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Ducey

Dear Doug Ducey,

In an essay called Microapocalypse, I write that I only have one friend, Steve, who thinks we will survive the apocalypse. I stockpile jarred tomatoes. He stockpiles guns. Between Steve and I, we make a long list of things we will need. Here’s a list of some of them: We will need to partner with the otters to learn how to stay warm in the winter. We will need not only jarred tomatoes but lemon curd. We will need apple pie. We will need to learn to make béchamel with milk from our friend, the goat. We will need someone who knows how to make guitars and someone who knows how to play one. In the end, we will need a lot of things but I think it’s going to be OK because, these days, Mason jars are plentiful and everyone I know is named Steve.

It has, however, increasingly become the year of the David. David who wrote an abecedarian book of essays with me, A is for Albatross, A is for Atmosphere, A is for Attention, for which I should be paying attention to revisions instead of writing about people named David. I spent the weekend with another David making a film with my husband. We asked our interviewees, what do you believe? How do you know what you believe? Some people figure out their beliefs in specific relief against those of their siblings or their parents. Some of us say, we don’t believe in anything—we’re beyond the ability to believe. We don’t believe in ghosts or gods or facts unless we experience them firsthand and even then, we recognize we’ve been culturally morphed to believe certain strains of thought. We’ve been conditioned to see the things the world has taught us to see. We don’t see ghosts unless we have the capacity in our minds to see ghosts. We don’t see string theory or other dimensions because our minds can’t wrap themselves around it. The only data we can record is the data we ask ourselves to record. This is why we’re at this difficult crux of a time. Between what we see and what we want to see—well, it’s hard to imagine. And so, bad information falls into that open space, like the supposed need to protect ourselves from people migrating to our country. There is little evidence of incoming danger and yet we sit in our houses and schools, in our relative safety, feeling like the whole thing could collapse any moment.

My single biggest fear is that our human brain is big enough to imagine disaster but not quite big enough to prevent it. The ice sheets calve new icebergs that flow into a warming sea. The sea melts the ice. The ice, now blue, absorbs instead of reflects even more light. At the conference of which both the Davids attended, the writer Gretel Ehrlich spoke about what to do about global warming. Her PowerPoint presentation slid ever-bluing oceans across the screen where once ice white had been. If you want to panic, watch the color blue turn to something like total darkness. But the Davids. They despair by making books, films, talks, music, stories and dances about despair then turning that despair into something kind of like faith—not in the system, not in justice, not in God, not in humans—but faith in the color blue. Faith in the breath coming out of one speaker into the ear of one listener. Faith in the fact that you can go outside without shoes on and feel the data-points on your heels and your toes.

How do you keep the apocalypses from coming, the micro ones every day or the big, real end of the world? Micro things like capping and trading your own choices. If you can’t live without plastic water bottles, then go without red meat. If you can’t live without driving, then put solar panels on your house. If you must turn the heat up to 72 degrees because your bones are cold in winter, shop at the thrift store, give up Amazon, eat more lettuce. You don’t have to do everything to be good. We can’t all be perfect like the Davids. But we can preserve tomatoes that we grew in the backyard in the summer to eat them in the winter. We can put our faith into people named David who fight for the future in our books, our films, our kids. I want to say thank you, Davids, for keeping the faith.

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Nicole Walker is a professor at Northern Arizona University, and is the author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone and not necessarily those of her employer. For more letters, visit www.nikwalk.blogspot.com

 

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