The sweet beauty of Carlisle
Outside our kitchen window a rare trio of hummingbirds maneuver in the humid air. It is hard for me to tell if they are fighting or mating. I watch entranced by how improbable they are, their long beaks, their small size, the blur of their wings. The sweet beauty of Carlisle can make the grim news of our world seem remote indeed.
Every other Tuesday morning three young women, led by Eliza, swoop into our home. They are Brazilian cleaners, hardworking and diligent; they know a great deal about us: what books we read, our disorderly habits. We know little about them. After the election of 2016, they were in tears. All we could say was that we understood their fears. This week they are particularly subdued. Perhaps it is the news of the small children on the Texas-Mexican border, children continuing to be separated from their families, sleeping on concrete floors, denied showers and toothbrushes.
I cannot fathom how anyone, conservative or liberal, could allow children as young as two to be treated this way. Mark Morgan, former head of ICE who will now lead Customs and Border Protection, once said that, when he looked into the eyes of a detained migrant child, he saw a “soon-to-be MS-13 gang member.”
Why are so many families desperate to come to America? Most of us have the answer in our past: famine in Ireland, pogroms in Russia, the threat of war and violence all over Europe. Both sets of my grandparents arrived in the period between 1905 to 1914 when a million immigrants per year flooded our shores. Now violence, corruption and economic stagnation in Central America has sent families fleeing to the US in the hope of safety and opportunity. It is a story as old as Plymouth Rock.
In the coming years, with climate change driving storms, droughts, heat waves and rising seas, the number of families fleeing their homes could increase astronomically. One study estimates that extreme weather will displace over 400 million people. They will be fleeing countries far removed from the bucolic safety and beauty of Carlisle. But that is an illusion. Our world is a complicated web of interrelationships and interdependence. From the coffee we drink, to the cleaners in our bedrooms, to the cars we drive, to the food we eat, to the climate of our community, we are part of a complex web.
In our peaceful and delightful town few people are impolite enough to argue over partisan politics. But our little oasis exists within a larger storm, and our future is not at all certain. In one possible future extreme weather blows up around the world while a rigid minority in America clings to outdated ways and to their power. Another, better, more diverse, more sustainable and more compelling future is also possible.
I look again at the hummingbirds at our feeder. The Audubon Society estimates that by 2080, if nothing is done to reverse climate change, they will no longer nest in Carlisle. Will we merely sit idly by and watch?
Note: the free book library I mentioned in my last article is now up at the end of our driveway at 225 Lowell Street. Come on by and help me out by taking a few good, gently used books.