Apocalypse Now and Then

November 21, 2013  •  Leave a Comment


Fall is my favorite time of year.  The garden’s harvested with potatoes and pumpkins in the cold closet; stewed tomatoes, salsa, dilly beans, and pickled beets color up the pantry; and garlic, tucked into its gunny sack, sits in a back cupboard.  No stored onions or carrots this year as I planted them too late, but we made several stews and pots of onion soup to use up the large scallions and sweet, orange fingerlings before they turned to rot in the ground.  Next fall, I’d like to work with the La Sal store to make our garden surplus available to needy families, this year being our first bumper crop.

The shortening days and weather create more opportunities for cuddling up with a cup of tea next to the wood stove to read, contemplate, and prune old growth and decompose ways of thinking that no longer bear fruit.  Every so often, a good book surfaces and serves to cultivate some food for thought.

For months, I have benignly neglected Craig Child’s Apocalyptic Planet: A Field Guide to the Everending Earth (www.houseofrain.com/).  The word apocalypse often injects heavy doses of fear-mongering and judgmental fault-finding by those who embrace The Way into those who haven’t been saved in the root cellar for the coming winter.  I decided last week to set aside my personal prejudices opposed to That Word and dive into Child’s John McPhee style of writing.

Dive in.  That is exactly what the author asks the reader to do. Whether or not you’ve read his other thought-provoking romances, Child's curiosity and willingness to experience and share with us nature’s mercurial moods can best be described as a falling in love with and courting of planet earth.

With Apocalyptic Planet, he travels far away from his usual wandering in the desert Southwest, where he tracks the footprints of water, to the Tibetan Plateau for a first descent down a section of the Salween River at flood stage with his step-father.  Having rafted the Grand Canyon four times, I had to re-read sections depicting boats slamming into waves and skating the edge of large, sucking holes – the muscle memory of heightened adrenaline, anxiety, and awe-inspiring fear first turning me away from then rising and high-siding with his retelling reminding me of my own similar, yet less intense river runs.


Childs also treks to the edge of a red, slow-flowing volcano, Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, he flies into a remote ice research station along the west coast of Greenland, and he explores the edge of a glacier near the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. He also travels to the Sonoran Desert in Mexico and the Atacama Desert in Chile where no measurable precipitation has fallen for centuries.  His passionate interest in the physique of Mother Nature even sends him backpacking through a mono-cultured, GMO field of pesticide-polished corn in the middle of July and Iowa.

All of this traipsing and traversing is foreplay for Childs as he consummates personal story with scientific research and first-hand experience.  He shies away from any sort of everlasting human ending, even a Blakian Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  His dowry for the “end” of our human singularity is a historical and scientific perspective of cyclic ruin and renewal without Truths to ultimately define whether the tipping point of change will be cataclysmic or continual and to what degree, if any, humanity might continue as we know it or become worm food.

It’s time to turn the compost.  


By Deborah Hughes


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