“Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t feel the same,
that you’re not weary, too, of waging war in heaven’s name.“
I wish I could give you a link to that song, but it’s one of mine, and I haven’t recorded it. The last time I sang it in public was over a year ago. How the days go by.
So I have this new gig, and it’s exactly the sort of thing I love/hate: getting a project off the ground, developing goals, objectives, a strategy, not knowing what I’m doing, fumbling in the dark (too long), dealing with other people, merging our disparate desires and visions and ambitions and, yes, agendas.
The organization has been around for five or six years and it’s never had much structure or a sustaining revenue base. My task is to develop both. They call me Executive Director. I like the title, even if it comes with no salary and a fuzzy mission.
Yes, people say, it sounds lovely, but what is it you do?
I do this: I sway like a poplar in a spring storm, tipping from optimism to something not quite its opposite, something akin to futility. I lean into blog posts and newsletters to escape the weariness of moral outrage over all the awfulness in the world. I swear off Facebook, I stop reading Salon, I curse my porous soul.
Then I go outside and wander in the tiny woodland sanctuary that is my back yard, noticing the new growth, the robin’s nest built in the crook of the rain gutter, its young already fledged and off to live their feathery new bird lives.
I go back inside and try again.
Scratch a woman, find a rage. That’s what Marilyn French wrote, all those years ago, and I’m still raging, still wondering why the wars in heaven’s name get all the money and the messes are left for someone else — usually the women — to clean up.
At my new gig we work on local food issues. Access, infrastructure, supply, demand. We don’t have many organic farms in our area, so choosing local often means choosing conventionally raised products. (Poisoned butterflies, collapsed bee colonies.) It also means inefficient markets. (Higher costs, limited supplies.) And it means buying what’s in season. (No tomatoes in January, no asparagus in July.) That last one is a hard sell to people who are used to year-round abundance.
Sometimes I think the greatest force in the universe is not nuclear or electromagnetic or even gravitational, it’s habit. The force of habit. it takes a lot of energy to overcome it, a lot of fuel to propel change.
Outrage is certainly one sort of fuel. It burns hot, it stokes your engines. Outrage made public brings things to the attention of an otherwise indifferent world. I remember a slogan from my youth, something to the effect that if you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention. So I guess I’m paying attention.
I just need to remember that not all things worthy of my attention have to be the stuff of outrage. My new gig, for one. That song in need of recording, for another.
And for the sake of my stupid, porous soul, let’s include that empty nest where only weeks ago there were eggs, then baby birds, now just downy feathers and twigs and grass. At least there’s that, too.