Posted on March 9, 2022 by Jim Blackburn
The following narrative was written by ACOEL Fellow Jim Blackburn, and is an extension of the “virus vigil” that was begun March 22, 2020 and continued every day until March 21, 2021 from Jim and the artist Isabelle Scurry Chapman. Since then, Jim and Isabelle have intermittently sent out narratives, paintings and a poem expressing their views about the Earth, spirituality and whatever caught their attention, with the intention of staying in touch with about 700 people on their email list with whom they stay “connected.” Jim and Isabelle coined the term “connectuality” to describe reaching and staying in touch during the virus days of isolation. This is their effort from March 7, 2022.
Hello all. I asked Isabelle to paint a sunflower because I felt I needed to do something, however inept, in support of Ukraine. We are here and they are there. We are far apart, yet modern media makes us as neighbors, as close as a riot in Minneapolis or a fire in California. I watch as Putin’s panthers move across the Ukrainian farmlands and remember back to when Garland and I went to the Ukraine on a junket paid for by a Texan wanting to set up a port on the Black Sea, me and Bob Jones, an environmental engineer, brought along to teach environmental law to the Ukrainians who were all environmentalists after Chernobyl, Garland and Beth coming along for the trip. I remember leaving Moscow heading for Kiev in the heart of winter on a train, having our own sleeping car, looking out over the snow-covered landscape lit up by a full moon, a scene straight out of Dr. Zhivago. I remember meeting the Ukrainians that we were working with, how one young female environmental lawyer told me that Ukraine was in the process of separating from the USSR and that they would either be running the Ukraine or dead in the next year. Seems as if that moment of reality was postponed about 30 years. It is hard to realize the harshness of the reality facing the Ukrainians just as it has been facing the Afghans and Iraqis. I search for love, for connection, for gratitude and for peace within my soul as these events shake my foundations. These are uneasy times, serious times, and I wish it were not so, but it is, and we must help each other and others that we do not know for it is simply the right thing to do. I wish I were clearer in my understanding of what to do, of what to say, but all I can do is reach out and say to all – stay connected, stay safe, and find love where you can find it. We need every bit we can assemble. With love and gratitude. Blackburn
I cannot imagine the misery,
The hell on Earth that it must be,
To be invaded, knocked to your knees,
The smell of smoke on the morning breeze.
I am not there, I cannot know,
But I am affected, it is so,
No way to escape the news of the day,
I have no control, I have no say.
I’ve lived a life free of major travail,
No artillery barrage, no bullet-sent ail,
I cannot know what it must be like,
To flee Russian invaders on my old bike.
Yet within the horror lives a spark,
Of spirit for life like Noah’s ark,
People finding refuge where they can,
History repeating itself once again.
I find my center in the yellow and blue,
And look for things that I can do,
I can send some money and help with aid,
Hoping to numb this military parade.
Issues like this make me very aware,
That about others, I really do care,
Yet I also care about the Earth itself,
And don’t want it blown right off the shelf.
There are no good answers, only poor choices,
To respond to the cries from Ukrainian voices,
Asking for help in the face of the horror,
Asking for help to reach tomorrow.
I embrace the sunflower in solidarity,
And send sunflower karma with sincerity,
Yet know I’m grateful for my situation,
That I’m not living in that occupied nation.
So welcome to Earth Church,
Pull yourself up a pew,
Here we pray the sunflower
Blooms this spring too.