Full Moon, September 2023
Credit: Meridel Rubinstein, “Edith’s House” Critical Mass Exhibit
The term “Critical Mass” means the smallest amount of fissionable material that, when amassed, will sustain a self-supporting chain reaction. Critical Mass was a collaborative photo/text/video installation that takes as its subject the worlds of scientists and Native Americans as they intersected at the home of Edith Warner during the making of the first atomic bomb in 1944 in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Every evening the tree crickets sang, all through August and into September, until I realized as I walked out to the patio one evening that their songs had stopped. The frequency of their songs had fallen as the colder temperatures arrived and they could no longer beat their wings as fast, unable then to hit high notes. Now there was silence. I missed their invisible company.
The hummingbirds however continued to come with their demands for nectar, speeding by sometimes an inch from my head. The sound of their wings pulsed through the air. Even as it grew cold and crisp and the early morning sky lightened with deeper blue and rose, they came by to draw from the agastache blooms and feeders. Just as neighbors and friends told me what was true for “their” hummingbirds, “mine” needed daily replenishing of sugared water in the feeders. We all looked for them, enjoyed them, lured them and felt lucky to see them.
Claiming the hummingbirds as “mine”, we probably wished they were. Just as we wished with the ravens and crows, the doves and sparrows, and the blackbirds who flew above our yards and perched in the branches, or on the telephone poles, or at the bird feeders. Yet they never were, and somewhere we knew within ourselves that a joy they bring is in seeing their freedom beyond us. In Woman and Nature, Susan Griffin wrote, “For the blackbird who flies now over our heads, whose song reminds us of a flute, who migrates with the stars, who lives among reeds and rushes … this creature is free of our hands, we cannot control her … for we did not invent the blackbird … we only invented her name.”
The approach of autumn brought Marty the Moose all the way to downtown Santa Fe. Fish and Game came and tranquilized him then took him by trailer back to the northern wilderness where he would more likely find the mate he was looking for. A few of the neighbors who saw him leave cried as he was carried away and many others wrote best wishes for him on their social media.
The film Oppenheimer also came to Santa Fe and with it came discussion and controversy. An art exhibit of photographs by Meridel Rubinstein taken in Los Alamos and San Idlefonso Pueblo and at least three panel discussions took place in the city. Further south the Tularosa Downwinders had their own events. A New York Times Op-Ed from their spokeswoman and advocate for just compensation for the radioactive fallout from the Trinity test told the story of Oppenheimer from the point of view of the small ranchers and families who lived unknowingly within as close as 12 miles of the blast.
While up the hill on the Pajarito Plateau the Los Alamos National Lab continues to prepare for an expansion of plutonium cores production. These are the triggers, made of radioactive plutonium, for new nuclear weapons. Thousands of new employees, most of them coming to live in Santa Fe, are expected to produce 30 of these per year. While there was controversy stirred by the film for past actions, including the fallout from the first nuclear blast, the loss of pueblo lands, and the ongoing debate about storage of nuclear waste in the state, there is currently more controversy on the horizon. The history of nuclear weapons in New Mexico has been filled with controversy or as some would say, deception over safety.
The chamisa, with its gray-green branches covered in small yellow flowers, has started to bloom everywhere throughout the city. Small groups of purple asters bloom along the roadsides. Venus shines bright on the eastern horizon in the early morning, representing the Star of Bethlehem and symbolizing the descent of spirit into matter. To others she represents the divine in humanity and the presence of God on earth.
Unexpectedly, last night around midnight, as I woke from deep sleep, I was startled to hear the tree crickets sing.