I read Barbara Kingsolver's new novel Flight Behavior last week and I can't seem to get it out of my mind. The most compelling characters in the book are not human, but the winged. They silently exhibit the thing that keeps me awake at night.
~The next three paragraphs contain plot spoilers. If you do not want to learn about the plot and outcome of this book, please skip the next three paragraphs.
On a small Appalachian farm, Dellarobia's marriage and, quite literally, the ground beneath her feet, are dissolving before her eyes. This is a the story of a doomed environment as metaphor for a doomed marriage, or a doomed marriage as metaphor for our doomed environment. Either way, it doesn't end well, everything changes.
But in the end, not all hope is lost. Dellarobia is a phoenix rising out of ten years lost to an unplanned marriage following an unplanned pregnancy. The monarchs, well, they are left to evolution, to natural selection against man-made hazards. The chrysalis does not appear in the story, but it is a overarching theme: a new world has emerged.
I had to remind myself that I was reading a novel, that this was fiction. It was devastating to watch Dellerobia and Cub's marriage fall apart. Even more devastating was Ovid's scientific detachment. He cared very deeply for the monarchs, he cared for their plight, but he was not the herald Dellarobia, or I, wanted him to be. He knew almost everything that is known about them, but even he didn't know it was too late, until it was too late. The question that keeps me up at night is how do we know when it is too late for our environment?
I bring my own bags to the grocery store. I leave my car at home a lot. Crossrodes has become my first, and only, stop for clothes. But this is not enough. I feel an overwhelming guilt when I drive somewhere I could have walked or biked to. I think about what is happening to our environment every day. What will our world look like in ten years? Certainly not like it does today.
We are not super-star greenies here, just trying to make up for other damage we do to the Earth everyday. I'm considering buying carbon credits, wondering how we could make it work without a car.
How will we know when it is too late? And please, be glad I didn't decide to write about gun control today.