“It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” — US rock band R.E.M.

October 2020: A Note from Hope, publisher, Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine — When the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping the globe in March, like many of you I reached out my dearest friends including one I hadn’t spoken with for several years. He joked, “Are you connecting because it’s the end of the world as we know it?” For more than six months, that line — and the R.E.M. signature song recorded on the 1987 album Document — has been playing in my mind.

Known for its quick flying, seemingly stream of consciousness rant with a number of diverse references, It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) such as a quartet of individuals with the initials “L.B.” — including Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs. In an interview with Musician magazine, the band’s lead singer Michael Stipe claimed that the “L.B.” references came from a dream he had in which he found himself at a party surrounded by famous people who all shared those initials.

Another theory: Perhaps Stripe was channeling a vision of what was to come. 

Fast forward to Oct. 1. As I sit typing this Welcome note from my home in New Mexico, I’m scanning the news articles I have saved to remind me of what is happening as it’s happening. While I keep a mental log on the big stories, I must admit to being awestruck as I review the breathtaking losses we have experienced in just the last four weeks:

  • The elephants: Since March, hundreds of elephants have died mysteriously in Botswana’s famed Okavango Delta. On Sept. 4, New York magazine explained scientists reported the theory that they probably succumbed to natural toxins. “A neurotoxin in algal blooms, which would help explain why 70 percent of elephants in Botswana died near water holes, where algal blooms have been growing rapidly due to global warming and farming methods. While researchers initially ruled out bacterial toxins, as other species that frequent water holes weren’t dying at the same rate, professor Christine Gosden at the University of Liverpool believes the neurotoxin BMAA (beta-Methylamino-L-alanine) is the culprit: Not only do elephants have a proclivity for playing in water, but their long trunks also have a significant number of olfactory receptors. Also, many of the deceased elephants reportedly wandered around in circles before dying, appearing completely disoriented, which is characteristic of BMAA.”
  • The birds: Birds ‘falling out of the sky’ in mass die-off in south-western US noted The Guardian on Sept. 16, explaining that wildfires and climate crisis are cited as possible causes for the deaths of thousands of migrating species heading south for the winter. The British daily newspaper explained: “Flycatchers, swallows and warblers are among the species “falling out of the sky” as part of a mass die-off across New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and farther north into Nebraska, with growing concerns there could be hundreds of thousands dead already, said Martha Desmond, a professor in the biology department at New Mexico State University (NMSU). Many carcasses have little remaining fat reserves or muscle mass, with some appearing to have nose-dived into the ground mid-flight.”
  • The fish: City of Miami Tackles Fish Die-Off in Struggling Biscayne Bay, announced the MiamiGov.com — also on Sept. 16. “The fish kill at Biscayne Bay is an environmental disaster and we need to take action right now,” said Mayor Francis Suarez. “The experts told us that the high temperatures and lack of oxygen in the water are to blame. That’s why we deployed emergency pumps to attempt to aerate the water. We worked with our partner organizations and departments to have compost receptacles so that volunteers can clean the bay of dead fish so it doesn’t contaminate other live marine life, among other immediate actions. Biscayne Bay is literally on life support right now.”
  • The hurricanes: All the Records the 2020 Hurricane Season has Broken So Far accounted the Weather Channel on Sept. 21. “Twenty of the 23 storms through Sept. 21 had their earliest formation date on record. Arthur, Bertha and Dolly are the only letters represented in the list of names that did not have a record-early formation date. For perspective, the average formation date of the Atlantic’s 8th named storm is Sept. 24 for the years spanning 1966 to 2009, according to the National Hurricane Center. We are 15 named storms ahead of that pace as of late-September.”
  • The wildfires: And this just in — Heat wave, drought elevate wildfire threat in the West, reports CNN on Sept. 27: “More than 70 large, active fires continue to burn across the western US, and the weather forecast for the upcoming week will only make conditions worse. Drought, strong winds, dry vegetation and above average temperatures are expected across the fire-weary West.”
  • And, the politics: 
    • Black Lives Matter movement: On Sept. 23, the powerful national civil rights shared with us a Statement by Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation in Response to Grand Jury Verdict in the Breonna Taylor Case. “We are completely disgusted and outraged by the indescribable decision that has been rendered in the murder of our beloved, Breonna Taylor. Here we are, yet again, a Black life that has been dehumanized at the hands of the police in cold-blooded murder; has no value in a criminal legal system that is supposed to protect it. We send our love and condolences to Breonna’s family who has to endure the painful reality that they may never receive justice because of the brutally racist system all Black people are subjected to.”
    • RBG: Then, on Sept. 25, The Washington Post gave us a capitol view as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was laid to rest. Seven days earlier NPR had announced: The Champion Of Gender Equality Dies At 87. Chief Justice John Roberts said: “Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

What’s Next? The images of the dead birds and elephants that accompanied these articles were almost too ghastly to look at. Also tough to take is watching the peaceful demonstrates that too often turn violent, wondering who will champion equality and the environment moving forward? If drilling in the oceans becomes ubiquitous and climate change is left to those seemingly uncaring about the environment — how will our scientists at NASA be taken seriously? Will we pay attention to the melting polar ice sheets and the impact that dramatic change will have on coastal cities, animals in the arctic, and our food and water supply?

Fortunately, the Inkandescent™ Team is full of optimists. When I let my mind and heart drop into the darkness of what I’m tracking, my collaborator on the What’s Next project at Inkandescent Women magazine, Cynthia de Lorenzi, pulls me back.

And, I am turning to the one activity that always gives me a sense of calm and peace: storytelling. In this issue of Inkandescent Health & Wellness magazine, I share with you Seeds of Hope for the Future:

  • Our cover story features our good friend Dr. James Thorne, a rocket scientist and musician in Washington, DC who spends his days teaching kids about space travel through song. We tapped him to explain: Is an asteroid really going to collide with earth just days before the November 2020 election?
  • Mind: Are you dying to retire? Texas-born Stacy L. Hagar moved to Las Cruces, NM after the former fraud examiner took an early retirement. She offers 10 Tips on how you can retire and thrive!
  • Body: One of our favorite photographers in DC, Hilary Schwab, has a new TV show that we’re helping to promote. Get ready to harvest and prepare home-grown produce with the Edible Garden Girl.
  • Spirit: You’ll also meet the musician behind Hilary’s videos, Maryland lyricist and composer Scott Richards.
  • Soul: “Peace is in Every Step,” insists world-renowned Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. As so many earth-bound souls struggle to discover the path of mindfulness, we share a lesson from his bestselling book: Walking Meditation When Angry.
  • We’re all Heart: Last, but certainly not least, we bring you words of wisdom about What’s Next in the pandemic in our podcast interview with Dr. Caryn Iverson, the Chief Nursing Officer at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, NM.

So while the world in October 2020 seems challenging and stressful, the mission of Inkandescent™ Inc. is to be a space, voice, and cause for optimism.

  • Inkandescent Women magazine: “We have great hope for the future — especially when we see all the amazing people working so hard to make the world a better place,” says Cynthia de Lorenzi, founder of Success in the City and our collaborator on the Truly Amazing Women project. “We care for all creatures big and small, and will continue to support them in every way possible.”
  • Black Lives Matter Radio Show: “I am foolish,” insists Tony Farmer, host of the Black Lives Matter Radio Show on InkandesentRadio.com. “I grew up in the inner city, and by all expectations shouldn’t be here today. I should be dead, or in jail, as are many of the young men I grew up with. So I am foolish in thinking that I can defeat the odds and make the world, and people in it, stronger, better, and more resilient. It is my goal to help support others to be foolish, too.”

As for me: I wish you only good health, safety and — perhaps most essentially — sanity as we venture forth this next month. Indeed, we are all in this together. — Hope

Illustrations by Michael Glenwood Gibbs