Tuesday, October 28, 2014


                 A few years ago, when we were in Chiapas, it seemed as though the great trees of the rain forest asked me to speak for them, and eventually I did. The trees were on the edge of the last remnants of old rain forest in the state. I wanted an in - a path, a way to walk through the forest - but I couldn’t find one, and the foliage was so dense. I have longed to walk through the rain forest since that journey.

     We are in Peru, on Lake Sandoval, in the Amazon. We walked two miles from the boat landing to the lake on a wide path through the forest. There are other paths here, leading out from the lodge, and you see the most amazing things. 

         Mimicry, mimicry, mimicry - nothing is what it seems. Leaves become butterflies, stones are beetles, snakes are vines and vines are snakes. If it is beautifully colored and patterned it’s poisonous - camouflaged is edible. The amount and variation of pattern and texture is constant. Everything is both everlasting and sudden - the sighting of a toucan, an alligator rising, the river otters cascading like rapids.
Photo by Bill Fulton
         The bird that has whooped since wake-up turns out to be a frog. The half minute buzz like a loose high tension wire is the bird with a name out of Dr. Seuss: the blue crowned motmot. The guacamayos are much noisier than starlings, and it is wondrous and strange to see them in groups squawking, rather than singly in a cage, the word macaw written on some brittle plaque. The sudden epidemic of wheezes came from birds with orange plumes a blue streak and the body of a chicken. Now when we are on the lake and hear what sounds like a ward of asthmatics we know its the hoatzins.  

Photo by Bill Fulton
It’s magical to put the sounds and patterns and practice together into how a world behaves. Some plants must be explained before we can fathom their magic: The fruits growing straight out of the mottled thin trunk of one tree are cacao beans. The  walking palm, with a tepee of thin branches instead of a trunk, moves 30 inches a year. I don’t seem to tire of watching the squirrel monkeys. They cover such great distances between branches. It looks like flight and I can’t believe it's not play as well as transport.

Walking palm
          Rain! it pours and pours for an hour leaving puddles and the butterflies come to drink. We are breathless from color and pattern but no one can photograph the fast blue morpho, a silk streak who never seems to land. We are told that when the rainy season comes this quiet waveless lake will rise and rise and bury the roots of the great trees.

       The rain forest trees are my people, my tribe. I greet each one with reverence - kapok, rubber, brazil nut (of course there’s a bird that can crack that nut) and ironwood and my soul tree, the fig that I also found in Africa - all buttressed like cathedrals.
       I ask the fig/ask myself what the trees need, and the response is a deep silence and I understand this is not a refusal to answer but what is necessary.    
     The trees tell us they are Gaia’s lungs - beings who breathe through their roots. For the Inca and other peoples, Pachamama, we were told, is known as a goddess, but in Incan philosophy she is nature plus time, or how the world works. It was Gregory Bateson who used the word stochastic to describe the union of nature and time and, that, he said, is how evolution works.
Photo by Bill Fulton






Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Long Meander - leading to Future First: Women’s Congress for Future Generations

Russian River trip   photo by Mark Cohen
   I love river trips. Paddling canoes on the swift, sinuous rivers of Michigan, where I grew up. A 3 day raft trip on the Rogue in Oregon - those long smooth glides, then the rush and thrill of white water, and the guide yelling « Hard forward! » The boat trip down the wild part of the Mekong through the forested mountains of Laos, watching boat traffic, stopping at very scattered villages along the way. 
Rogue River  photo courtesy of RogerRiverVacations.com

        In Myanmar we went from the towns of Mawlamyine to Hpa On on a small river boat on the Thanylin - passing strange river craft, early morning fisher folk, the stupa of gilded temples - and the mountains known as dragon teeth. 

       This summer we took a ten mile canoe trip on the Russian river with our friends Judy & Mark. I like learning the ripple pattern on the water, and I like the feeling of the wind on my face  - and sometimes I like going fast. OK, full disclosure:

       Once Bill & I went up to Payette Lake in Idaho. We rented jet skis, overcoming our dislike of noise and pollution.  Bill tried out all kinds of maneuvers on his, but me? I wanted to see how far and fast I could go in one direction. So here I am trying to figure out if that’s a metaphor for my life or the life of the people in this country.
Early evening on the Mekong, Laos   photo by Bill Fulton
        For this country straight is the gate (and fast) and narrow is the path that leads to -success.  America is about climbing, and once I made it out of the mire I happily leveled off, stayed in the same teaching job and finally figured out how to do it fairly well - about 10 days before I retired.  You don’t have to do it that way, especially in community and small colleges, where you can become a dean, or even President. I had no impulse to do that.  Some might say I had no ambition, no drive. 

          Of course in my fantasies, I have great luck and talent. In one I received the award for Best Supporting Actresss. Why only Supporting? I was deliberately raised in humility, so Best Actress was out of the question, even in fantasy. Maybe I thought that all that acting out in my teens and twenties - OK, my thirties too - should pay off.          
        I practiced my speech while driving to the college, and when the college actually gave me a teaching award, I  gave a speech and thanked the entire support staff, especially Audio/Visual, who in fact, hadn’t shown up on time or delivered the right equipment for years. 

The first fantasy I remember occurred when I was around 4 years old.  I got my first bike, a three wheeler, and I rode around pretending to be the sheriff.  I never shot anyone, just rode fast (yes, in one direction) and imagined helping people who were in tough situations. (Full Disclosure: Last year for Halloween I bought a tin star and fastened it to my sweater.)

       But helping people in tough situations - that’s the part I am worried about. Who is going to help future generations? If you’ve graduated with hundreds of thousand of dollars in debt, can you afford to take a job teaching? Or join the Peace Corps or Ameri-corps? As we become a corporate state, who will care for the welfare of future generations? And what will the impact of climate change be on our grandkids? Will the result of the great climb upward be a landslide, a great inundation or a wildfire that will not end?
Thanylin River, Myanmar   photo by Bill Fulton
         There is a group who cares deeply for these questions: Future First: The Women’s Congress for Future Generations, whose concerns includes the Declaration of Rights Held by Future Generations, issues of collective liberation, interconnectedness in the climate justice movement, and examples of women leading direct actions for climate justice. I attended the Congress last year, and the learning and bonding and good work accomplished left me motivated and glowing for months.

        This year the Congress will be held in Minneapolis, November 6-9. Below is the poster, and you can check out the Future First website, http://wcffg.org/ I hope you will consider joining us - in the name of the children and grandchildren in our world - and future generations.







Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Distant Neighbors: Wendell Berry & Gary Snyder

              My friend Dan calls from the middle of the country. He has a longish layover in (Minneapolis? Milwaukee? It began with an M) on his way to Europe. He’s been reading Charles Wright’s poetry and he has a question. Or is it an answer? We have been doing this for decades, learning from the knowledge each of us has of the realms we share.

        Every other Wednesday for 40 years Naomi & I meet for dinner and critique our poetry. We dive into the deep of each poem and wrestle with grammar on the surface. We have had similar themes throughout the years, and now, once again, our work has centered - on the Earth. Each of us has written about the other’s work, and we’ve read together. « Each other »  becomes  an I-and-Thou, a We, united by devotion to our work and love for each other.

        Patricia and I share a great love of animals, the wild, the carefully cultivated and we have shared those concerns as they appear in our lives and our work. We are  environmentalists, in our own ways and our own words, and we have also read together. 

       Which brings us to Distant Neighbors, Selected Letters of Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry, which focuses on just such a sharing  - along with the ideas and insights of two men who will not let their often profound differences damage the love and respect they have for one another. That love and respect was very obvious in their recent reading together.
First reading together, 1977
    Wendell Berry is a Christian who refuses the authority of the church, a farmer who admires the tradition of English literature, mentioning Milton and Pope and Blake as his forebears - a man who takes his bible into the forest.  Gary Snyder is a Buddhist who admires the Old Ways, hunters and gatherers, and the poetry of China and Japan. For him the authority of Zen comes through a teacher. The way these two men address, resolve and  accept their difference is a teaching in itself. 

         Snyder asked his Sunday school teacher 
         " Does my dead heifer go to heaven?
         No, said the teacher.
         Well, I’m not going where my heifer can’t go!" 
         (Reading, June 27)

         Berry speaks always of continuity. « Continuity between 
         the wonders of  the bible and life in the forest. The spiritual    
         and the material are not bifurcated - they are one fabric.
         (Reading, June 27)

        Snyder - " My bible is the archaic universal world body of 
        folklore and folk mythology."  (Distant Neighbors, P. 73)

          With Snyder in the foothills of the Sierras, and Berry in Port Royal, Kentucky and both men engaged in very public lives as poets and environmentalists, plus family obligations and Berry’s farm work, there are few opportunities to get together. But they take the time to write these letters because their love of the land and their commitment to writing creates a duality.  They ask each other questions that others might not respond to:
         Berry - What kind of economy would cherish trees? 
                                                         (Distant Neighbors, P. 134)

       In their concern for the environment, and the actions that each took -  the books and articles written, the panels they sat on, the conferences they attended, the protests they made, Snyder and Berry are our fore brothers.
Berry and wife Tanya
      And they were prescient, raising issues as though they foresaw the crisis in both government and the environment that we are now living through.  In one of the letters Berry writes: "I accept the tragedy that one must take sides." (Distant Neighbors, p. 89)

                Berry - "Snowden is patriotic. People who make deals 
                know secrets. if a voter enters the booth uninformed - 
                what happens to  democracy?" (Reading, June 27)

              Snyder, 1980 - "….[there were] conversations with 
              assorted folks after my talk on China, …..where 
              they tried to play down the seriousness of species 
              extinction." (Distant Neighbors, p. 69)

         They sent letters. By mail. Even after email appeared. Are other writers still writing letters to each other? We email, skype, facebook, tweet, send photos that display what we wish to have known about ourselves and upload the antics of our babies and pets.  Shall we have the collected tweets of future artists? The collected FB comments?

     Are you familiar with their poetry?
One of my favorite poems - one that I reread over and over - is Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things, first published in 1968. The poem is written in language a nineteenth century reader would recognize, but the universality and depth of feeling and experience remains as fresh as dawn:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 
                                 (Poemhunter, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171140)

     When did I start reading Gary Snyder?  Was the first book Earth House Hold?  I loved the  juxtaposition of Asian literature with the names of plants and animals and the titles of mountains and rivers, the Old Ways of making and being, his sons. The purely experiential, experimental, the sensory and the eternal. 

       Sustained Yield
                     For the treeplanters

Spain, Italy, Albania, Turkey, Greece,
once had hills of
oak and pine

This summer-dry winter-wet
manzanita, valley oak, redwood,
         sugar pine, our folk
sun, air, water,
          our toil,

Topsoil, leafmold, sifted dirt,

Hold the whip of a tree
steady and roots right
somebody tamp the
           earth, as it’s slipped in,

Keep trees growing in this
             Shasta nation alta California
             Turtle Island
                                      (Left Out in the Rain, p.134)       
This sharing. Of words, of images, of music. How it endows us as humans.






Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"

Photo from Star Hotel FB page
           Why is it I can find good, healthy food anywhere in the world that we’ve traveled to except my own country? In a  restaurant in Nevada, Bill is handed a plate with 21 ozs of steak, and 4 side dishes -  french fries, baked beans, cole slaw and spaghetti, plus a half loaf of bread with an ice cream scoop of butter, not to mention cabbage soup before and the possibility of a sundae with churros - fried donuts - after. 
         We see obese children, obese adults everywhere. I feel such sorrow for them. But two hamburgers, fries and a soft drink cost $13. An organic, beautifully plated restaurant dinner can be more than double that - for one. There are huge, pornographic signs of juicy burgers along every highway to tempt the hungry, just as in the Bay Area there are billboards of sinfully thin cell phones in suggestive colors.

       We’re crossing the mountains. My turn, and I drive Highway 82  over Independence Pass. The vistas are stunning,  and then it is raining,  pouring, and I take hairpin turns at 10 MPH and the temperature is dropping -  down to  53, 47, 37, and rain turns to sleet. There is nowhere to pull over and wait it out. 
       The driver in front of me must fear heights because he is driving down the middle of the yellow line - if another car comes the other way?! I began the morning in sandals and when we can finally stop I jumble through my suitcase for shoes and socks, and we drive through the mountains to our rented house, where we hope for quiet and solitude.
Snow on the side of the road, full moon and the shadow of pines on bright meadows.
Welcome to Colorado.


         We stop at the Colorado Wolf Sanctuary in Divide
(Yes, Divide), where there are also coyotes and a colony of foxes.  The rest of our tour group walks on, but one wolf stays by the fence and I remain, staying silent and still. The depth of those eyes! Their faces are so expressive, how could anyone imagine they don't feel?  Three thousand wolves have been shot in the last few years, since they have been delisted. Extermination? In sci fi action films humans are always in danger from some alien force that wants to do away with us. We pay to see the unconscious revenge for our own murderousness.  

Wolf photo by Bill Fulton
         And then there’s the coyote who seems so much wilder than the wolves. It’s stride is undoglike - but it is no less beautiful. These rescued animials are not there to be viewed,  but viewing is what pays for their food and veterinary care.  Our guide tells us to howl, and we all howl and the wolves howl back - 19 of them! To hear them howl, click on or go to: 

          The view from our rented house is of red boulders massed into mountains, and in contrast to that massive stillness, there are the clusters of quaking aspens that the cottage is nestled into. A trembling ballet - each leaf loose on its petiole, moving in its own arc in the slightest breeze. I watch the leaves. To exist on pure sunlight is the genius of plants.  
           Everywhere we go, people are so friendly, chatty, helpful. We have forgotten that Americans have these qualities, since they are rarely experienced in urban California.  

         I have traveled from a high tech center where raw materials are converted into wealth, to the place where the materials come from. We visit a restored 19th century gold mine in Cripple Creek, riding the cable-driven cage down 1000 feet. We are there because I wanted to know what it felt like to be a miner, working by candlelight below ground, desperate to not use up the 3 candles he was given.
       We learn how it began in the 1850s when a miner only had had a steel mallet and a spike. Along came the drills that deafened the men and sent dust into their lungs. The mine owners knew there would be 1 oz of gold per ton, and the drills got faster, more powerful, and heavier - and heavier.  One man had to take the drilled and blasted rock and load it into a metal cart on rails - load a ton in twenty minutes or get fired. 
             There were actually many jobs in the early West - carters,  millworkers, haulers, carpenters, blacksmiths, ranch hands and drovers - but mining paid $3 a day while the going wage was 75 cents. The metal carts were once pulled by burros who never left the mine. They were tethered and fed in packed underground stalls until they were replaced by engines. Feral donkeys, their descendants, now roam the mountains. What seems to drive technology is not human need but the bright and new and shiny and machines of war.
               Now gold mining is done by mountain top removal, using mammoth pieces of equipment. I couldn’t bear to visit the new Viktor mine, though I could see where a range of the Kenosha mountains had been leveled.  I think of Crystal Good’s poems in The Book of Now: Poetry for the Rising Tide, the anthology I edited. Crystal is from West Virginia,  where Mountain Mama speaks:

Holding her breath, she let him go in
gentle, like before the other Jaspers came.
He drilled deeper and deeper than the explosion
first above then underground.

Mountain Mama had a history of violations
sirens, sounded, emergency in the dark

           (Jasper is an Appalachian dialect word for outsider)

               On our way to a wilderness hike, we drive though miles of burnt forest. Could this be the stillblack remains of the 2002 Hayman fire, which destroyed 138, 000 acres? It is. We drive forest roads though unforested rock littered with burnt branches, till we see the sign for Lost Creek Wilderness,  then the land is green and treefull again. We walk into the forest, listening to the birds and the creek. 
             How did the wilderness escape the fire, we wonder, only to find out that if we had taken a different road we would have seen the burn of wilderness as well as national forest. A man-made fire 12 years ago, and there is no sign of renewal. Nothing has grown back. No new post-fire species have appeared. 
Hayman post-fire photo by Steve York
           Driving thought Utah and Nevada back to the Bay Area:
Watching the women walk into the restaurant, I imagine myself in  high heel boots, rhinestone studded jeans and black leather jacket. Who do I know in San Francisco whose shirts are as perfectly pressed as the men here wear with jeans and a Stetson? And then there are the teens in cap and gown having a proud supper with family- here where underemployment is daily life - and will they have it any better?

       Was it engine-uity blasting through the rocks of Capitol Reef creating a slit large enough for the 26 wheelers to pass through? The trucks look dwarfed and the last sign said Goblin Valley. We are looking at strata laid down before the Permian extinction, 250 million years ago.

    We’re following a giant mining truck, hauled around the curves on a tractor trailer. Then another one. There are open pit gold mines all over Nevada. 
         But oh those spaces - the vast, rolling, peaked and pine-studded West.  Can we save them from ourselves so the next generations can experience what we have?







Wednesday, March 26, 2014



        Where to begin.  Every culture has a story about How It All Began, and the stories are all different. A single god creating the world in 6 days, another world evolving over eons, a committee of gods in a joint project of creation, the world hatching from an immense egg,  Each story is considered the highest, unimpeachable truth, and parts of the story will permeate the culture. 
       As everyone knows, our country is divided over creation stories. Science presents us with the Big Bang and Western religion gives us the 6 day creation. We struggle over the identity each tale provides. I’m going to tell you of a wonderful instance where science and religion tell the same story - but I’ll have to give you background first, and it will take a while.

        Last week we had two experiences that were very engaging.. We saw the film « Particle Fever » about the Large Hadron Collidor and the search for the ‘magical’ Higgs Boson, and we went to see Yoga: The Art of Transformation, an exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

       I think I’ll start with physics, if you will bear with a poet's attempt at comprehension. The Big Bang. The world born out of a cataclysm, and the background microwave radiation left over from the explosion that is said to prove it.  

Courtesy of Particle Data Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
Physics has a  Standard Model that has tried to unite Einstein's Theory of Relativity with Quantum Field Theory, which is a description of the tiniest of our worlds. The result is a mysterious prediction - anti-matter. Enter Supersymmetry to account for this strange phenomenon. That theory proposes that for every particle (proton, neutron, etc), there is a 'superpartner'.

        Another problem that physics hadn’t solved was what makes stuff - what makes mass, what gives substance to particles? Scientists thought it was another particle, called the Higgs Boson, and they might find it if a huge SuperCollidor was created. Beams of protons would collide, at almost the speed of light. Particles would explode as they did after the Big Bang, replicating the conditions immediately after the event.

 So, to continue our story:  the Large Hadron Collider was built, and  the Higgs Boson was found, and that was the big story that appeared in all the newspapers and hundreds of Internet sites. But it was only part of the story. In fact the Standard Model was now in question.

        More background: The Standard Model is based on the universe we live in,  and governed by equations - the elegant, beautiful, pristine model that Einstein believed we would find. Some said our universe was actually set up for life to occur, others that it was not only set up for life to occur, but « It knew we were coming ». (Freeman Dyson). 

        Not only a world perfectly tuned to life - but consciousness, said the metaphysicians among the physicists, may be as natural a feature of our world as time and space.     

        But that seemed to raise the need for a Creator, an argument for Intelligent Design, and that is not an option for science, so the only other option was - worlds upon worlds!  Andrei Linde and others proposed a multiverse - an infinite number of universes. If there were infinite numbers of universes at least one, if not more, would support life, they reasoned, so there is no need for a creator.  

       There would be no possible connection between these worlds.  Each one would have it’s own mathematical constants,  its own laws perhaps, or maybe there were different constants within the same universe. 

       No universal law, no Theory of Everything.  But how can we imagine this multiverse? How to describe it?  Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, announced that «  Our Universe could be just one bubble floating in an ocean of other bubbles ».
Computer simulation. Each ray is another expanding universe

       Now, back to the SuperCollidor.  If those magic superparticles predicted by Supersymmetry didn’t show up during the Collidor’s collisions, they probably did not exist. If they didn’t exist, it might be the end for Supersymmetry (still with me?) The multiverse would be the model to go forward. There were no superparticles found. Maybe at higher energy levels, maybe in the future, but that was only a very small maybe.

       In the film physicists watch the Standard Model begin to disintegrate like particles colliding in the cosmos.  One researcher speaks of 40 years of work - disproved. For others it was a revelation, an understanding that there would (hopefully) be more revelations ahead, and it was time to move on. And I will also - to India.

      It was a revelation to enter the exhibit of Indian art, and the world of Brahma and Krishna, Shiva and the devas, yogi and Sufi. In the Bhagavad-Gita, the Song of God, Krishna responds to Arjuna’s desire to see Entirety:  "
My dear Arjuna, O son of Prtha, behold now My opulences, hundreds of thousands of varied divine forms, multicolored like the sea." Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, Verse 5. 

Vishnuvishvarupa, "Yoga: The Art of Transformation

There are several creation stories in Hinduism, but creation is always vast and the time scale is endless. The world is cyclic - creation and destruction, creation, preservation, destruction. It has happened a million million times, and time has no end.                                                 

And there are multiple universes. Seven dimension below and seven above - a multiverse of intention, operated by platoons of gods in a state of transcendence. The practice of yoga would allow humans that transcendence, that ultimate bliss - the answer to the problem of suffering, which is the ancient and ongoing ordeal of India. 
The subtle philosophies of India have been elaborated by a forest of sages, rising above the undergrowth of ignorance and mystery. One who stands particularly tall is Abhinavagupta, who lived in the 10th century.  In his Paramarthasara, he describes the workings of the universe, which correspond to the fields and forces within us.  This leads him to a conclusion - that there are  « numerous universes floating…..like bubbles in an ocean ». There it is - the same words the theoretical physicist used. A convergence.  

        But what is my point? Ha ha, you physicists, India had the answer a millennium ago and they didn’t need a ten billion dollar Large Hadron Collidor to do it? The ancients possessed greater wisdom then we do?

        No. Not my point. I do believe that traditional cultures have much we must learn from in order to survive the calamities that are predicted for the future. 

I do feel that industrial civilization may well be the downfall of the planet, and I do believe that applied science has created products and processes that are harmful to us.

       But I am awed and made (irrationally?) hopeful by the idea that ancient understanding and modern theory can converge. I think that a coming together of the ancient and the scientific might be our only hope, if only that convergence was someone or some government’s priority. 

      What if climate and biological science and traditional knowledge of the earth and  its life forms came together in a project as huge and well-funded as the SuperCollider. The vision is not impossible: 
I think of our friend Nathaniel’s 18 months in Africa learning local cultivation practices, and the knowledge he is gaining from advanced study in health, social and biological science. He hopes to return to Africa in order to apply this new knowledge to what communities already know, in order to create sustainable solutions for their future. A true convergence. Multiversity.  

Indian rendition of a bubble universe




Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dimastalgia: On The Loss of Traditional Skills

Photo collages by Bill Fulton
       Last year in Myanmar I watched an elderly woman snap the stem of a lotus, pluck the minuscule fibers and spin the sheerest silk. I watched a man paint tiny stylized elephants on a vase that would receive 14 layers of lacquer. (He was carrying on a tradition that goes back to the Shang Dynasty - 1400 years B.C.E. ) Travelers stopped at the workshop of a family who make  graceful wooden umbrellas with hand-painted canopies. We watched them carve the handle, ribs and finial, and paint the colorful designs. 
Photo collages by Bill Fulton
We saw the fishermens' "ballet" on Inle lake - one leg wrapped around a paddle, steering, hands free to hold the conical net. Later there was the gifted flutter of a dancer’s hand miming flight. We saw the old ways of building ships and making cabinets, aware of the co-operation required.  One European shook his head and muttered how it was worth all the money to come this far just to see what his countrymen no longer did.

      The arts and crafts of the world, painted, carved, sung and enacted, unfold for the traveler. We stand rapt watching deft hands, snap photos with digital devices intended to replace the wonder we no longer create.

      There is a profound sense of loss that I believe we experience as traditional arts and everyday skills disappear. I call it Dimastalgia, from the Greek diadikasía, meaning process, simasía, significant, and algia - pain. It is the loss of skills and techniques that provided utility and beauty and the feelings that generates, and I believe that this loss is a feature of our times. It may not be conscious until we suddenly have an experience that makes us aware of what has disappeared.

      In the Netherlands, I had such an experience. Along the waterway in Groningen are the restored sailing barges that allowed the Dutch to trade along the Baltic as far as Russia.  You are instantly aware of their grace and clever construction. In the marine museum I saw an exhibit of the myriad devices that made sailing possible, and, a sailor myself,  I was suddenly filled with the knowledge, the nomenclature, the skills that building and sailing a ship required. It was a culture, a rich world, experienced now only as sport or pleasure. Our awareness of the lost beauty of this ancient form of transport is apparent when hundreds show up at a harbor to see the Tall Ships arrive under full sail. 
Bernardus Bueninck  Loading quay for  Hunze boats ,Groningen

Of course you may respond that homo sapiens have always replaced one technology with another, presumably a better one. But the rate of change has accelerated dramatically since the industrial revolution, and now each generation may rely on new, different devices. The fact that we are quick learners does not mean there is no sense of loss.           
          You may also wonder if this is merely nostalgia I am describing. No, I would answer. Nostalgia is usually partial and one-sided. For example, there are those who miss the 1950s - Elvis, sock-hops, car-hops, be-bop. But what of the Cold War, the nuclear threat, McCarthyism, sexual repression? No one misses that darkness. To acknowledge dimastalgia does not mean that one ignores the disease, infant mortality rate, lack of social mobility, physical dangers, etc of the past - nor does it represent a desire to live at a different time.

        Dimastalgia is the recognition that skills that sustained us for milennia are disappearing, and that loss is one of the vacuities of the present age, and a possible threat, as we shall see.

       What is especially poignant is the attempt to maintain the arts. The situation in China is an example. The government, in order to create more consumers, is moving millions from the countryside to cities. The headline in the New York Times reads:

 In China, ‘Once the Villages Are Gone, the Culture Is Gone’

Screen shot does not play video

      BEIJING - Once or twice a week, a dozen amateur 
      musicians meet under a highway overpass on the
      outskirts of Beijing, carting with them drums, 
      cymbals and the collective memory of their destroyed
      village. They set up quickly, then play music that
      is almost never heard anymore, not even here, where
      the steady drone of cars muffles the lyrics of love
      and betrayal, deeds and kingdoms lost.

     The musicians used to live in Lei Family Bridge, 
     a village of  about 300 households near the overpass. 
     In 2009, the village was torn down to build a golf 
     course and residents were scattered among several  
     housing projects, some a dozen miles away.
     Now, the musicians meet once a week under the 
     bridge.  But the distances mean the number of 
     participants is dwindling. Young people, especially, 
     do not have the time.
      I want to keep this going,” said Lei Peng, 27, who 
      inherited leadership of the group from his grandfather. 
      “When we play our  music, I think of my grandfather. 
      When we play, he lives.”

      Across China, cultural traditions like the Lei family’s 
      music are under threat. Rapid urbanization means village 
      life, the bedrock of Chinese culture, is disappearing, and
      with it, traditions and history.

    And we might add, a loss of meaning, significance and pleasure for the individuals who lived within those cultures. To learn a skill, an instrument, a dance is to experience mastery, and a powerful feeling of satisfaction. But what if there is no one to teach you, or the materials and tools are not available? Think of all the Native Americans on our own continent who have struggled to maintain their culture, and what happens to people whose place and heritage have been destroyed.

     The loss of culture is the loss of diversity and adaptability. Human adaptability has been the key to the survival of our species. One marvels at the variety of shelter we have built, from igloo and tipi to the tongkonan of the Toraja in Sulawesi.  
Tools have been carved from bone and bamboo. Clothes fashioned from hide, bark and wool. Non-specificity in diet meant food could be sourced from whatever plants and animals were available. 

       The hand shaping the brain, the brain shaping direction. Each culture, each adaptation represented a solution to the conditions in a specific locale, and in some cases there were variations within the same region. For example, the cultural variants of the Hopi, Zuni, Acoma and Diné (Navaho) peoples in the Southwestern deserts. All of these models represented sustainable life styles that did not permanently harm the environment. 
Vintage postcard  Hopi village of Oraibi  Founded in 1120 C.E.

One of the major problems of globalization and industrialization may be the loss of this diversity - what if we have only one set of solutions available, and if/when that fails - if climate change or another disaster ends our current civilization, and survivors must restart - we will have lost the skills and knowledge our species depended on prior to machinery. The loss of farming and food gathering techniques may be especially crucial.
Alternatives become difficult to imagine when there are so many basic skills we no longer have - and believe we no longer need. What would be left for inscription if electronics failed, and handwriting is no longer practiced?

       Our daughter-in-law Natalie Grant, a fourth grade teacher, informs us that under the new Common Core guidelines her students will do all their work on ipads. There doesn’t seem to be a need to teach handwriting any more, when we rely on keyboards. But it takes a special mental and physical conjoined process to symbolize thought in letters, and connect those letters smoothly - a neuroscientist would call it an « intrahemispheric specialization ». We know a child’s brain is actually changed while acquiring this new skill. What will it mean for the development of the brain if we give up handwriting for keyboards and clicks? How does the act of writing effect the brain? 
     «  Writing no longer means only using pencil and   
          paper, but using computer word processing programs. 
          Writing using paper and pencil does not require the 
          same cognitive, motor, and spatial tasks as those 
          required when using a computer keyboard. Although 
          the conceptual knowledge of written language can be   
          the same, the motor activity and the spatial abilities 
          that are used are rather different. » Which implies that 
          our brains are going to develop differently.
Alfredo Ardila, "There is not any specific brain area for writing:  From
                          cave‐paintings to computers." International Journal of Psychology, 
                               Vol. 39, Issue 1 - Can Literacy Change Brain Anatomy?

           The author of The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture expresses his personal opinion:
        "There really is something quite new about bonding 
        very early in life with keyboard, mouse, and 3-D 
        graphics, and it will be very interesting to see what it 
        produces by way of new heuristics (problem-solving 
        behaviors) in adult life. I am not surprised that we are 
        so eager as a society to welcome the Internet into our 
        public schools. I am a little surprised that we are so 
        ready to say goodbye…….to the books in the school
       library. And I am actually stunned that we imagine that 
       commercial sponsors of in-school computer networks 
       will not take their lesson from the tobacco companies 
       as they eagerly underwrite the development of more
       appealing ways to help children learn how to be happy 
       and successful adults." 
               Wilson, Frank R. (2010-10-27). The Hand: How Its Use Shapes 
                      the Brain,  Language, and Human Culture (Vintage) (Kindle Locations 
                      5635-5640). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

       Ah humans! We move into brave new worlds brought about by technology without even considering the implications until its use is established. Will we one day experience dimastalgia for beautiful penmanship & calligraphy as we do for the arts and skills we lose every day? 
 Poem by Du Mu  Tang Dynasty 9th Century C.E.

Finally, what might Darwin say about Dimastalgia?
                    What Darwin Never Dreamed

                 Hold on!    Hold on Old Ways!   
      Hold fast as if you were deeprooted in Time’s cliff 
      What if we only knew this one way to live   this one 
      click here of a world   and what if it founders  floods 
            turns dark    sudden as a Florida sinkhole   
     I watched 3 men in Burma lift their steel mallets in turn
     and pound fireforged metal to the shape of need   
     and I watched the very old woman pull
     the  secret fiber at the center of a lotus stem
     spin it into weaver's yarn 
     and I say we need to know what the Buddha knew:
            There is treasure in the lotus     
     and we need to play the music of the blacksmith’s dance
     and someone must know how to   how to   Do  
     what the milennia taught us at all the separate sites we 

       ...Is it to late to say if     this flash of an era ends  
          or is it already when    the sun and fire and wind 
          and what remains of sweetwaterflow    
          are all that is left