Saturday, March 19, 2011

You may not believe, but even we were scared at first...

Warning: there will be no pretty pictures attached to this post.

As you may have gathered from the last few posts, our family has been pulled at by many negative forces lately. No amount of positive thinking seems to shake these things off, to the point where it sometimes feels like there's some grander, cosmic force at work, compounding mishap to mishap.

Last Saturday morning however, those things were put into the right perspective in one fell swoop by the magnitude of the natural and manmade disasters who's powers have (literally) been shaking the very foundations of the earth. The aftershocks of Japan's earthquake still continue to ripple through all of us, whether physically, or emotionally. In a globalized world, everything instantly touches everyone. From Calcutta to Austin, Paris to Tuvalu, we are now all connected for better, but more often, it seems, worse.

One too many civil wars and draughts battering you day to day, between commercials about insulin pens and shows about unnaturally attractive people's relationship woes, and they might just begin to seem very distant. As a friend once pointed out: "most of the time, you can only care for the 100 people physically closest to you. Everyone else is always a little bit abstract."
Sometimes we literally have to shaken out of our complacency in the face of tragedy.

The cataclysmic event and in Japan, is just the kind of super-disaster that can often draw more of our emotional attention than the ongoing unrest in the Middle-East, the continued unraveling of East African nations, the plight of homeowners facing evictions, the racist policies of EU-countries that single out certain ethnicities as second class citizens, or heck, the exact same thing happening here in the US.

Not only is the tragedy unfolding in Japan, dramatic and urgent, but it's also easily relatable because they are a technologically advanced Westernized nation, just like the rest of us here in the hyper-connected developed countries. When a massive tsunami hit Indonesia and Thailand on December 26th 2004, at least part of the massive media attention awarded to it had to do with the number of Western tourists there at the time. It also garnered a record amount of international aid and donations from private people. There was a collective sense of effort: we could fix this. For once, there was something we could do.

As the days dragged on in the last week, our alarm for the people in Japan, whole towns erased from the face of the earth, loved ones gone forever, homes ripped apart and now facing an ever increasing threat of a nuclear disaster seems to have turned into a concern for our selves, especially here Western coast of the US.

We are no longer as concerned for the lives of the people dealing with the immediate fallout, who have no place to go, who's food systems are now beginning to get effected, or the heroic men and women who are putting their lives on the line to try cool the exposed fuel rods in the heart of the Fukushima reactor, the short and longterm effects of radiation on ecosystems, many of which are connected to us through the complex biological network that is the Pacific Ocean.

Suddenly we are all hoarding iodine tablets and sharing survival tips, lest the radiation reach us in the next few days, carried by the unpredictable winds. The world seems more fragile now, dangerous the way it used to during the cold war, the way it did for many in the the days after 9/11, like it could all just vanish while we're looking out the window.

What is the point, we seem to wonder now. What is the point of birthday parties? Of planting a garden? What is the point of making a meal? The point of watching the deer? Of driving to work? What is the point of fixing a broken ladle? Hanging the laundry? What is the point of blogging?

There actually seems to have been a small exodus from blogland in the last week. We are holding a little tighter onto our loved ones, shutting off our TVs and computer screens. Some have found themselves speechless in the face of this disaster. Some state briefly that it seems strange to blog when the world has been turning upside down, but that good, positive things must still be shared. Others have gone on as though nothing is the matter. A reader in Japan commented (So many good thoughts to you, Brenda.) on my last post that many of her favorite blogs have completely ignored the whole matter, as though the real world doesn't carry over to this electric fantasy-land we spend some time in.

Perhaps it doesn't.

Having always believed that blogging like anything else we do must come from a sincere place in our selves, I felt strange about going on with my garden, rowboat, herbal remedies and recipes and vintage dresses, my wood-carving husband, my crazy cat, my books, movies, moon parties, wild women...

It seemed like the destruction in Japan, the sudden sense of apocalyptic ennui, the hysteria surrounding me with it's iodine-scented conversation, was the final straw. For a few weeks since we returned from California I've been contemplating quitting blogging all together. One of the many negative forces currently engulfing my life has been in this circle that has always been a refuge, a supportive place of positive woman energy. There is insecurity and competitiveness (not mine) where sheer joy should be. Perhaps, I thought, this is a sign that it's time to move on. I closed the computer. I followed the news. I tried to work through the problems tangible in front of me, one by one.

Then, two days ago, on the ferry, trying to recover from another personal blow, I looked out the window at the spring green islands stretching on, it seemed, towards a snow-capped mountain in the distance. I thought of my mother, who one spring morning when I was seven, closed all the windows and forbade me from going out for days.

The town I grew up in lies about 750 miles from the site of the worst nuclear disaster in our history and the prevailing weather patterns dumped a lot of the fallout less than 50 miles south of where we lived. My mother was very educated about the potential effects of such an emergency and we had the iodine tablets to prove it. It was a beautiful, unusually warm week. Everyone was out playing in the sunshine. My mother kept the radio on, waiting for something, a government emergency signal, the health administrations orders to take the iodine, a declaration of a state of emergency, but nothing came. Eventually we emerged, blinking into the sunshine.

Later they discovered that most of the airborne radiation had gone into mushrooms and lichens and trees, not affecting us quite us directly as my mother had feared, but rather infiltrating the whole foundation upon which our lives are built.

I sat there on the ferry and thought about my mother and her fear, her need and will to protect me. I thought about what we can do in the face of our fear for the fragility of the world.

We can go outside into the sun. We can live. We can plant gardens. We can hold our loved ones tightly. We can reach others across the world through our strange digital means. We can remember the dead and pray for the living. We can protest the powers that be. We can sign petitions. We can conserve electricity. We can leave negativity for those that cling to it. We can try to be happy. We can try be honest. We can try to be our best selves. We can not be afraid. We can dance under the brightest moon.

"We're only human, this at least we've learned."


  1. I so love this post, I agree with everything you wrote. It really hit home <3 much love

  2. thank-you, you wise warrior woman.

  3. I think your conclusion here is right on the mark.
    As for blogging in difficult times, myself, I'm very glad that you keep on with it... and you probably didn't even know I was reading! I do think that sending out good things, thoughtful things makes a difference, is important.

    Personally, I have not mentioned the tragedy in Japan in my blog, though I used to live there and still have many people I care for living there. I am, of course, worrying and hoping and praying for them, keeping contact with them and so on. I certainly mean no disrespect or negligence by not mentioning it online, and it is not a question of forgetting or not caring. However, I also am not blogging about any other tragic events happening in the world. And I don't tend to blog about personal tragedies in my own small world either. It's not a desire to make some imaginary world of cotton candy, just that a blog is only one aspect, one channel, and I don't feel the need to express myself on these topics in this particular outlet. Not that there would be anything wrong with anyone who did, of course!
    I thought your post was very thought provoking, actually.

  4. Beautiful. It is a strange time indeed to be planning little trips, taking walks, selling books, going out under the moon to make footprints in the freshly fallen snow, cuddling with my man and my cats, watching movies and playing with friends and starting little seedlings for my summer garden. I think I am blessed/cursed with a shield of optimism (darin sometimes calls it blind optimism) that allows me to be in my own little world. i think it also allows me to read very dark things and to not have nightmares (my boss at the bookstore cannot comprehend why i like the books i like) and to continue to be happy internally even in a falling apart world. i don't know why i'm like that, but so it seems. and i hope i never come across as callous to the world's woes. as bonny billy so eloquently sings, i (do indeed) see a darkness and sometimes i grapple with finding a way to express that. but in the end like you conclude here, all i feel like i can do is try to live sweetly and to spread love. your friend that talked about caring for the 100 people closest to you makes sense to me. i can think and care about the huge struggling world, and i can send a little money or a meditation or some bit of hopeful magic like a prayer. but ultimately i hope and trust that people are loving other people all over the world and that they will save each other. maybe this is why i dream all the time about saving my own family and friends (and cats) in an apocalypic time. anyway, enough babbling...sister i send you love and i thank you for your kind energy and for the sharing of your radiant thoughts.

  5. Wonderful post, Milla, and very thought-provoking.

    I haven't written about Japan in my blog, and to be honest, I haven't even considered it. I didn't blog about Haiti last year either (was it last year? we forget so quickly!), or any other disaster for that matter. For whatever reason I feel like my blog is not the right place. Like jodi said in her comment, blogging is just one channel, and there are certain things that I feel are suitable for it. Gardening and kitties belong, universal sadness doesn't. But that's just me, and it doesn't mean that money hasn't been donated or time spent worrying and feeling sick to my stomach about everything that is wrong in the world.

    Naturally, it is difficult to find meaning in our ordinary lives when others have lost theirs. I used to be overwhelmed by "maailmansuru", especially in my teens. I found my old diaries a while back, and the sheer amount of newspaper clippings on the war in Chechnya or the genocide in Rwanda was staggering. And as crucial it is that I remember all that was (or is) unjust, tragic and wrong, it felt also necessary to see a dried flower, a stub of a concert ticket, or an old movie review between the pages of my diary. At the end of the day that's the stuff that keeps us going when we feel lost and defeated.

    I send virtual hugs your way. Things will look brighter, they will.

  6. sometimes keeping on like nothing is the matter is all we've got, you know? i have a pretty intense anxiety disorder and will slip into panic attacks where i can't breathe, or think straight if i dwell on things for too long. for my children's sake, i gotta just keep calm and carry on. everyone processes things differently, and i doubt that people not blogging about japan, or continuing to blog during this sad time has much to do with whether or not they care or don't care.
    anyways, i still haven't sent your package because i pretty much suck. my kids got sick the day i said i was going to send it, and i just tried to go to the post office to send it but i lost my wallet. soooooo...i have it, and will be sending it as soon as i locate my wallet. gah! so annoying. sorry for the delay! hope things look up for you, and please don't stop blogging!!

  7. I have barely been here in blogger land this last week; I've been busy holding the real world closer...and my reasons include both Christchurch and Japan earthquakes...and my own bewilderment at the very human events that are happening right now. Libya! Missiles! When I'm feeling sad, I prefer aloneness and to quell my fidgetness I make stuff - therefore I've been less present here. I really appreciate your heartspoken words, and honesty in this post. Japan! oh! Japan!, cannot be spoken without intense sadness. One of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog is that you write with a tremendous amount of honesty, and you do frame these thoughts with such eloquent sentences. Whether your posts are sad and heartfelt like this one, or more happy and prettified like an outfit post....I never feel lied to, I never doubt your intentions, and I always feel better for having been here. Milla, I sincerely hope you keep blogging, but I understand if it becomes too much...and email me if you'd like to chat, I'd also love to post you something. t(underscore)steadnz(at)yahoo(dot)
    much love and care

  8. Thank you for writing this. I'm a regular reader with roots in WA but living in Taiwan. I have also gone through some of the thought processes you outlined here in your post, wanting to give up the beautiful in life because life seems so close to being over. I'm glad you are choosing to LIVE while you have life in you. That's what I finally decided to do, despite fears of fallout blowing over to Taiwan as well. Keep posting! You have a unique voice that inspires me!

  9. thanks for this post. i love your blog. i hope you keep writing here.

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  11. Ugh, blogger ate my comment the first time, so let's try this again...

    It’s raining buckets here right now and has been all day. It’s even too stormy out to catch a glimpse of the “super moon”. There are also high wind alerts in effect for our area through tonight, like the kind that could cause damage. Just this morning I heard about a freak tornado that touched down briefly yesterday here in Santa Rosa, not all that far from where we live actually, and tore the roof off a storage building, spreading debri onto neighboring properties. Luckily, no one was harmed, but whaaa??? We don’t get tornadoes here?!?!?! What is going on?

    At one point today I was actually staring out the window into our flooded backyard thinking, just as you described here, that our world is somehow feeling fragile, in fact it was that exact word that came to mind.

    So, I get what you’re saying, all of it, and you’re right, what else can we do but try to live the best we can and be the best we can be and maintain a sense of genuine compassion for our earth and those with whom we share it, both human and non-human. I feel like your previous post was actually a pretty lovely example of just that :)

    Well, just know that I’m thinking of you with a warm heart Millakin, and keep on shining your beautiful light on us… LOVE YOU.

  12. great post. I have been struggling with the same thoughts as you.I also really love everyones follow up comment.
    We just gotta love, learn and live everyday. Cuz, thats all we got! :)

  13. I am always very touched by your writing. I think your perspective is something worth sharing and why I enjoy reading your blog so much. It's real. There is room for that in the blog world. I spent the full moon and equinox in a planetarium last night and am glad I did. When you think of our earth, our galaxy, and so many others floating on an expanding soap bubble, it points to the fragility but also the intense beauty and wonder. Sometimes writing feels like that too. Keep writing if you can...

  14. Crap, you made me cry. That was beautiful.

  15. Crap, you made me cry. That was beautiful.

  16. As usual my dear, you put into words what I could not. Thank you. I feel you. I love you.

  17. agree with all thoughts here...<3

  18. Such a well written post, you have a very kind heart, I love reading your blog because it's so diverse in topics, it's like having a conversation with a genuine well rounded intelligent friend. :)

  19. Thanks Milla :) We (or at least I) needed some of your words and strong message today. I was crying by the time I got to your last paragraph... it's a very emotionally trying time for the planet, not to mention the people of Japan. I know the issues that were swirling prior that got me so damn angry (politically) were morphed by this much greater disaster and much was put into perspective. Its hard not to have a heavy heart and feel despondent in the wake of so much torment. It's nice to have you and your blog wisdom to look for on dark days. Thanks :)

  20. Milla, quite simply: thank you. I have been struggling with how to process all of this, how to express myself, how to try to help, and how to somehow reconcile "blog life" from "real" life. It has been a big disappointment to see the lack of reality surfacing in some of my favorite blogs. Such a strange mixture of emotions; sorrow, anger helplessness... Thank you, thank you for writing this.

  21. sometimes i think that i am a good writer, but other times--the most important ones, in fact--i do not. i recently found myself at a loss for words in describing the pleasure it was to meet a certain group of folks, and now i find myself floundering for the right way to adequately express the sadness, fear, anger i feel at the events in japan (so perhaps the worst things cannot be told, too?). thank you for articulating what i cannot.
    warm snug hugs to you. xo

  22. I've recently found your blog and thank you for this post, you write your thoughts very eloquently, with such raw emotion. I have not addressed the tragedy in Japan, part of me fears I will not know how to present it, and then I think my blog is all about escapism, as even though personal diffculties come my way, I'll still try to blog as if I were fine, whole and happy. I do hope all works out for you - though I am a stranger, I am thinking positively for you. The bit about your mother was lovely to read.

  23. Milla,
    In the short time I've been "connected" to you, your thoughts and sentiments shared here, I've been deeply moved. You are very obviously a bold, brave gal with a genuine compassion for life on every level. Your honesty transfers so seamlessly here on blogland- something not all of us can manage with such natural ease. It is what I love most about keeping up with your blog. I read this post a few days back and it sat with me over the weekend. Weighing heavy on my heart. You are the first person I know to point out how the coverage on our end immediately shifted to "well how does this affect US?" - I noticed this too and was disgusted by it. Some channels I tuned into in days after the quake directed entire segments at how difficult it is to cover these types of disasters (interviewing journalist and such) in the darkest hours of these people's lives. I couldn't believe it. I was relived to see others noticed and felt the same frustration as me.

    As for devoting posts in blogs - I think it's tough. I have yet to fully embrace this whole community simply because it does seem so fantasy like - like only the coolest, most polished slices of life we choose to reveal. You are different. Thank for that.

  24. What a wonderful, deep, honest post. It brought me to tears.

    It's all so strange, so horribly "unreal" that I have to do an effort to realize that it's actually happening. I was watching the news a few days ago and the only thing I could think about was the movie Armageddon (silly, I know), and how suddenly the end of life as we know it was something we can touch.

    I've been trying to keep those tragic thoughts away and change the point of view to something still realistic but more... positive? productive? I don't know, but your words brought me some kind of relief. Thank you.

    (Sorry if my english isn't perfect! ;))

  25. Dear Milla!
    I am a witch sister over here in the woods of new england, with long roots in california. thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable and post your fears and tears and words.
    I am sending you a little link to my blog which has recipes and remedies for radiation and for these tough times.
    i hope it is medicine to your heart.
    Dori Midnight