Friday, July 17, 2015

Dressing for the Apocalypse: the Cloud Dress and the End of Days

We're having a very frightening summer in my part of the world right now. It's been impossible to deny that climate change is here, and that we will all suffer -- are all already suffering -- as a result.

You see, our province is on fire. I took this dark, smoky photo in my backyard on a cloudless, late afternoon. What we are enduring here has got us all thinking about and feeling climate change, wondering how much more of it we'll endure in our lifetimes, and whether it's too late to reverse the horrors brought on by our own greed and stupidity.

Dress: I can't remember; Shoes: Ecco; Scarf, sunglasses, earrings, bracelet, and brooch: vintage
But first came the heat wave, gruelling, uncharacteristic, intense, and seemingly unending. By early July, everything was parched, thirsty, and tired ...

... including me. With my white white skin and auburn hair, I have never been able to handle the heat. Long before others were even aware of the dangers of the sun or of climate change, I was the child getting heat stroke, getting severe sun burns, and seeking the shade whenever possible.

I suffer terribly when others are completely comfortable or, crazier yet, talking nonsense about "great weather" and "beautiful days."

But, this time, everyone else felt as awful as I always do in the summer. No-one was saying the days were gorgeous. Everyone and everything was wilting.

Using an old pie plate and plant stand, I rigged up a bird bath for the parched little birds that I feed all year round. In no time, they were lined up for turns, ruffling the cool water through their feathers, right down to their skin, and tilting their heads back to let the water run down their throats.

We all knew it was a bad summer, and we city dwellers vaguely thought about climate change, but, when we woke to this sunrise ...

Photo by Jonathan Hayward
... and the smoke quickly denuded all colour from our world ...

... and obscured all our landmarks ... Well, then we began talking about the end of days.

Remember again that these photos were taken on cloudless days.
All of my local friends and I were posting photos of our dark, smoky views and everyone was using words like "apocalypse," "end of days," and "Armageddon."

It was too awful to take in so we called it "surreal," but real it was, whether our puny imaginations could encompass it or not.

It was truly terrifying.


As an abused child, I read a lot of post-apocalyptic novels, and have actually re-read a few of them recently. A world without humans and civilization appealed to me. I liked the idea of kids having the tenacity and intelligence to survive on their own.

I still frequently have post-apocalyptic nightmares in which I'm learning to exist in a world devoid of all modern conveniences and niceties. There is an odd comfort and sense of victory in the survival skills I find within me in those dreams. I assume they're a metaphor for my having survived the abhorrent, depraved sexual abuse of my childhood.

But what's happening now is no metaphor and it's nothing like the novels I read in my youth. They were all written during the Cold War and the apocalypse -- brought on by nuclear war, plague, or plague caused by nuclear war -- was always swift, sudden, and complete.

Not so the real, man-made apocalypse. What came home to me, with our city gritty and dark with smoke, is that what we are witnessing now is the slow but undeniable creep of an environmental apocalypse. We have been witnessing and living it for quite some time. We will go on living it for a long time to come.

It is entirely our own fault.

Sure, you can claim, "It's not my fault. I am not contributing to climate change." But you are. We all are, in one way or another.

I've always tried to lead an environmentally friendly life. In hopes of a more equitable distribution of food, I stopped eating red meat when I was twelve, and poultry when I was seventeen. I've always recycled and shopped second hand. I've never owned a car or even learned how to drive. I've always chosen to live centrally so that I could use transit and walk everywhere, rather than using a car.

That sort of thing. None of it is really enough though. We could all do far more than we do.

Of course, trying to live an environmentally friendly life has been much harder since I became disabled. I sometimes think that, if anyone "needs" a car, it's someone like me. But how can I own one when everyone who doesn't need a car is driving one anyway? I've heard so many people claim to need a car when, clearly, they don't. They just don't want to alter their lifestyles; they "need" a car if they're to maintain their preferred lifestyles, lifestyles that I doubt include a sky so smoky, it's difficult to breathe.

So, in large part because of their choices, Beau and I choose not to have a car. We use car co-ops and I use my electric scooter.

We agonize over whether to buy an air conditioner in this heat, and try to make do with fans and ice.

When it looks like this on sunny, cloudless day, we've got to try to do something about climate change.

After all, it's not just our planet and future to throw away. The older I get, the more deep affection I have for animals. I can't stop worrying about them and their young during these forest fires. If we humans feel frightened and bewildered and helpless, how must they feel? If some of us are having trouble breathing, what must their fragile bodies be enduring?

My own act sad little act of defiance against all this was to wear a rain cloud outfit, inspired by my new brooch.

I wore all greys and silvers, trying to look like a cloud to encourage the rain to finally come. It was silly, of course, a kind of gallows humour in the face of my fear.

I wore grey eye shadow, a grey dress, a grey ring, a grey brooch, and a grey silk scarf in my hair. Of course, it was too hot to keep hair down for more than a few minutes, despite my finally having gotten a good hair cut.

If I could have, I'd have done a little dance too, to bring the rain down.

I felt like Winnie-the-Pooh when he rolled in dirt and disguised himself as a cloud to fool the bees whose honey he was planning to steal.

Perhaps I should also have sung "a little Cloud Song, such as a cloud might sing."

My ploy was just as unsuccessful as Pooh's was. The rain did not come for several more days (and the collective joy when it did come was huge). Plus, the irony is that my grey outfit also matched the grey smoke filling the sky and that just made me sad. 

What have we done? Is it too late to change it? How can my tiny little attempts at ecological friendliness possibly make a difference?

But it's the end of days. We've got to do something!

(I'm sharing this with The Style CroneSydney Fashion Hunter, Fashion Should Be Fun, and Happiness at MidLife.)

1 comment:

  1. I live in California where fires happen way too often. I remember one year where I was on a plane coming home and you could see several fires burning in different mountains and it was such a scary scene from above. This is a very pretty color on you!

    Thank you for joining TBT Fashion link up and hope to see you Thursday.