O ye rich ones on earth! If ye encounter one who is poor, treat him not disdainfully. Reflect upon that whereof ye were created. Every one of you was created of a sorry germ. It behoveth you to observe truthfulness, whereby your temples shall be adorned, your names uplifted, your stations exalted amidst men, and a mighty recompense assured for you before God.