The pot cracks and breaks open and through Wilmut’s eyes, it’s as if witnessing the death of hope.
Report: Hundreds of Homesick Native Sierra Alhamilla Residents Protest in Non-Radioactive Zone after EEA Redacts Habitation in Sierra Alhamilla (2083 Report)
Transcript: Anna Baran, reporting from the non-radioactive zone of Sierra Alhamilla. As you can see, I am still wearing a radioactive suit that former residents and natives of Sierra Alhamilla have refused to wear during the protest. Many have gathered here today in fury over the EEA extending the residential ban of Sierra Alhamilla for what was supposed to be twenty years, has become fifteen more.
I’ve been talking to some of the former residents, who’ve shared that ‘they wish they could raise their children here’ and the struggle they’ve faced in finding long-term shelter and accessible green space.
Madame, madame. I’m a reporter and I’m curious as to what you have to say about the politician and EEA board member, Driessen’s comment that the region’s faux windmills contributed to the circulation of radiation and his ‘thyme is up’ movement? You have a strong emotional attachment, you say.
CHIRP tweet from @driesseneea
Reply to “Report Hundreds of Homesick…”
All the teddy bears have been burned.
A dried tulip and thymus baeticus are attached to my special pen, which I use to write with on a good day.
I no longer cry and shake my pencil, or forget to spell which in retrospect, is quite comical. One day, I professed my solastalgia to a view I now have to turn away from. I began to write, If anything could be portable, I wish it to be the floraterium. That oasis was a memorial to someone who predicted all of this madness, who knew a view did not have to be framed by a window nor a spectacle, be it a person or otherwise. We took it all for granted. He would be so saaah-d…
My thoughts are interrupted, my reflexes take over, my pen scribbles nonsense. My re-action to a mind whose spoken thoughts were considered more gentle than his unspoken.
I sat on my recliner, facing the screen whose remote was nowhere near in reach for me to ferociously grab and punch the off button.
“Here is the question these self-titled scientists need to think about: when is the climate not changing? The southern hemisphere is freezing and up here, it’s warm. Instead of blowing my money on researching the negative effects of windmills and solar panels, I’ll pay for these ‘scientists’ to witness climate change themselves. Go to Australia in July wearing a luau shirt. You’ll get cold. That’s climate change. Then go sit butt-naked on a solar panel to cool off. In a few months, it’ll reverse. No shocker, folks. It’s the circle of life. Fifty-plus years ago, the founder of a brand called Patagonia donated all his money to the forest. Why would he do that if the trees didn’t know how to handle their kind? It’s laughable. I’ve said so over and over, nothing to worry about. Let’s set fire to Antarctica, shall we!” He throws his hands in the air, expecting applause.
“Minister Driessen, what is your response to the EEA’s declaration of an estimated thirty more years before Sierra Alhamilla wastelands can safely be stepped on by humans?”
“If that burns you, woman, take my papers and recycle them.”
My solastalgia had worsened, until I looked down at my paper seeing I misspelled sad, saaad. I laughed. Wilmut would rightfully be, I write. Thanks to the mistake of my quill and hand, I glaaah-dly giggled. I brightened up, ecstatic the screen froze.
Outdated technology screening outdated, cold men. Unfortunately, not the most unbearable man I have had to encounter in my earlier days. I wish those memories would stop persisting and disintegrate. Except for the memory of Wilmut and his puppet-like agility.
I know for certain that Wilmut was there, standing in the background, swaying back and forth, looking down as he fumbled with his hands. He would appear clumsy, like a puppet. But would a puppet rush frantically one step ahead of an authoritative figure, only to bump into him, then take off?
My mother has so graciously allowed outsiders, including myself, into her gardens. Following her permission, an interview and recording of this enlightening event was proposed. My mother refused. She felt she and her community were being violated. She believed that, When a woman picks a flower, people expect to be given a whole bouquet, which I have found is very unsustainable. But after a cup of lion’s mane tea, she reconsidered. Our agrarian lawyer we have on retainer was contacted. She suggested my mother dress in all-white and don a crown of snowdrop flowers.
Interview: “Reporter, Anna Baran, Grounds with Yvette Colijn, Developer of Plant Time, a Practice that Transcends Time and Resources”
My mother has decided to host Plant Talk on the garden’s southeast corner, where nearly three decades ago, she planted a circle of tulips and checkered lilies around a chamomile lawn. The planting happened two years before my birth because she worried chamomile would affect her chances of delivery–miscarriage to be blunt. Therefore, once the ground was laid, she chose not to go near the garden’s corner until after my birth. The ground, in comparison to grass’ prickly texture, would be less of a sensory overload. The white and yellow flower heads had calming, sedative powers that would make me from the start, connected and soothed by Mother Earth. This storyline was discarded once plant time came into fruition. The chamomile grounds are now to serve for the relaxation of Psychoterratic patients.
We all purposefully gather in a circle around Anna who is meant to feel out of place. She, I, and a cameraman—which I did not know was still an employable job— keep our shoes on. I’ve never seen a camera before, but for being an outdated piece of technology, an initiator for discrimination, was held by the man with such prestige. This may be because of his appearance. I don’t wish to describe him, but all I will say is that his whole set-up, even the camera, appears pretentious.
Anna Baran begins. “I have had the exclusive privilege of grounding today in Yvette Colijn’s garden, a mental health advocate and Psychoterratic specialist who will lead a daily practice called Plant Time. I appreciate you having me, Yvette.”
“Our pleasure. Let’s begin,” she says to avoid disclosing privy information. “For class today, I want you all to venture out into the garden and choose one plant you wish to befriend. While you go, I will answer questions Ms. Anna has for me. Okay, my dears, go!” I chose to stay.
My mother unravels a snowdrop from her crown, “For the sake of time, this flower will be my friend for today’s practice.” Anna scoots closer, away from the center. “Solastalgia, is a feeling that can distress all, even an estranged urbanite such as yourself,” she turns, checking on her patients, who put so much trust, perhaps too much into my mom’s care. “I feel powerless, even in my safest element, my home. I am homesick. My professionalism must precede my need to share the assault I have faced from corporations and political figures. I am the only one in my field.”
Anna had no prepared response to my mother’s word salad. My mom gave her answers that no script could prepare, that a reporter like Anna could fact-check or refute. She gave her best, “It looks like everyone is coming back to huddle,” to which my mom was unimpressed. Her mood switched to that of a giddy, aloof teacher, wonder-eyed at the plants, vegetables, and other greenery her patients brought back, as if she herself did not plant them. “My, look at all the new friends that have joined us,” she pretended to not focus her eyes to the camera to appear less performative.
All the patients tense up as the cameraman invites himself into a spot in the circle. I think his camera scared the patients, likely because what will and what has been recorded will at one point, be unable to be experienced through bodily sensations. “Ms. Anna, observe what you requested to see,” my mom commands, regretting inviting Anna into this space.
“We are about to embark on plant time’s sensory practice, a practice that welcomes cross-species connections. Where, we, humans, for once cross our own temporalities into the vegetal’s own. Caress your plant, become attuned to its stem, leaves, shoot system, examine the hues of its flower, if it has one…”
Anna shoots in, “Can you explain what exactly is going on?”
“The communication that is occurring between people and plants is one that involves practicing our response-abilities. These abilities were once instinctual, but they have since faded, practically dormant in all of us by now.”
“What is the importance of practicing response-abilities? Is this why you developed plant time?”
“No, I did not develop plant time, it is a bond cultivated by time’s malleability and the grounding with greenery. I just gave it a name.” She averts her attention back to her patients, with whom she resumes her instruction, “Is everyone comfortable sharing a new fact your plant shared with you?” A few patients do so revealing things like, “my plant expressed gratitude to me. I was the first person who reached out to them in over a year.” My mom had to join in, clarifying, “our pacings of life occur at different speeds. It’s not easy for a society like yours, Ms. Anna, to live a green-paced life.” The cameraman snickered.
“To answer your question, Ms. Anna, response-abilities are essential to preserving the botanical universe. The efforts they perform for us—the cycles of germination, growth, maintenance, seeding, and dormancy or death that are months, years, or decades long—must not go unnoticed, but they do. Take for instance, the environmental apocalypse in The Tabernas Desert. All of their workings of beauty completely rotted in an instant. My patients understand this. To join plant time, I require a diagnosis of Psychoterratic syndrome, which they all suffer from witnessing extinction, habitat loss, and their land being stolen. Many exhibit symptoms of topophilia, an intense reaction to those who live and work closely with the land and who draw cultural, political, psychic, or spiritual sustenance from it. These are serious illnesses that left untreated can lead people to retreat to unhealthy coping skills like gaining unsatisfied comfort from artificial greenness and worse, returning to their degraded environment. Science should be hard at work solving these issues…”
“We need more windmills and solar panels as part of the plan!” Anna ignorantly exclaimed with too much confidence.
“Sweetheart, I love to see the confidence,” my mom affirms to Anna, “I have a master’s in plant systems management, am a certified, world-renowned floral therapist, yet even I am not taken seriously by the EEA.” That awakened Anna.
My mom did not enjoy the respect and admiration Anna Baran gave to her. She needed this from someone more dignified, academically qualified, someone whose research was in topography, botany, anything besides treating plant time and nature as a spectacle. The rambling continued between the two of them. Something about how my mom was working on admitting refugees from the Tabernas desert into her group. Also, how the distribution of pheromones in plants should be further researched. It meant nothing to me.
I looked at the photographer who was still recording the whole, but the camera was no longer pointed at my mother and Anna, it was focused on me. I became even more entranced by him. Selfishly, I thought my body was worthier a muse than whatever the camera had been capturing this whole time. Half a minute later, my mom released the group out into the garden for Savasana, a yoga pose she borrowed that marked the ending of practice. Everyone spread throughout the garden to lie down and close their eyes. I got up, went over to the cameraman to introduce myself. His eyes shot up at me as I came closer.
“Hi,” I said as I kneeled down to him. We introduced ourselves, his name was Dahli, a rendition of a painter from the American surrealism era. I’d never heard of it.
“What do you think of all this,” I questioned.
“I know someone who is familiar with Sierra Alhamilla, the wastelands. I’m going over there in two weeks.”
“Wasn’t it just declared to be a radioactive zone for another twenty-something years?”
“You’d be surprised at what nature’s working itself up to there.”
“When will Driesman tell the commons?”
“If your mom, a self-proclaimed plant hypnotherapist, is belittled by him. What makes you think other people should be informed of this? Would you like to join me when I go?”
“Yes.” I spared no moment to consider, despite being completely put off-guard. Agreeing made me feel rebellious, privileged, truly special. And yes, the abruptness of Dahli’s proposal was just as confusing and suspicious to me as it may be to others.
Later that night, my mom and our lawyer shared an intimate plant time in the garden’s northwest corner, right outside of my bedroom window. Our lawyer, a spokesperson for civility, listened as my mom’s mental anguish poured out, with no vase to collect her tears. “How foolish was I! To think I agreed just as I am about to take in refugees from The Tabernas. I let my homesickness take control. Never again will I spectacularize sensitivity.”
I sat, glaring out the window, foraging through my files of digital photographs for Dahli to reference when we travel to Sierra Alhamilla.
“Your mom would be surprised as to what’s about to be revealed,” he tells me on a spontaneous midnight call. “Also, dinner on Saturday night, it’s standard protocol.”
I never realized how cold and arrogant he spoke.
Dahli insists that dinner be at his apartment and I should invite myself. I was underwhelmed that he didn’t pick me up, or even invite me in a genuine manner. Then I was made aware of the following: his apartment was hours away near The Tabernas Desert, a trip he could not afford to pay for, nor one my mother would support. I was unaware he worked remotely. The gig he had going on with Anna was not his real job. That happened to be working for an independent magazine whose sales were plummeting, hence the gigs with Anna.
I approached his unlocked door and walked in. At the other end of the apartment, a floor to ceiling window displayed the wastelands to the left. I found Dahli in the kitchen, the windows now centering the wastelands. I looked outside as he disastrously prepares dinner. He begins to make conversation with me–the protocol.
“Is there anything I need to know about you?”
“How close to the wastelands are we going to?”
“Right in,” he said nonchalantly. I stay silent. I chose not to tell him this would be my first time modeling; still, he must have chosen me from my desperateness. “Did you not go to school?”
“I did, but I studied bouquet designs and topography, briefly.” I had nothing to lose.
“I ask because if anything were to happen, you can’t say I coerced you,” he said as he chopped thyme. “There’s more to life than just picking flowers.” I couldn’t just stand there and be mentally exploited, so I decided to help him. Moving closer to the counter, I saw he was chopping thyme baeticus, a plant that was not only rare but was actively being wasted. Why waste such an aromatic herb? How could he afford such an herb, especially one that seems native to the region?
“Are you aware of the hazards we may encounter going directly into a radioactive zone?”
“Tomorrow, we’re going to meet a friend of mine who’s a scientist to tell you everything is fine.” He pauses, unsure of whether to say something. “He has a madness that the botanical world has needed for so long.”
Despite how disinterested he seemed in me, and how frequently he tried to degrade me, I knew he needed me, my body, for part of his plan to succeed.
Dahli took me to meet his friend, a scientist whose obsession with the Tabernas drove him onto the verge of insanity, as he literally lives on the edge of the desert. “But don’t worry,” Dahli tells me, “something good came out of the kid’s madness.”
The lab was small, cluttered, and without a doubt violating health codes for both a home and laboratory. It had the layout of a galley kitchen, which exacerbated the clutter.
However, there was a corner of the lab blocked off by a floor to ceiling stack of boxes, and there appeared to be a door with a glossy frame, spewing hints of green from the other side.
We waited to meet Dahli’s friend for a good hour. Apparently, long waits like these were normal. If my mom were here, she would criticize how the lack of plant-life, without knowing of the secret door, made us disconnected from Dahli’s friend’s physical plane. The communication paths shared by plants made them interconnected on a quantum physical level. Meaning, from my understanding, without verbal communication, they could communicate their pain. But we are humans, not plants, and on a quantum-physical level, I felt nothing.
Dahli’s friend finally arrived. “Greetings, I’m Wilmut,” he mumbled as he walked toward me to shake my hand. And while he was walking, I noticed his hands were trembling at a speed that I was surprised was not concerning him. “Dahli’s sent me photographs of yourself, but I must say you are–” he trips over a container with a pot of Moricandia foetida and thymus baeticus before he can finish professing how enamored he is of my beauty. The pot cracks and breaks open and through Wilmut’s eyes, it’s as if witnessing the death of hope.
Wilmut’s body begins to convulse and Dahli heroically grabs his head before it can hit the ground. “We need to get him inside the floraterrium,” Dahli shouts at me. “There’s a door behind those stacks of containers,” he points at them, “knock them over and open the door.” I do so.
Behind the door is a four-corner garden of eden. An artificial replica: beautiful, yet pathetic. There are signs of floral life—thymus hyemalis, Cynomorium coccineum, tamarisk — just sparse. He made do with what he could gather…and gave some precious floral to Dahli to waste behind his back. Regardless, Wilmut’s efforts were impressive.
Wilmut, to my recognition, begins to ground on the floor, which was replaced by grass. His trembles are less magnified and he begins to catch his breath, but he is still experiencing a sensory overload. If only he would’ve planted chamomile grounds instead of sheets of grass.
He points to the broken pot outside the floraterrium, “Grab me my plant,” that he is in no state to retrieve. He is then skin-to-skin, the plant and him transcend to a temporality where rushing is non-existent, harmony abundant. “Mr. Porter, my AI trash custodian, found this in Sierra Alhamilla. He almost threw it away. There’s floral sprouting out there, there has been for months.”
“Honor your trash. Decay is not always the end-all to life,” Wilmut cries.
“Reflowering is always possible,” Dahli says to me as if I can’t comprehend Wilmut’s cry, “but there are some things that need to stay dead for good,” he chuckles.
My mother would adore Wilmut. “An intelligent fellow in need of serious help, a history of severe Psychoterratic syndrome and untreated Solastalgia. What insurance does he have? I’d love him to join plant time,” she would say.
The plan was to go to Sierra Alhamilla this afternoon on unfortunately, the hottest day of the month, but because Dahli dressed me in sheer clothing, he made a compromise that the photo shoot would be quick. Anything for me to feel as if my safety were not at risk.
To exert some of the control I had in the photoshoot, I stated we keep close to the non-radioactive region of Sierra Alhamilla. Dahli found the near collision of two rocks and directed me to spread my arms and legs to touch both ends of the rock. It was scorching hot. Touching practically anything was as if encountering fire. No matter how dramatic, angry, or red my body would get, Dahli did not care. He did, on the other hand, care about his vintage camera, which he did not bring. It was too precious.
Picture 2: We found a bush of thymus baeticus that I lay directly on top of. We then did a retake in the same setting, but with a few picked thyme leaves to place on top of my body for coverage. Dahli edited out my rash.
Picture 3: I lie down again, but this time on a mound of sand that worsens my rash.
Picture 4: I have beta-burns, bruises, hives, welts…everything that is associated with red and irritation. I feel lifeless, in need of water. I feel homesick for my mother’s garden. I feel as if I am bleeding. I cannot open my eyes. I hope I am asking, “When was the last time you felt empathy or guilt,” to Dahli. I black out.
Dahli escaped charges of ecocide. I had to write this in my journal over and over throughout the years. Dahli escaped charges of ecocide. Dahli escaped charges of ecocide.
Dahli was pardoned for my injuries. Dahli was pardoned for my injuries.
Just before we left Wilmut’s laboratory, we made sure he fell asleep peacefully inside his floraterrium. Wilmut woke up to be charged with ecocide. Wilmut woke up to be charged with ecocide.
Dahli exploited another model for his success. Dahli exploited another model for his success. And the two of us did not land on the cover of Bio Beauty, Compostpolitan, or any eco-fashion magazine because our photos were allegedly disintegrated from radiation.
It helps that I show early signs of dementia.
As my back is turned away from an incinerator, I have to repeatedly re-act to these realizations more than fifty years later. I become attuned with my thymus baeticus and reminisce of a temporality where my mother was homesick and not I.