Last night I had a dream in which the ground was literally falling out from under me. There we were, J. and I, trying to shore up a gravel floor as the stones kept sliding away.
Rest assured, dear reader, that my life is all right. I’m not running for my life or fighting for my country in Ukraine or embroiled in a mental battle to try to figure out what is real and what is fake. I’m pretty clear, thanks to limiting my time on unhealthy Internet as much as I’m able and continuing to nurture my creative career: finishing the edits for my forthcoming short story collection and working on the revision of a novel, while helping others attend to their words, as well.
I hope that you, too, are finding ways to take care of yourself while not turning away from the world.
Because we can’t.
It’s our world too. And, as Fiona Hill made clear in this excellent interview with Politico, this war is also our war.
As I watch it all: the bombing, Europe attempting to figure out how to manage without Russian oil and gas, the rising prices at the pump, I can’t help but think of my first novel, Swarm. For that book I tried to imagine what it would be like: the economic collapse – the ground falling out from under us – as we ran out of affordable oil.
I’m not sure of the interconnections between what we’re seeing play out now and peak oil – that would take doing research that I burnt out on circa 2011 – but my impetus for writing that novel remains the same.
When the economy started to slide in the U.S. at the tail end of W’s days in office and the start of an era of new hope brought on by Obama’s election (Yes, We Can!) and gas prices began to peak, I couldn’t help but think: maybe we can dismantle everything and start all over again.
Of course, that would come with hardship. And hardship happens all through Swarm. But other things do too: learning how to be with the earth again, ditching the dangers of the Internet (oh, how naive we were…), walking on the forest ground.
Sure, harvesting what you need for household insulation from the dump alongside other aspects of bare bones survival doesn’t sound like fun but it sure would be nice to ease climate change, wouldn’t it?
“In a dystopian world there is hope,” a reader wrote to me the other day, having finished Swarm. Hope is needed more than ever right now, I said when I wrote her back to thank her for her lovely note.
Spring is the season of hope, isn’t it? And, yet, as society seems to crumble all around us, it is hard to hope. But my first novel – written during another anxious time in society and my own personal life – helped me to hope.
Through it I came to a place of belief that people will ultimately come together – even the stragglers left over at the end of the world as we know it – to help each other, to collectively grieve the dead, to care for one another’s wounded-ness however they can, to create new homes.
Imperfect, of course (as everyone says, Marvin is an a-hole), but such is life.
And that is the power of story, isn’t it?
To make sense of life.
For as long as we’ve been human, we’ve aligned the chaos of the world through creativity.
Now is not the time to stop.