30 September 2015

Danger-Prone Daphne, Where Are You?

In the face of a warming planet, we should all embrace our inner Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo.

I'll explain later, but first, watch this video from Cracked:

To sum up the video, it argues that quartets from popular culture represent four enduring personality types. For example, Fred from Scooby Doo, like Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is a duty-bound leader. Scooby and Shaggy, representing two pieces of one personality, echo the recklessness and playfulness of the turtle Michelangelo. Meanwhile, Velma parallels her studious and practical reptilian counterpart, Donatello. Daphne, on the other hand, resembles the sensitive and rebellious Raphael.

Although the Cracked video sticks to connections in pop culture, we can extend the discussion to the seasons. The clothing worn by the Scooby-Doo characters supports this contention. Velma, wearing a heavy sweater, represents winter. Shaggy is clearly dressed for summer. Both Fred and Daphne choose clothes for various types of weather. Their clothing is lighter than Velma's, but both have scarves, suggesting they are ready for the chance of cooler temperatures. That means, they are spring and fall. Fred, with his light hair and brighter-colored clothes, is spring, and Daphne's rich, red hair and purple dress speak of fall.

The fact that Fred and Daphne represent spring and fall gains added support when examining the roles of the individual seasons. Summer and winter are about high-pressure weather systems with more stable patterns of heat and cold and stagnant air. Fall and spring are the forces that move the action in the weather game. In the universe of ninja turtles, Leonardo (Fred's counterpart) and Raphael (Daphne's) are also the ones who produce action. Leonardo does it through leadership, and Raphael makes it happen by questioning the direction of the group. Additionally, Leonardo's mask is blue and Raphael's is red, both primary colors--the strongest chromatic forces, and of course, Fred wears blue and Daphne is a redhead.

Daphne's role as fall supplies the connection to global warming. A warming planet is an environment more in line with the forces of summer and winter with their intractable systems, particularly summer because of the heat. What is more, a reckless approach to life similar to that connected with the goofy Scooby and Shaggy and the carelessness of summer has led us to produce global warming. Fall, meanwhile, is in danger because of global warming. As summer expands, the transition to winter shortens. According to her Wikipedia profile, the nickname "Danger-Prone Daphne" came about because in early Scooby-Doo episodes, Daphne was the damsel in distress. As the strength of global warming grows, we, like Daphne and fall, are in distress.

Still, we should look to Daphne for guidance in this scary time. Daphne's Wikipedia page also notes that as Scooby-Doo progressed and over its numerous incarnations, Daphne changed. These changes culminated in a karate-kicking portrayal by Sarah Michelle Gellar in the live-action films. While retaining her sensitivity and even vulnerability, Daphne became capable of taking care of herself. Consequently, we learned that she was danger prone not because she was a damsel in distress but because she ventured out and exhibited bravery when faced with scary situations (and as I wrote in my last post, when it comes to global warming, we should "walk unafraid"). Scooby and Shaggy, who supposedly represent a carefree lifestyle, are the ones who are constantly afraid.

We can't be Scooby or Shaggy or the summer they represent now. That's what got us here. The truth of the matter is that we, like Daphne, are fall, and we must own that and the precarious position it currently occupies. We must have the bravery to look directly at our situation, step outside of the path we know, and take the actions necessary to address global warming.

Daphne and the other pop culture figures who share her personality have already shown us the way.

25 September 2015

Walking Unafraid in a Frightening Time

The saying holds that people who keep their heads while everyone else loses theirs don't understand the situation. My experiences this summer taught me that the people who don't lose their heads might just understand the situation as fully as possible.

I spent the summer amid the sound of First Aid Kit, a Swedish folk band with a flair for Americana, and the fury of a Pacific Northwest burning in the face of global warming. We typically overcome the kind of sadness and fear associated with watching a beloved place shrivel up and incinerate by turning away from the most terrifying details. As much as I might have liked to do that at the beginning of the summer, by the end, I realized that this time (and from now on), I would, as First Aid Kit's song says, "Walk unafraid."

I bought the song, which comes from the soundtrack of Wild, along with the band's Stay Gold album in early May before I returned home for summer vacation. The music became the soundtrack of a summer that contained equal parts devastation and empowerment. I listened to very little else, but the songs never faded. They played in my head through adventures that filled my heart and events that broke it.

I saw Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Olympic National Park with lyrics like those from My Silver Lining echoing in the vastness of the extraordinary scenery. I watched the overwhelming heat of July bring a usually vibrant ecosystem to its knees and August's wildfires and their accompanying smoke finish the job with merciless suffocation. By that time, Fleeting One, the eighth track on Stay Gold seemed all too appropriate.

Still, I never turned away or tuned out. I took it all in. I reached a point where I knew and could feel everything that was happening. I could tell how close the land and plants were to breaking. Several times, I just had to cry. Then, a strange thing happened: Out of the chaos came the confidence of clarity. I'd played Walk Unafraid so many times in those three months, but suddenly, I was doing what the song said. I understood the situation fully, and I met it head on.

Trees had already started dying on my parents' property by August 2 when I turned on the sprinkler for the first time. We haven't watered our yard for years, but we still have a good sprinkler and some long hoses. During the next two weeks, I used them to get water to the native trees and plants on the property. At first, I wasn't sure if I was having any positive effect or merely tilting at windmills. I didn't even know how to feel when I read that Olympic National Park was also using sprinklers on its forests. Suddenly and unexpectedly though, the weather shifted in the slightest of ways. A bit of rain fell, and the temperatures cooled a little. Combined with my efforts, these changes helped the local plants revive. I felt the satisfaction of knowing a situation, responding to it, and making a contribution.

Although the last images I saw of the Pacific Northwest as I drove east for the school year were shrouded in smoke, I looked upon them without flinching. Those scenes would have torn me apart before. This time, they hurt, but I also knew nothing could break my connection to that place or my commitment to helping it as we face global warming together.

It's the same effect that occurs when music puts people in sync, and it's only possible when everything (joy, sadness, fear) is fully experienced.

07 September 2015

Cat's Cradle

The cat has my tongue, but it also has a safe place to live.

Eight years ago, my family adopted a rescue cat. It had gone through some traumatic experiences, so it didn't really like people. We tried everything to help it feel safe and allow it to adjust. Nothing worked. In fact, the more we tried to help, the more negatively the cat responded, and introducing anything new was an instant and total disaster.

Meanwhile, I had been talking with my parents about building a catio, which is an enclosed, outside area (often connected to the house) for cats. We'd had some issues with coyotes, and the cats were killing birds, lizards, snakes, and other wild animals. The rescue cat was one of the main concerns about having a catio though. He hated being inside, and about the only thing he seemed to enjoy was roaming around. Finally, my mom decided to build a catio (it wasn't actually connected to the house, so it was more like a kennel for cats).

When the catio reached completion, we all cringed to think about the rescue cat's reaction. We figured it would be a daily fight to keep him there, but he stunned us all. He loves it and feels safe there. For the first time, he doesn't run for cover when people are around. He's so comfortable there that even when the door of the catio is left open, he doesn't think about leaving. It's his special place.

The catio provides everything our cats need. It is sheltered, they get food and water, and it has wire runs for them to explore and use for exercise. Above all, they are safe, and having them there keeps the wildlife safe as well. We have seen so many more animals around the house, and it has been nice just to appreciate the beautiful birds instead of worrying about the cats killing them.

I can't say enough about the benefits of the catio, but when it comes to how it has helped our rescue cat, I am almost speechless.