By Marya Markovich
Lately I’ve been watching polar porn. By that I mean documentaries about very cold places: Svalbard, Norway; Nunavut, Canada; the tip of Patagonia. I ogle frozen vistas, their harsh topography rendered in a soothing palette of deep blues, browns and white. I admire the beauty of the shaggy, plush, fluffy, sleek animals adapted for life here. I lose myself in the blankness of snow: it’s what hush looks like.
The frigid scenes cool me off more than the ceiling fan, which pushes around the humid air in the family room while I watch. I refuse to turn on the air conditioner this late in the fall. It would mean admitting that we’ve taken on the weather of a southern state in this very northern one. So I’m not going to do it, even though the neverending summer makes the hot flashes come all day and all night. The heat outside sparks heat deep within me, then rapidly spreads throughout my body like one of those west coast fires, so powerful we give them names like gods.
People have always said that the natural world is our Mother, a female body. Well, then, I know how she feels. We are both going haywire.
Heat has become my enemy. It’s a plot twist in the biography of someone who has always been “not a winter person.” Of course I know that the climate emergency goes well beyond heat, just as perimenopause goes beyond hot flashes. In an unstable system, any weird thing can happen. But in my day-to-day life now there is simply too much warmth everywhere, and I want it to go away.
In the end my frosty documentaries turn out to be cold comfort, full of disclaimers and warnings: this is how it has always been and now it’s not. This much ice, this unfathomably large quantity, is melting and who would have thought that rate was possible and will there be any left.
I watch footage of a glacier “calving:” a section the size of a football stadium sloughs off into the expanding ocean.
I watch exhausted polar bears swim across impossible seas, their ground having melted beneath them. When they reach land, they forage for garbage.
The camera pans over a group of Arctic hares, puffy snow-white dots, awkwardly visible against terrain that shouldn’t still be brown. Do they know? I imagine they are overheated and irritable like me.
At night I position my fan and stainless steel cup of ice water next to my bed. The night has become a jagged, start-and-stop thing, its landscape transformed. My down blanket which used to be such snug comfort is like a coat of fur no longer needed. I take it off a thousand times a night.
We are out of balance, Mother Nature and I. Menopause is natural but in what universe does natural mean good? Pain and death are natural. Is climate change natural, too, if humans evolved from nature? I google “good things about menopause” and find only variations on its definition: you don’t have to suffer through periods (bloating, cramps, PMS) or worry about contraception any more.
The rest, it seems, is bad.
The leaves are still green, and it’s late November.
My body can’t settle into itself. I do the daytime equivalent of tossing and turning: a princess plagued by a pea wherever she goes.
Achiness, memory fog, did I do that thing this morning or yesterday or maybe I just thought about doing it? My friend posts a photo on Facebook of her iris blooming in autumn, the first time it’s ever done that. Beautiful! WOW, gorgeous!!! say the comments. Terrifying, I type, and then backspace-delete over my fear and scroll on.
The heat, the derangement: mine, the planet’s. Many signals. One message. Not enough time. You need to do things. Do lots of things, and do them soon.
Marya Markovich is a health researcher during the day, parent in the evening, and writer in the very early morning. She has 3 Gen Z kids, and their generation gives her hope for the climate crisis and just about everything else that’s wrong in the world.
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