I wanted to write a sequel to my Ars Necrotica for Earth Day. In truth, I did not know this gray, drizzly day was Earth Day until I opened my computer. I do not know what to write except my eyes will not focus and my head feels fuzzy. I feel foggy and don’t know what to say.
How about this: Today’s earth makes my ears crawl. Worms fall out. It is Earth Day 2020 and I wish that the earth was as healthy as my mulchy ear.
Over the past few weeks, as my husband and I walk around the neighborhood in an effort to exercise during quarantine, we’ve noticed how quiet the streets seem. There is a stillness in the air that I identified as eerie but that my husband said sounded wild. We grew up in very different locales, and since I have lived in a large American metropolis my whole life, I think the silence we’re hearing — ostensibly the absence of the cars and traffic that have been the far-out soundtrack to my entire existence— and my reaction to it, is a product of removal. My husband hears the birds and the sunshine and the gentle growling of the wind through the trees as normal, while I hear it as a threat. This is what the Anthropocene has done to my perception of nature; it has been made unrecognizable.
In no way do I want to write a pastoral. I am not terribly interested in nature in that way, though my earlier work in Ars Necrotica may signal otherwise. Prettiness doesn’t rile me, but my reaction to the silence of my neighborhood does, much in the same way that I investigated human art-making during an ecological apocalypse— I am more drawn to a prettiness that is disturbing which I believe is as good a definition of the uncanny as any. Making art while dying is uncanny, and so is the silence that has fallen over the world as human beings (for all intents and purposes) have been removed from Earth’s surface. I want to love the chatter of birds and the groaning of plants, but I don’t know if I can. Please understand, I am not mourning for humans specifically. But my setting for normal is very human-centric.
I can, however, appreciate animals pressing into human spaces. There is a wonderful video of a lone kangaroo roaming the empty sidewalks and roads of my husband’s hometown of Adelaide, South Australia, followed only by the peeping eyes of CCTV cameras. I loved it immediately, especially for its closeness to my own life. I loved watching the CCTV watch, the invasiveness turned techno-LADY-OF-SHALOTT. I will peer through a mirror through a mirror through a mirror until nature looks normal. I love imagining walking to my old university, where I attended for a short time, holding hands with the kangaroo.
More uncanny: Piper J. Daniels tweeted yesterday (see above) about spotting a beautiful image of nature on a similar city block, only to have the image viscerally destroyed. Coyotes and deer unabashedly doing the business of coyotes and deer in front of our homes and shops and businesses rather than hidden in shrubs and woods and secreted parks riles me in an unknown way. It shakes my bones. The violence, which some may argue as innocuous and “natural,” makes me feel as if I do not truly know the world. The violence is a jewel. I am not a believer in the idea that without humans, the Earth will heal itself. If this were true, gentle deer wouldn’t be torn to horrible pieces while we sit on the couch and watch Netflix. The deer wouldn’t be able to scream.
The uncanny moves me. I love pond slime and pustules and animal musk. I love crushed flowers. I love the wilting flowers in my neighbor’s window, and my fruitless attempt to photograph them from a distance. What does this all have to do with Earth Day? I don’t know. The air is clearer from a decrease in pollution, but radioactivity still has a half-life of 10,000 years. Humans are dying from a disease contracted from other animals and I am so sad. The Earth doesn’t care about us, it doesn’t care if we clean the planet or not; it doesn’t know we exist. We barely know we exist.
Botulism is botulism is botox in a little vial. Happy Earth Day! Write your fucking poems, make art; I don’t know what else to do.