First, I want to say it’s a jolly good thing taking a photograph doesn’t drain the subject of its color, shape, or life as native peoples once thought. If so, this world would be an empty canvass with the advent of smart phones taking pictures at an extraordinary rate. All that color, movement, shadow, and light sucked into the facile body of a shiny device. Where does it really all go?

We flew to the south island of New Zealand a few days ago, to its largest city, Christchurch.

The Christchurch Cathedral, central moniker of the city, was devastated in the 2011 earthquake that virtually destroyed the entire city. The 2011 quake followed a 2010 quake that softened up the city for the knockout punch.

The remarkable liquefaction of the earth and the widespread loss of physical and social services nearly convinced government to close the city down forever, to consider it an historical relic.

But no. The city is rebuilding. The interior spirit of its residents is mending. In short, there is hope enough to restore the city to its former self. Blind hope, it seems to me, to erect these buildings on the very same slippery, cracked and shaken earth that took them down to begin with.

I looked at the faces of the people walking past me on the sunny side of the street in Christchurch and wondered at their optimism.

We left Christchurch for Lake Tekapo and the glaciers of Mt. Cook.

We hiked up to the Tasman Glacier and were staggered to see that the glacier has virtually melted away to become a muddy lake dotted with chunks of ice…melted away in just the last twenty years of unprecedented warming.

As we walked back toward our car, a ranger lady, who looked about fifteen to my ancient eyes but was probably thirty, came up to us.

“What did you think of the glacier?” she asked brightly.

“It was depressing,” I said without thinking. “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” I chirped, riffing REM.

She smiled, nodding at the ancient rock reference I was making. “Yeah, sure, the Tasman Glacier probably can’t be saved,” she nodded.

“Probably”? I thought, you mean definitely, you mean it’s already gone, right?

“But there are others on the mountain that can come back,” she continued, “if we all work together to get carbon neutral and start reversing the effects of climate change.”

“Really? You think that will ever happen?” I couldn’t help ask. “Work together? Who? Governments?” The words spilled out.

She laughed, “No, not government. People. All of us. We’ll do it. Together we can.”

She saw the disbelief in my eyes and Annette’s eyes. She shrugged. “I’m an anthropologist. I have to believe in our path to the future.”

She ticked off the successes so far…the birth of renewable industries (solar, wind, geo-thermal, etc.), the sustainability movement in general, the explosive charge of global awareness, etc.

“Definitely, we’ll get there. For sure,” she smiled broadly.

As she left us to greet other visitors, I can’t say her optimism was enough to melt my cold heart as the warming planet had melted the glacier behind us.

What I can say, though, is that my heart sure hopes she’s right.





2 Responses to We Are Hopeful Creatures

  1. Cindy says:

    I really love this Frank. What a gift she has to be so optimistic in the face of what’s already happened. Hmmm makes me pause.

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