I took some time to work on my calligraphy skills yesterday afternoon, writing out the opening verse of my Neo-Orphic Hymn to to Sun. It didn’t turn out as well as I wanted, but not as bad as I feared, either.
Today I saw Star Wars: the force awakens, as I did in 1977: a week or so late and seated between my parents. This is not the time for spoilers, or reviews, so I won’t. I’ll simply say that it felt like the torch being passed to a new generation. I deeply enjoyed the film, but I was struck by the previews: so many Space films coming, so many civil war films coming: choose sides, accept your destiny, fight or be destroyed. My father, who usually doesn’t notice things like this, remarked on it: UN vehicles driving through the desert in Independence Day: resurgence; helicopters and army men against Captain America, surviving in the ruins of the world in The Fifth Wave. (To be fair, there was also a cute bit about sloths.)
Not a hundred steps from my guest bedroom here at my mother’s condo is a narrow stretch of water over to an island; and beyond the island is the Gulf of Mexico. On all my previous trips to Florida, I’ve been alone swimming at the pool on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, because it’s 50-60 degrees locally, and the Floridians think it’s too cold. All the kids, the gay couple visiting the more -talkative one’s grandfather, the old ladies ignoring the vultures circling overhead, the painters with their plein-air easels and brushes, the lizards and the black crabs and the pelicans and the black snakes are all out enjoying the weather. So am I.
At the same time, John Michael Greer’s recent column about how rising waters are affecting western and southern Florida. Well. It’s set my danger senses tingling. I find myself thinking about sinkholes and floodwaters and the transformation of the land into shallow sea over the next hundred years… Or the next fifty… or the next twenty. Nothing like Christmastime to watch and read an ongoing climate horror story surrounded by the mangroves and the Gulf of Mexico just two miles west and eight steps down. Or to consider that the land I’m going home to had warmer temperatures on Christmas Day than I did in Florida, the warmest nativity feast that my state has ever recorded.
None of this is about tai chi, of course. But it’s on my mind today as I think about record temperatures, sunny days, and the balance of the dark and the light. Yesterday, a friend of the family took me on a boat ride down the Intracoastal Waterway to get gas at a pump station by an outlet to the Gulf of Mexico. He zoomed along through water labeled as manatee-swimming zones, waved to passing boaters doing the same. By radio, he commanded the opening of bridges, and with me and his other guests officiated over some hilarious talk of life in a European army in the 1950s and early 1960s, and his near-miss on serving in Vietnam during his emigration to the US.
After we fueled up, we zoomed out into the Gulf, and cruised along the beach for a while before returning up the ICW to base. Sunlight dappled the water where fishermen, barbequers, sailboarders, would-be surfers, thugs, drug-dealers and who knows what else enjoyed their warm day in the sun. All through the IntraCoastal Waterway, piles of silt called “spoils” from the work of the Army Corps of Engineers show where the mud has been dumped from channel-making to accommodate the passage of boats: some cargo, mostly showy pleasure craft that allegedly fish. It all seems like precious little to hang a rescue mission on, hundreds of miles across the Gulf to Alabama or Louisiana or northern Florida, in the event of major flooding.
But it won’t be major flooding, of course. The sea level will rise in increments, an Nichols here, a centimeter there. The high tides will be higher, the low tides will be less low. The moon’s pull will be exceptionally strong during this full moon, and the next, and the next… until at last the height of the tides won’t quite be attributable to the moon. Something else will be responsible. Something else will be to blame.
I imagine that my mother’s condo will be underwater, and not in the crash of 2008-sense of a house with more on the mortgage than it can be sold for. This year, next, in ten years, in twenty? I wonder how long the party will last, how long I will hear stories at Christmastime of riding parties in Rhineland woods with the army while drinking beer on the deck of a Florida party boat.
And so I do tai chi: between watching the force awaken, and a lat afternoon swim; between morning Druidry and an evening cocktail; between a morning slice of toast and jam, and an evening plate of leftovers from a celebration of the Light coming into the World.
The tai chi practice is… perfunctory? Simple? Basic? Ordinary? Normal, for me. It feels like it carries a complicated range of emotions around it today. My breathing is off. My spin and half spin don’t quite work on the carpet here. I work through the postures a little too fast. I’ve drunk more in the last few days than I usually drink in a few months. The surf hits the boardwalk outside. It is wake stirred up by a Ski-Doo. The sky is a brilliant blue. The sea is a gunmetal gray.
The change, for good or ill, is incremental to my perceptions. One day rarely makes much difference. In an hour or so, high tide will come when the moon rises.