The Shadow of a World

 

I’ve been querying agents the past week.

I feel pretty good that I measured up to their guidelines and specifications. I worked hard to do so. Now it’s the waiting game to see if my manuscript measures up as well.

So, I’m back to writing short stories. One month to go, and the day job begins.

The biggest obstacle I face as a writer isn’t writer’s block. Or distractions like social media. Or even insecurity and fear. It’s the feeling of indulgence.

Just sitting around writing while the world burns. Or melts. And toxifies. Beautiful, lovely, diverse species are going extinct by the minute, and I’m here printing out reams of paper in the same minute.

I try to write stories with a message; horror in which the natural world has agency; can fight back against people.  Such as Anne R. Allen and Ruth Harris bring up in their “Rogue Characters” blog post from yesterday.

But they’re just stories. Do they change anything?

I try to tell myself that I’m doing everything I can to minimize the space I take up on the planet, like recycling (Well, recycling properly now, anyway, thanks to this tweet.)

I’ve been vegetarian since 1992. I’m trying (or, continuing to fail at) becoming vegan. But I have plenty of replacement options, courtesy of PETA’s vegan kit, as well as blog posts like this.

But it still haunts me. So many animals and plants and everything else giving way to humans on this planet. And, while I’m staring at my blank piece of paper that a tree gave up its life for so that I can write another story, my mind wanders into some dark places.

How is that we humans have practically zero restrictions on reproduction? People out there even having twenty or more kids in one family unit. But the alternative is just as terrible and unconscionable, as history has shown us: extermination,  concentration camps, forced sterilization, tracts on/beliefs in eugenics. But, still, over seven billion people on the planet? When is enough going to be enough? And there’s people out there debating a women’s right to choose? Seriously? I chose. I chose not to bring children into the world. Chose not to add to the human population. But every day; at work, running errands, I get asked “Do you have kids?” and it’s like the end of the world, the end of my existence and worth when I say no. Which is completely illogical, because the world is, maybe not ending, but is certainly being destroyed at a speed-of-light pace.

I was thinking how strange it was that humans have free will to reproduce as much as they want, but, in addition to the number of species going extinct (I found it interesting, and appropriately chilling, how Joseph Nebus incorporated the subject into his blog post, today.), animals we consider as our live-in companions–pets, essentially–face euthanasia in shelters because of overpopulation. And that’s the humane alternative because people can’t be bothered to spay or neuter their pets, or want some mythical perfect breed pet created in a puppy mill instead of adopting a shelter animal awaiting its forever home. And let’s not talk about that when they get sick of having that trendy animal around and dump it either on the street or to that same shelter environment. It beats being neglected, abandoned, starved to death, abused and a million other ways humans treat our domesticated animal companions.

I know what goes on in shelters. I’ve worked in them for years, and as an animal rescue volunteer. I’ve been on cases involving hoarders. Seen a dog kept on a tiny apartment porch crammed with trash and nothing but a plastic tub filled with slimy green water to drink. Gone into the shelter to take the animals to the adoption site while your heart breaks when nobody wants the sweetest dog, cat, rabbit, etc. times six million that ever lived. But that’s nothing to how it feels when you go into the shelter and that animal you’ve tried so hard to get adopted lost its last chance at a forever home just the day before.

And I’m not criticizing the animal shelters out there, by any means. They are just trying to make the best of a no-win situation brought about by the large numbers of irresponsible and thoughtless pet owners.

A fellow horror writer I follow on Twitter had this to say: https://twitter.com/DoomGoat666/status/1145082969712996352.

I’m gutted. It’s personal for me. I’ve been there, on the animal rescue front. But, sometimes it doesn’t always end badly. Like the day I was walking into the shelter and saw someone dump a cardboard box at the end of the sidewalk. I tend to be curious, so I went over to the box. It was all taped up. And then a tiny cat paw stuck out of one of the holes I now noticed were punched into the side of the box. Florida, in July, and those kittens wouldn’t have lasted very long out there in the hot sun. But they survived because I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Which is why I’m so, so glad there’s still people out there like Ben Fitts that are trying to make a difference. Working for organizations like the ASPCA.

It makes the real world a little less horrific.

 

Green Stars Review: Milagro Herbs

Company: Milagro Herbs: Organic Herbs & Skin Care

Address: 1500 5th St. #6
Santa Fe, NM 87505

Contact: 505-820-6321

Open from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday

Website: https://www.milagroherbs.com/

3/5 Green Stars based on:
* They use some organic ingredients, and some wild-harvested.
* However, they weren’t very forthcoming with information (either online or in person) about habitats that they harvest from. 
* This struck me as odd, since part of the goal of Milagro Herbs is supposed to be education. 
* Wild-harvested could be positive or negative, depending on the harvesting locations and methods. 

* Containers are a mix of plastic or glass.

* Would be nice if they accepted containers back to be refilled. 

For more information on Green Stars ratings see this post.

About the Company, and My Experience: I visited the store location on a couple of earlier occasions. The front part of the store is stocked with a wide variety of lotions, shampoos, and even soaps and other bath and body products. There’s a wall dedicated to local honeys in different flavours. If that weren’t enough, they have a huge selection of herbal/nutritional supplements, tinctures, flower essences, and, of course, their new CBD line of products. They have herbs and teas in bulk in a rear room. The storefront is also the location of the Milagro School of Herbal Medicine, through which they host individual classes, as well as a comprehensive program that concludes with a “Certificate in the Foundations of Herbalism”, according to their website: https://www.milagroherbs.com/school.html.

With the exception of their bulk herbs and teas, the products’ packaging seems to be evenly split between plastic and glass. In Santa Fe County, all plastic (regardless of number) and all glass, can be recycled at collection stations. Still, I’ve attempted to return the rinsed bottles from the products I have purchased from Milagro Herbs, and they will not accept them for refill.

The staffer that assisted me generally deferred to Dr. Enos in regards to the products, but she did help me pick out a suitable skin lotion for use in this painfully dry climate.

Despite the company’s business title stating that they carry organic herbs and skin care, their products are a mix of “organic and wild harvested plants collected by Dr. Enos and his staff” as quoted directly from the About statement on the company’s website.

During my most recent visit, I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Tomas Enos in person about his products and his collection/harvesting practices. 

It was difficult to get information from Dr. Tomas Enos regarding the sustainability of his company’s collection practices and the herbs he imports from other countries, and from places like “rainforests and marine ecosystems” that the website refers to, and which does not identify a specific location within the source countries mentioned. He, unfortunately, was not very forthcoming during our conversation. Which was my loss when it came time to write this blog post, as his website bio states that he has “25 years in the herb business” in addition to his PhD.

I did learn from Dr. Enos, at least, that the main ingredient in my shampoo, conditioner (white plastic bottles), and the “Abundant Hair Oil” (brown glass bottle with a plastic top) grows everywhere in New Mexico.

Dr. Enos informed me that the New Mexican globemallow in the products (which have become my hair product staple in surviving this dry desert climate) was collected directly from his land.

I do not have any other information on how sustainable and environmentally/ecosystem friendly the company’s collection practices are.

I was also unable to get information on the labor practices he uses to collect the plants he uses for his products. His website mentions that the plants are collected by him and his staff, so I can only assume it involves fair pay to his staff, especially since it’s the law that Santa Fe pays its workers a living wage. No mention on whether he relies on local labour in these international locations.

Treasure Box

Treasure Box

It’s the end of the world

in this dream that rests in eternity.

We have lost the outside to poisons

made by our own hands.

This thought carries so much pain.

Heartbreak

for our lost animals

but here, inside the abandoned office

next to the empty soda machine 

and paper that was once trees

I find the magic you

and everything is put right

both inside and out

and the treasure box I hold

has only trinkets

but you love it anyway,

and we plant it in the last wild wood.

–Willow Croft

An Open Letter to Children (& Young Adults)

 

I am sorry that you have to follow so many rules and restrictions that may feel onerous to you as kids with lots of natural energy. Some of them I agree with, like not hitting or bullying, or even not being mean to yourself. I would not want any one of you to get hurt, even though you are just being kids and playing around, or feel bad about yourself because of what someone else did or said (including a teacher or a grownup). Some I like, like the indoor voices rule, as a means of self-preservation, as my ears ring at the end of the day from all the noise, even though I prefer a noisy, chatter-filled and laughter-filled classroom. Even as a substitute teacher, I want you to feel safe and respected, and if that means this challenger of the established order has to enforce the school rules, so be it.

I want to tell you to hang in there. Soon you’ll be a grownup too, and you will have the choice not to live by any of those rules and restrictions. You won’t have to walk in a “Four-S” line (for those of you who don’t know, it’s “Silent, Smiling, Still, Straight”). As one of us adults, you’ll have the perfect right to walk side-by-side and take up whole sidewalks with all your friends. Even on narrow sidewalks, even if it means pushing someone (walking single file, or by themselves) into traffic, so that you don’t have to be inconvenienced with walking single file, or interrupting the conversation with your friends. Although I would imagine the sounds of tires squealing or large metal vehicles crashing into each other to avoid the person you just pushed into traffic might also be a rude disruption to your conversation.

Speaking of conversations, you can forget all about that silly “indoor voices” rule. You can talk as loud as you want, wherever and whenever you want. In restaurants, in malls, in movie theatres, in libraries, at presentations or lectures, during plays or other performances, at zoos, and in wildlife areas.  Animals, especially, love it when you yell at them, at maximum volume. And, even better, you can talk when others are talking. And, when you get bored or tired of talking, you can get on your phone at any time you want. Even in we grownups’ version of school, the workplace.

You’ll also have the perfect right to throw a temper tantrum if you don’t get the flavor of drink that you wanted, or the food that you wanted to eat. Even better, we adults can ask to speak to the manager if our white chocolate mocha came without whipped cream and probably get a free drink out of it, or some other reward for complaining about the food or drink we ended up with.

Even though it’s against the law, you as an adult can get away with throwing trash wherever you pretty much want to. You can also leave messes in restaurants, in malls, in public bathrooms, in landfills, in the ocean and waterways, and all over in nature and the outdoors, if you want to, because “someone’s getting paid to clean it all up.”

And let’s talk about destroying property. Largely, us grownups have gotten a free pass on that as well. For thousands of years, actually. And not just a desk, or someone else’s work. A whole planet. Especially if you’re a big corporation. Yes, I’m talking about pollution, pesticides, and any of the million other ways we are “allowed” to destroy the environment, resulting in irreparable species loss, and point-of-no-return climate change.

So, kids, you, too,  will soon be a grownup, faster than your family wants, as time flies faster and faster for us when we get old. I only hope that you don’t follow our example, that you continue to make “good choices”, as they say in some schools, and that you become a better grownup than many of us that are currently out there, right now.

And, I am so, so sorry we’ve left such a mess for you to clean up, and have significantly destroyed the world that you are to inherit. I tried to make good choices, myself: using eco-friendly products, not using pesticides, cleaning up after myself, diligently recycling, eating a largely vegetarian diet and avoiding foods with GMOs. I don’t fish or hunt, but I do continue to drive my car. 

I only hope that you’re able to fix all of us grownups’ bad choices. Because, the way things are going, you won’t even be able to get paid for cleaning up the mess we grownups have left behind.

I’m not asking for forgiveness, or even that you accept my apology. Because no matter what kind of grownup that’s out there, we are all hoping you will be the generation that can fix the damage we’ve done to the world. Maybe that’s why we are so hard on you. And why there are so many rules–we grownups are trying to fix our own mistakes, and you kids have to bear the brunt and the burden of our bad choices.

From what I’ve seen of kids today (like kids suing the federal government over climate change), I have no doubt that any choice you make will be better than any we’ve made over the past tens of thousands of years.

Go out and take back your world. Make it into the world that you want to live in. Demand the education and the school that you want for yourself. It won’t be easy, but you also don’t have to wait to be a grownup to create the world you want to live in. You don’t need anyone’s permission but your own to begin the process. It will be tough to change the system, and overthrow the established order (don’t give up!). But do it with kindness and heart and compassion and respect and love. Because, as a kid, those are your strengths.

The Year Begins, Again.

I hope everyone is happy, warm, and safe in their little time pocket of the multiverse!

If you signed up for the newsletter, I look forward to reading and sharing your New Year’s creative thoughts (if any). I’ve scheduled this post in advance, just in case I was able to make it to another realm for New Year’s. Thanks to those who participated.

Congrats to the winner, The Green Stars Project, who wrote a great post about liminal space that’s very fitting for this time of year. Become part of the Green Stars initiative!

The Green Stars Project New Year’s resolution: “My not-so-secret wish is to practice ethical consumerism and to also encourage others to do so. I have a specific plan, and I’ll know that it’s starting to work whenever I see another person writing a Green Stars review! My latest post, which starts with a brief discussion on liminal space, pretty much sums it up. https://greenstarsproject.org/2017/12/29/resolution/Sometimes, perhaps when I’m faltering on my path a little bit, the universe sends me a sign – it usually comes from an animal. That’s kind of where it all started – with my cat and other animals. Baggins the cat is no longer on this plane (or maybe he is back on it in another form) but I think he still guides me.”

 

New Year’s Poem by Willow Croft:

Mechanic

“I think time is broken,”

you tell me, in my sleep.

It’s my 365th attempt to fix things

but our clocks are lives and years apart.

With each tinkering,

more pieces of me 

pile up in the corners,

and I’m running out of places to hide

from monsters under the bed and

in real life.

So I seek my way out of these worlds.

At the harbour, I’ve missed the boat.

At the airport, I’ve missed the last plane out.

At the station, I’ve missed the train.

And my carriage never arrives 

at its destination.

Always a day late and a dollar short

and a hundred years away from you

in the dark and cold

of another new beginning.

© Willow Croft 2017-2018

 

“One Hundred Years” by The Cure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBtBD2WwvGY

 

 

 

 

An Idle Friday

 

Today I have off from my day job. It feels idle even though I’m still technically working. Which got me thinking about the obscenely rich. Well, an idle Friday and coupled with this blog post about the absurdly wealthy from one of my favourite blogs: https://buffalotompeabodysblog3.com/2017/10/12/daily-briefing-sack-wranglers-2/.

All that wealth pooled together could be put towards the actual planet and its non-human inhabitants instead of all this silly crap they buy to show the world and each other just how much money they have. Who needs six mansions? I mean, really?

I like to think that if I were among the top 2% I would just buy something simple–a modest vintage house and fix it up (unless I got an old castle and turned it into a rescued animal mansion/shelter).

Then my 2% friends and I would use all the rest of my obscene wealth to buy up huge tracts of land (rainforest, wetlands, forests, etc.) and anything else natural we could buy and restore it to its “natural” (or, as natural as it gets) habitat to protect the threatened-with-extinction animals that live within its particular ecosystem. Or clean up the ocean of all its plastic junk, trash, and pollutants. Then we, the 2%, in between making more money, would just cruise around on the newly clean ocean in our small, dinky, but non-polluting boat, hanging out with all our non A-list fish and marine friends, on our weekend getaways.

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/vaquita

Or something like that.

 

Now I just have to get rich. Well, before their time runs out.

 

 

Mourning a Celebrity Childhood Friend…

 

 

Snooty the manatee has died while in captivity at the South Florida Museum.

I used to go see Snooty as a kid. I always felt sad that he was all alone in his tank at the museum. I used to daydream that I would sneak in afterhours and somehow manage to set him free. It seemed like a stark place to live, and the sounds were disorientating even to my human ears.

As an adult (90s/early 2000s), trying to be more active in animal rights causes, I had mixed feelings about visiting the museum. I had fond memories of the South Florida Museum, but I found it hard to go see Snooty in his lonely little tank.

Around 2012/2013 or so, someone I knew could get me into the museum for free, so I went. I was amazed to see that Snooty was still at the museum. But, this time, he had company. There were two other manatees (they were being rehabilitated, I believe) in the tank with him, so I felt a little better that he wasn’t all by himself.

Then I saw a post on someone’s Facebook page announcing that he had died. I figured old age, not being too knowledgeable on how long manatees lived in captivity.

But then I read the article(s). I’ll let you choose to read them for yourself, just in case you are as sensitive to animals as I am, and maybe have to steel yourself before hearing the news. Or want to avoid it altogether.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/07/24/snooty-the-manatee-dies-in-heartbreaking-accident-days-after-his-69th-birthday/?utm_term=.7abad7a7d5ee

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/23/538900625/snooty-the-manatee-dies-and-a-florida-community-mourns

http://www.bradenton.com/news/local/article163774463.html

I have been in mourning for gentle Snooty over the past week  few days that have felt like a week.

And been thinking a lot.

About the fact that there is less and less room for animals, plants, trees, insects, fish, or any of the other non-human lifeforms that are on this planet as well. Because we humans are taking up so much room. And that, by the time there is no more room for humans on a planet that will become uninhabitable sooner or later, there probably won’t be any non-human lifeforms left.

I read something about micro-living via the National Trust for Historic Preservation. But is it enough? Is anything enough to stop humanity’s destructive drive to fully dominate the planet?

I don’t know. I’m still trying to do everything I can to be more environmentally respectful, as futile as it feels.

I know that I miss Snooty, one of my few (make-believe?) childhood friends. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I hope he gets to live in a better world, surrounded by freedom and clean ocean water and other manatee friends and family. And I wish the same thing for animals and plants and trees and insects that have to live on the planet with us humans. May better karma be with you in your next life.