One Candle

“Better to light one candle than curse the darkness.”

-Chinese proverb

Today is Climate Chronicle’s 1st birthday. It was on May 19 of 2010 that I published my first post.

Birthdays and anniversaries are good reminders to pause and take stock, to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re headed. Since my birthday and this blog’s birthday both fall in May – a time of new life in this part of the world – it’s the perfect time to review and reevaluate.

On the whole, it’s been a year of great personal growth for me. While researching and writing these posts I’ve come to know my part of the heartland, south central Wisconsin, much better than I would have otherwise. I’ve met lots of interesting, knowledgeable people and made several new friends.

Associations of the figurative variety have been plentiful, too. To a writer, associations are indispensible. We come across two or more seemingly unrelated ideas, hand them over to our muses, and if we’re lucky something new and interesting is born. What has surprised me over the last year, introvert that I sometimes am, is what I’ve learned about just how valuable associations of people are – not only to the movement to slow climate change but to the daunting task of survival that we now face on our rapidly warming planet. As sociologist, author and sometime Sauk County resident John L. McKnight has said, our associations are what make America unique among the nations of the world. Alexis de Tocqueville may have been the first to point this out, but it’s still true more than two centuries later. Associations are also what will make our lives worth living in the difficult days to come. We need one another more than ever.

Besides a desire to explore the local and personal ramifications of climate change, I started Climate Chronicle because I wished to draw closer to that sweet spot articulated so well by Frederick Buechner: the place “where the world’s deepest need and one’s own deepest gladness intersect.” I feel I have made considerable progress toward that goal in the past year, but it’s a journey most of us never really complete.

Of course I also hoped Climate Chronicle would make a difference. I hoped it would help temper, even a little, the fever we’ve given the planet. Otherwise why bother? The comments posted by readers to the forty-five posts I’ve published over the past year, and the many personal messages people have sent me, tell me that it is making a difference – at least to those who follow my musings. I am grateful for every one of those comments.

I’ve made my share of beginner mistakes, chief of which may have been overestimating how many posts I could write, and greatly underestimating the amount of time and energy each would require (just imbedding the links and uploading the photographs into a post I’ve written can take upwards of an hour). I’ve had to learn to accept that I just can’t post several times per week and expect to live a well-integrated life.

Speaking of integration, I’ve decided it’s time to rebalance the amount of time I spend reflecting and writing with the amount of time I devote to more direct action. It’s all of a piece, but spending a little less time blogging and a little more time communicating with local, state and national leaders will probably do more to slow climate change in the long run – and scoot me closer to that aforementioned sweet spot.

By nature or nurture or both, I ended up as one of those people who tend to think too much. At least I think so. So I’ve also resolved to be more like the clouds you see in the photographs accompanying each Climate Chronicle post, and less like the clocks I sometimes let rule my life (David Brooks makes a great case for cultivating cloud mind in his recent book, “The Social Animal”; I recommend it to you). I’m learning, slowly, to calm my mind and trust my intuition more. To worry less and live more. To slow down. My teenagers will get a laugh out of that last one; I suspect they already think I’m slower than a tortoise on quaaludes.

All this means I’ll be writing fewer but hopefully deeper, more meaningful and thought-provoking posts in the coming year. I remain more committed than ever to the idea that climate change is changing our hearts as well as the heartland – and the notion that this dynamic can run in reverse as well. Indeed, it must, because none of us will be very effective at slowing climate change without a change of heart.

As always, I cherish your comments and welcome your suggestions for making Climate Chronicle a better blog. And if you have any killer cloud pictures, send them my way and I’ll try to make sure they grace the pages of Climate Chronicle.

Thanks for your company.

Keep cool.