Monday, November 26, 2012

Apocalyptic Planet, Apocalyptic Advent

Now that we have put Thanksgiving behind us, let us begin to shift our focus to Advent.  You might say, "Yup, we already put up the tree, and we have our shopping all done."

I don't mean that kind of Advent.  I mean the old-fashioned kind, where we let the words of the prophets ring in our ears.  I mean the kind of Advent that seems on a collision course with apocalypse.

Now my reading tastes run towards the apocalyptic anyway, but if you need some help getting into that apocalyptic mood, then I have just the book for you.  I've been reading Craig Childs:  what a poetic science writer!

In his latest book, Apocalyptic Planet, he visits places on the globe that are already experiencing the kind of events that could wipe out life on our planet. For example, the first chapter has him making his way through an intense desert landscape. Then he explores an iceberg.

Even when he's writing about impending loss, he's got such a beautiful style. He talks of his surprise at touching a melting iceberg and finding it cold. He considers the iceberg: "Was this some poor, dying wastrel, or was it getting what the ice always wanted, turned back into liquid after thousands of years of being chained into a molecular solid, now freed drip by drip?" (p. 42).

The book is also chock full of scientific facts, all sorts of information I didn't know about deserts, about the history of the earth, about the planet. Fascinating!

Childs has been here before. He has led the kind of life that makes me both envious and anxious. He's the type of guy who sets out on foot, without the latest equipment, with just his knowledge and a walking stick to get him where he needs to go. I remember reading The Secret Knowledge of Water, which explores the idea of water in the desert.

The earth has been here before too. The planet has survived die-offs even greater than the Holocene Extinction we're experiencing now. Of course, that's little comfort when we consider all the species gone forever.

I wonder what kind of poems will come from reading Childs' latest book. After I read The Secret Knowledge of Water, I wrote the poem below, which was published in The Ledge.  In many ways, it's a love poem.  But if you read it with baptism on the brain, you'll come away with something different.  If you read it as you think about the desert fathers and mothers, maybe you'll get something yet again.  Or could it be John the Baptist talking to God/Jesus?  Or a more modern believer, talking to God?

Floods and Desert Canyons

My friends assume I’m dry
and barren. They do not know of my secret
spots, a cup of water here, a pool
collected there. An occasional visit
from you keeps me hydrated.

I boil away with my own dreams and ideas.
I blaze with words, my surfaces
too hot to touch. My pitiless gaze
burns as I survey my culture,
dream of new life forms.

You surge through my carefully constructed canyons.
In a matter of minutes, you change the landscape,
sweep away the detritus.
You carve me into intricate
forms, unconsidered before I met your force.

1 comment:

rbarenblat said...

I love the last stanza in particular. Powerful stuff.