On Earth Day I would like to tell you about a wonderfully informative, inspiring, and funny book, Renewable, by Eileen Flanagan, a Quaker friend of mine whose life was renewed at the age of 49.
Flanagan captured my attention in the opening paragraph, when she describes handcuffing herself to the White House fence beside some very famous people to send a message to President Obama that the Keystone XL Pipeline would be a disaster for the planet. The rest of the book explains what led her to that courageous act, for which she was arrested and briefly jailed. She tells the story of her idealistic youth, when she spent 3 years in the Peace Corps in Africa, delighting in a simple, beautiful culture that celebrated interdependence. With frankness and wry humor, she then describes the next decades of her life back in the USA. Though she enjoyed marriage and motherhood, she woke up in midlife to find she had become someone different from the person she had thought she would be, distant from her own soul.
She and her family had just moved into a lovely, larger home to accommodate the teenagers’ needs for more space in which to make noise, her husband’s need for a room that was quiet, and her own desire for an office in which to write. Instead of finding joy in this new home, Flanagan encounters loneliness and a strange sadness. Dismayed by the materialism of her life and disquieted by a sense that she is somehow failing to follow her true calling, she searches to find her path again.
In this book Flanagan skillfully interweaves her own frank and humorous story with larger issues that she knows will affect the lives of her children. She travels back to Africa and sees how climate change is impacting the lives of people there, including the community in which she had lived earlier. Rains have become unpredictable, temperatures have risen, crops have failed. Doing some research, she hears sobering predictions about how terrible the impact may be in the not-too-distant future, when water becomes even more scarce. It becomes clear to Flanagan that recycling and modifying her personal and family life is not enough to reverse the planetary changes that are in motion. After she recognizes how much the policies and practices of large corporations–including “extreme extraction” methods–are pushing the planet to future disaster, she becomes an engaged participant in an activist group called the Earth Quaker Action Team. She joins EQAT in finding creative and joyful ways to pressure PNC Bank (a Quaker-founded bank) to stop investing its money in blowing up mountaintops in Appalachia to extract coal. Flanagan learns to exercise her “courage muscle,” and her anguish turns to joy and empowerment when she finds the role that is true to her soul and uses her gifts.
After five years of creative pressure and protest from Earth Quaker Action Team, PNC Bank recently announced a change in policy. It will no longer invest in mountaintop removal coal mining.
This story encourages readers to ask ourselves if we are following God’s call, finding the place where the needs of the world intersect with the joy that bubbles up when we are being true to our deeper selves and to life itself.
Flanagan’s prose is simple and clear. The eye with which she looks at the world is wise, and she has a gift for showing the connections between things. I was eager to read a few chapters of this book each night because the way she tells her story is full of so much humor, love, and hope for the future.
Flanagan’s website has links to four different ways to purchase her book: http://eileenflanagan.com/Renewable/
In celebration of Earth Day, the electronic version of the book is available for the sale price of $3.99. Wed. April 22nd through Sunday, April 26th. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00SUUFSNG/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00SUUFSNG&linkCode=as2&tag=thewritingofeile&linkId=PQT3E34IAHCRFR4N
To support this Quaker author’s effort to share her message that our lives and our planet are renewable, write a review of the book for Amazon.com. After fifty reviews are posted, her book will be promoted more fully.
A Story of Renewal: Do you feel concerned about climate change and its effects on the world’s poorest people? Do you have questions about how fully your life is aligned with your spiritual purpose? Do you, too, long to put your gifts to use in ways that serve God and benefit future generations?
© 2015 Marcelle Martin