Between Monday 1st and Friday 5th June 2020 — Week 7 of our Quarantine Connection — we posted contributions from Alan McFetridge, Cathy Fitzgerald, Jennifer Leach, Patricia Tavormina and Sally Moss. You can find the full, week-by-week listing at Quarantine Connection.
Day 35 — Sally Moss: All Possible Worlds
Sally Moss is a writer, editor, researcher and activist exploring the cultural shift required to live regeneratively and adapt well to the Anthropocene. She is based in Liverpool, England.
Sally says of this piece:
“In March, the US organisation Artists & Climate Change began asking readers around the world for their ‘Tiny Coronavirus Stories’: 100-word submissions detailing life during the COVID-19 pandemic. My own submission arose from my experience of lockdown as a pause, during which I had plenty of time to wonder whether the massive shake-up COVID-19 was enforcing would ultimately resolve into positive change.”
All Possible Worlds
All possible worlds have come a-courting…
Hell is visiting the dying or bereaved, tapping shoulders in medical wards and theatres of war. Despair is bedding in where abusers sleep, and in quarters missing houseroom or headspace.
Meanwhile, heaven swears blind we still have options – a chance of world-neighborliness, and a shot at jamming ecocide back in the box Pandora cracked open.
For now, I live a scaled-down life and give thanks, bonding and blending with the girl who read alone in her bedroom decades ago, trying to tell what she makes of it all.
Day 34 — Patricia Tavormina: The Arrival (an excerpt)
Patricia Tavormina is an educator and researcher networking with artists and scientists on climate change and currently writing climate fiction in an effort to make climate science more accessible. She is based in southern California, USA.
Patricia says of this piece:
“The Arrival is part of an upcoming short story anthology, one that will see contributions from around the world. The anthology has a single unifying theme: stories written during COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. Although my novel-length fiction focuses on climate change on the fictional world of Turaset, in the future I plan to write fiction focused on disease and epidemiology. Now seemed a good time to build a few characters and scribble some ‘pandemic ideas’ toward that goal.”
Bette sat forward in her saddle and urged her mount faster. A trilling wail—something small, perhaps a bird—sounded faintly from the distant scrub. The heath whipped by in faded grays and purples, while above, rough-edged storm clouds stretched from one side of the sky to the next.
“Hai,” she called, spurring the gelding. She hoped to make Harald’s place before the thin drizzle turned heavy. It wasn’t often she left her trading business to visit her man, but when she did, she raced to him and to the promise of full nights. “Hai!”
The horse pounded harder, trampling fescue and wort-weed.
When she arrived and into that night, Harald’s strong arms pulled her close. The metal tang from his forge lingered on his skin, and now her skin. With the sounds of pleasure filling their ears, Bette was again whole and happy.
After, with a wild-man gleam in his eyes, he pushed up two-armed above her. “It’s a fine day when you turn up.”
Bette wriggled deeper into the blankets and pushed her hair back toward the braid it had escaped. The bed was warm, no denying, and she brimmed. Words weren’t needed, not with Harald.
“How’s it doing you’ve time to visit?”
He lived in Cross Flats, a burg of twenty, maybe fewer. It was a good place to get a horse shod, and a good place to rest, before hauling the cart to the prairie towns with her trading partner Mona. Trading kept them fed, but any fool could do it. Trading roots and herbs? That didn’t make Bette special. But Harald, he was another matter. From the first time they’d met, he completed her. Through his lingering looks and gentle words, Harald made Bette feel wanted.
She breathed in the sweaty man-scent of him, filled her lungs with it. “For you, Harald, I make time.”
He chuckled and ran his finger between her small breasts and down to her stomach. “More than time, dearie. You make happiness itself, my dark and mysterious Bette.”
Harald was the only one who said such things. She held quiet with a smile playing on her lips. She twined her fingers into his shaggy mane. “In truth, it’s the sickness that made time. Mona’s waiting it out in Springville. We’ve roots and spices and no one to trade with. Not many, it’s slow. Soon they’ll feel better.”
People fell sick every year. This year was a bit worse. Some believed rats carried the malady, but Mona said otherwise. Mona said the sickness was a curse from digestive spirits turned evil.
Now Harald’s tongue trailed along Bette’s body. She sighed in pleasure, and he mumbled from somewhere below, “Boss lady eased up, did she?”
“Mona and me, we’re partners. We share it all even.” Bette pushed him off, rolled out and got up. She went to the window and threw the shutters wide. There was an odor in the house, nothing too bothersome, just a slight hint of something from Harald’s clothes on the floor. Night air would help. Outside, a small creature rustled near the barn. She turned back to the bed. “You get a week, love. Then I’m off with Mona to the prairie towns.”
In the flickering candlelight of his little bedroom, Harald’s smile was dear. It was a soft thing, half-formed, falling down the side of his face like he tried to keep his happiness inside, but some spilled out anyway. It warmed her, that he gave so much of himself and took her visits on her terms, not his.
He came to her and wrapped a quilt around her bare shoulders. “I’ll take the week.”
The odor grew stronger in Harald’s hut, and now, with the smell of forge smoke washed off, she knew it came from him. The smell seeped from his pores. By the third day a rash had started across Harald’s cheeks. Bette put a soup on the fire. “Keep covered. Here. Eat.”
He grumbled and waved at the window, at the bright light streaming in. She pulled the shutters and kept her breathing shallow. “You’re shaking,” she said, pulling his quilt up. She was too, but her trembling came from fear. Harald couldn’t be sick. She crawled next to him. “Rest on me. You mustn’t fall from this. Harald, do you hear me?”
Bette was certain she wouldn’t take sick. She and Mona had travelled wide, through towns rife with pox, yet stayed hale. They’d taken herbs to appease the digestive spirits.
The house grew fetid, and Bette took to sleeping apart from Harald. His breathing came as a pitiful, rattling sound. Her voice choked as she spooned gruel to his lips. “You mustn’tdie. Who would insult the horses? Come, Harald. Eat.”
On the seventh day she woke past daybreak to a hut too quiet. Dread overtook her, a sinking weight cold and gray. It filled her with gripping nothingness. She pushed out from under the blankets on the cook-room floor and stole to the bedroom.
She watched from the doorway, waiting for Harald’s chest to rise. A howling wind whipped through her mind, and a cry tore forth from the gale of her formless thoughts. “No! You gave me my strength! No, Harald, no! You mustn’t—you haven’t—I need you! Why did I never tell you?”
His chest did not rise. No sound, no cough, no rattle. She rushed to him and shook his shoulders. She waited for the smallest sign, a gurgle, a burp.
Harald was cold.
Bette fell to the ground, moaning and wracked. “I loved you. How could you die?” She grabbed at his quilt and ripped her nails along it.
It was a harrowing day of keening disbelief before Bette dragged herself out of the hut to rifle through Harald’s smithy. He had a pick and a shovel among his other tools. He’d inscribed his initials into both, and as she wrapped her hands on the hafts, she felt his hands, warm and firm around her own.
The first pitch into the soil was the hardest and she cried out again and crumpled to the ground. There, the baying wind called her weak. The sky spit upon her. Bette sat in the mud, her shawl falling and her hair straggling.
She pushed up at last, in rain now heavy, and stabbed the ground again. Each strike, there by the barn on Harald’s land; each shovelful stood in strange testament to the place he’d wrought, the life he’d built, the fullness he’d given her. She dug deeper, but a proper grave was impossible. And so, when her shoulders ached and her skirt had grown filthy, when her shawl had long been discarded and lost, the beginnings of a burial site lay before her. It would have to do.
Bette stumbled back into the hut. The smell, a sickly gluey scent, pushed against her. She lugged the sheet, upon which Harald’s body lay, toward the barn. She broke further as the one human being who had completed her fell into a hole in the ground.
After the final shovelful of soil went back onto his body, she slumped into the hut. Coughing, Bette heated a bowl of soup.
Day 33 — Cathy Fitzgerald: Haumea Online Pilot Ecoliteracy Course for Creatives and Art Professionals
Cathy Fitzgerald is an artist and researcher exploring eco-social wellbeing by bringing art and non-art practices together in creative practice and offering ecoliteracy learning for the arts. She is based in County Carlow, Ireland.
Cathy says of this piece:
“In a strange stroke of timing, I was preparing to launch the Haumea Online 6 week comprehensive course on ‘Essential Ecoliteracy for Creatives and Art Professionals’ (I have been working to develop this over the last year). The places filled quickly for the first course and word of mouth has meant the places for my second pilot course, just started, are currently filled but I intend to support others with more courses as I am enjoying this work and format so much. In addition to the online lessons in the course, I host a weekly Zoom group meeting — this coming together, to discuss how we are faring in these challenging times, how the times connect to the urgency of gaining a foundation in ecoliteracy, have been so rewarding, nourishing even.”
Haumea Online: 2nd Pilot Ecoliteracy Course for Creatives and Art Professionals – booked out
“This is the time for a Great Reset. Let’s use it to change the way we see ourselves and our place on Earth. The conservationist Aldo Leopold once wrote that ‘one of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen.’ But if everyone has an ecological education, we will not live alone, and it will not be a world of wounds.”
— George Monbiot, Coronavirus shows us it’s time to rethink everything. Let’s start with education, The Guardian, 12/5/20
I was thinking that I would be writing this post to attract more participants to signup for my 2nd 6-week Haumea Online pilot course ‘Essential Ecoliteracy for Creatives and Art Professionals’. I am trying to make an accessible and inspiring online course on key ecological knowledge, eco-philosophy, eco-ethics for people working across the creative sector.
Instead, before I knew it, the 2nd pilot has been booked-out from people on my waiting-list in just a couple of days. I’m delighted of course, but I do wonder if creatives, like George Monbiot, are sensing that eco-learning is an important and urgent topic that is not been adequately addressed in the arts.
It is still a pilot course. I’m learning a lot about how to best develop a great self-paced and collective learning experience. I started with multi-media pre-recorded videos for self-paced learning in each week’s module on what I think are essential topics to prepare creatives to work in this area. This meant filming myself delivering the material – my broadband is a bit limited due to the pressure on the local Internet – so my voice was a bit out of sync, but the participants were enthusiastic nevertheless.
The online course weekly group meetings were a bit nerve-wracking at first (not helped with our young dog who heard one of the other participant’s dogs barking on Zoom). But over the weeks, I began to really cherish these group sharing times; and the group felt it too.
My co-host for the live meetings, an experienced educator and philosopher Dr Nikos Patedakis (beaming in from California), helped enormously and we offered an extra half hour to those who wanted to go deeper with the material. Getting used to recording Zoom sessions I found myself naturally reaching out to experienced ecoart workers for interviews too. I’m pretty introverted, so I was staggered that I found I was connecting with my peers in this way. It was all, despite some technical hiccups, so rewarding.
I will be repeating this ‘Essential Ecoliteracy course’ again in September, so please contact me if you want to be put on the waiting list.
Nikos and I are also preparing a complementary new course, working title ‘Creativity as a Practice of Love’ too. Over some weeks, this course will explore why philosophy has much to guide creative practice in these urgent times and we will be hosting online audience critique exercises.
I haven’t managed all this on my own; my husband Martin has been a real trouper, managing the tech-side of the Zoom meetings and our wilful young dog Willow; Nikos is mentoring me with all manner of eco-minded philosophy and teaching ideas, and I have the best art-tech business strategist, Mary Carty guiding me as well. Art researcher Dr Laura Donkers is reviewing this pilot course at a distance in Aotearoa New Zealand – her insights I really value. Leading Irish online eco-print textile artist and teacher, Nicola Brown, has also been so enthusiastic for many years that I explore sharing my knowledge in this new way. And the generous feedback from my first participants was so valuable too. Thanks everyone!
I also want to thank my long-standing PhD supervisor, my MA tutor in virtual realities and under-grad tutor in aesthetics, Dr Paul O’Brien (formerly of the National College of Art & Design in Dublin) who really supported this online learning idea way back in 2016 when I submitted my PhD. He agreed, there did seem potential to use online learning to get ecoliteracy out quickly to the art and creative sectors. I’m so glad I’ve followed this through and I must give a special mention to the magnificent Prof Tara Brabazon in Australia, who inspires all things for advances in doctoral and digital education. “Boom! Lets do this!” is what she says! Yes, the Haumea Online Ecoversity is here at last!
You can read Cathy’s original blog post in full — including a summary of the 6-week course and a short extract from her PhD thesis — on her Haumea website, with a link to the course site and feedback from the first pilot participants. Cathy mentions that Dr Laura Donkers has been reviewing her online course; Laura is also a ClimateCultures member, and you can read her posts on her own eco-social practice and research via her profile. And you can find out more about Cathy’s other work, for example with the Hollywood Forest Story, via her ClimateCultures profile.
Day 32 — Alan McFetridge: On The Line
Alan McFetridge is a photographer exploring forced migration and where will we go, as a species, when we can no longer inhabit lands we have since our beginnings. He is based in London, England.
Alan says of this piece:
“My offering for Quarantine Connection is On The Line. I’m broaching the inherent contradiction of participating, by proxy or otherwise, in what we know or don’t know but might be harmful to others. To do this I’m primarily working with Landscape Photography and Art History to see how human attitudes shape it. My motivation is developing a better understanding of natural law, protecting ecosystems, consuming less and promoting genuine happiness. Being at peace with oneself, others and the rest of nature.
“No wonder we constantly talk about the weather. It must be one of the oldest known systems in the Universe that we have pleasure or displeasure of experiencing each and every moment of our life. Imagine the Earth System’s capacity for stability next time you notice the rain falling, knowing that its touch, sight and sound was very similar 500 million years ago, or longer? The Earth and the Universe’s intricate method of interconnectivity has created a landscape here under natural laws which we may never fully understand, yet are immersed and placed within as being part of that system.
“Given the possibility that laws of nature such as balance or interconnectivity exist, periods of colonisation and successive industrialization have created a distinct dialectical landscape for the 21st century to address without delay. Experiencing the rise of instability in Earth Systems is a waking nightmare, slowly unveiling a dangerous manifestation of the human ego as the cause. It’s hard to imagine a society that turns a blind eye to wanton poisoning of others, themselves, the air, ground, water? How does this conform to natural law? It is indeed puzzling and deeply ingrained that an analogy could be in Stockholm Syndrome.
“My pictures reflect this contradiction. Landscapes in opposition to natural law, in the hope that I might find something we missed long ago, that can rekindle the world into one harmonious system.”
On The Line
Framed limited edition prints Title: On The Line, 2016. Edition number of 6 + 1 AP Print Dimension: 572mm x 458mm. Frame Dimension: 600mm x 490mm. Print Materials: Giclee print on archival paper. Frame: Boxed with siberian larch finished by open fire shou sugi ban treatment and tung oil. Set of 9: 1830mm x 1500mm
On The Line is available at the Whitechapel Gallery and The Photographer’s Gallery Bookshop — once they open again — and online. Alternatively, a studio visit is a great way to see the full scope. You can explore more of Alan’s work at his website and via his ClimateCultures profile.
Day 31 — Jennifer Leach: We Are Stardust
Jennifer Leach is an artist, theatremaker and director of Outrider Anthems, who sees creativity as a powerful means of opening ourselves to vistas and energies beyond our limited vision. She is based in Reading, England.
We are Stardust
Crack! A naked ember forged
In the violent silence of nuclear fall,
A furnace fireball in furor birthed –
A fragment of star.
They say that you and I too are stardust
So dance, if you wish, upon a rainbow
And wish, if you wish,
Upon the dead light of a long-gone star.
Stardust is not pretty.
This is not who we are.
The Norse knew. The Romans too. The Hindus.
Kali’s black tongue was smithed for love and gore,
Thor’s hammer was forged in fission’s core,
Jésus and Vulcan heat-honed in smoke –
Real gods for a stardust people,
Gods who fused and shattered,
Bellowed and broke.
And this, flashback shades, is who we are –
Cataclysmic, catastrophic, glorious, aflame,
Conceived in fusion, unashamed. So be it.
We are equilibrium wild with fight,
Bubbles shafting swifter than speed of light.
Our particles are memory – lest we forget.
So fire up the dragons and shake out the snakes,
Dance upon the fireball and the shockwave waves,
Lick long-forgotten vulva with roughened tongue;
Let ourselves not be over before we have begun.
Ye gods – to live like stardust! This is who we are.