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Dark Ecology: Race, Gender & the Environment

English 252 @ Hunter College

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Nature As Mirror

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Remember
Joy Harjo, 1951

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

As part of National Poetry Month, I have been trying read or post a poem a day. When I encountered this poem, I couldn’t help but think of the works we have read in class this semester: Mother Nature by Emily Dickinson; The Last Man by Mary Shelly; and, Prospero’s Daughter by Elizabeth Nunez. As Joy Harjo has done, Dickinson, Shelly, and Nunez all personify nature in order to raise awareness about or strengthen our connection to the natural world. Nature, in these works, is seen as having both positive as well as less than noble characteristics similar to traits and flaws possessed by humans.

All of these authors have understood that humanity is not only one aspect of nature, but humanity is also dependent on the natural world for survival. Mankind is but one component of the ecosystem—it is not separate from this planet’s ecology. As Mary Shelley expressed, without man, nature will continue; however, without nature, mankind will disappear. Therefore, it is incumbent on us all to protect the very world that has given us a great deal of what may be extremely dear to us: clean air, water, sunshine, nourishment, shelter material, and familial bonds.

In their own way, these women want to remind us how all life that exists emerges from what is in existence and has already existed. Woven through these works, the awe-inspiring aspects of nature are described. Through the characters, the authors show how, first, nature seems to have an innate appeal—serves a primitive need in humans; and, secondly, temperamentally, man and nature mirror each other. All life appears to operate on both a balance and a spectrum. Dickinson introduces us to the unconditionally benign “gentlest mother” Nature. Shelley, on the other hand, begins with an authoritative veil by calling Nature “herself was only his first minister”; however, as the story progresses, Shelley depicts an unleashed, angry, and revengeful Nature who answers to no one. Finally, Nunez depicts a Nature oppressive to some but not to all—where some reject it while others embrace and welcome it as is. In all three works, we glimpse moments where Nature demonstrates its duality as well as our human powerlessness against its ferocity. And, in not so many words, this is what Joy Harjo is expressing in her poem, Remember. For Harjo, hubris has no place in this world as we are all one with nature. Man has the ability to provoke nature, but man cannot control it. Ultimately, man is but a small player in the universe.

 

“Remember” By Joy Harjo YouTube Video

“Remember” by Joy Harjo

Mother Nature by Emily Dickinson

Beauty of Nature (YouTube)

Nature’s Fury: The Science of Natural Disasters (AMNH)

 

A soothing soul

It was a hot summer day, where the sun was so bright one would feel as if the light would make them blind. However, life on the other hand wasn’t so bright; stress and emotional drama was a constant in my life and despite the beaming sun the day still felt dull and gloomy. It was one of those days where I was in a state of self-war, where everything just seemed unreasonable and incomprehensible, leading to sleepless nights. I was busy doing my work during the day time and upholding the façade of a happy strong girl, however, at night I was doing extra shifts of self-exhaustion by over thinking and continuing the ritual of self loathe and pity that I had started a couple of months earlier. On a daily basis continuing the façade became challenging. With a much needed break from all the thinking, I decided to go down to the beach along with a few of my friends. The trip to the beach was a form of diversion from all the stress. I was hoping it would be an escape from ME. The me that wouldn’t let me take risks and the me that always played safe. With the anticipation that I would be busy with friends, I didn’t think I would have the time to go back into self-pity mode and some how get thrown back into the dark corner that I always end up in. The corner that lets life take over and buries me from facing all of my problems. It’s a corner that engulfs you for days and to be pulled out would mean the need to have a lot of mental strength and power that I feared I did not have.

As I left school, I met up with my friends not anticipating anything from the day, especially not the freedom I would receive from myself. As soon as I arrived at the beach all I saw was the blue ocean in front of me, and not a single person besides my friends. At this very moment I felt at somewhat peace. Knowing I was in a place where I was not allowed to be, made me feel defiant and the selfish part of me didn’t want to leave. I sat down and decided to take in the view, and despite being with eleven other people it still felt quiet and peaceful as if it were just me and the beach. As I sat down, I took in the gentle but cold breeze and let my mind go to rest, away from my worries and away from my restless soul. I was in a state of zen where everything I was worried about just felt frivolous and cold. Despite being in a cold and abandoned area, it felt warm and welcoming. Nature felt as a mother, soothing and singing a lullaby to calm my restless soul. The soft sand felt as a mother’s hug and the soft waves were as if it was trying to sympathize and comfort me. Nature was a father. The soft breeze, protecting me from the evil of my own thoughts, by blowing the insecurities away. I didn’t feel confided in a small cage anymore. I felt more at ease and, for the first time in a long time, comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel like I was living in an intangible universe. I felt like I belonged. I felt at home.

(If you would like to visit the beach: https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/fdr-boardwalk-and-beach/highlights/12257

A yelp page with similar experiences regarding the beach(not all of them are however.): https://www.yelp.com/biz/midland-beach-staten-island )

Fawn Whisperer

I called it a forest, in my head, but it was no longer a forest. It used to be, I’d presume, for the area was fenced, pipes were built, the land was mowed, and the skeletons of a building was present. The pond was artificial. It was often drained, then refilled for reasons unknown to me. And the leftover trees served as much purpose as this pond to the people; for aesthetic purposes only. Continue reading “Fawn Whisperer”

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