by Sally Burgess

My friend Max and I share a love of Rob Brezny’s work. His nearly 400-page tome called PRONOIA is filled with zany optimism, which teeters between nonsensical and brilliant. For instance: “In the future we will wear magic underwear made from eagle feathers, spider webs, and 100-year-old moss…and conjure up bigger, better, more original sins, and wilder, more interesting problems.” Also, “we will research the distinctions between stupid, boring pain and smart, fascinating pain until we finally get it right.”

My personal examples of “stupid, boring pain” include worrying about being a few pounds overweight rather than dancing with joy every morning that I wake up able to dance with joy! Or spending precious time scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and feeling a twinge of regret that maybe I’m not having as much fun as my contemporaries.

So, one foggy-white November morning, I emailed Max that I was going to spend the day being open and curious. It was an assignment from Brezny’s book– “Pray to be granted a healing sample of her comedic genius—a funny, unexpected miracle that will free you of any tendencies you have to believe the age-old lies about her.” Comedic Genius is one of Brezny’s  monikers for a Supreme Being.

So, my dog Maizy and I headed off for our morning walk and right away were in the company of a small flock of Snow Geese. I love Snow Geese! But I always expect to hear their rowdy honking—on this day they blended with the color of the sky and were so quiet, I would have missed them entirely had I been perseverating inside my boring problems and stupid pain. I laughed out loud and shouted, “Thank you—that WAS genius!”

Weeks later, feeling worn down by work and frazzled that the weather was swinging wildly from clear to rain, to big winds, warm (too warm for the season!) then the temperature plummeted—all in a few hours. By early evening though it was calm and there was time to get some fresh air before dark. At that hour of the day the western sky should have been the main event but no—the action was happening toward the east. Filling the horizon was a gorgeous bank of clouds— stop-you-in-your-tracks gorgeous! A chaotic tumble of peach, pink, gray, white, wide and ragged, tall and plump, with dusky blue providing a brilliant background. Also, little diamond-like glimmers in front of it all. Seagulls! Flitting and calling out.

No camera could have captured the wild and colorful magnificence of that moment though a talented artist could render it in a painting.  My heart yearned to be the painter even as I was filled to the brim with gratitude that once again, my boring problems and stupid pain were cleansed by that gift of comedic genius.

One last example. I was looking out the back door recently, toward the south, marveling that it was sunny AND rainy which meant if I went out to tend to the goats, chickens, and duck, I would get soaked. My phone beeped. It was my friend Toni–“Look at this!” as she texted a picture of a big, beautiful rainbow. WOW! If Toni had a rainbow, maybe we did too! There it was–out the front door and to the north—a band of color that seemed to explode out of the farm fields and extend all the way into town. George, my husband came out and we stood in the middle of our little dirt road, mouth’s agape, marveling at the distinct colors—ROYGBIV! And it lasted for the longest time. How do you thank someone, (I’m looking at you Toni) for a gift so grand?

Minutes earlier I was taken by the phenomenon of simultaneous sunshine and rain but also irritated that the rain was interfering with my routine. Yet at that very moment in the same sky a “funny, unexpected miracle” was in full dazzle. Comedic Genius. Humbling for sure.

The Confluence Climate Collaborative exists because of the climate crisis. We carry a collective ache to say the right thing, make salient and convincing observations, help get things going in a more hopeful direction. Which is why our 40-day celebration this year is called “Current of Hope”.

Emily Dickinson tells us that “hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul”.  Elin Kelsey tells us in her book “Hope Matters” that evidence proves that hope, not fear, is our most powerful tool for change. And Jane Goodall reminds us that hope requires effort. Real hope she says, requires “action and engagement”.

If you are reading our weekly offerings, you are probably aware of the pickle we are in. Carbon emissions continue to increase though we have scientific proof that they are driving dangerous and expensive weather events. At the same time, entire counties in Illinois are being convinced to resist renewable energy—pushing back against new solar and wind installations. Letting go of what we have always known—and let’s be honest—every one of us has fossil fuels to thank for our quality of life—is really challenging. But powering our homes and cars and much of our economy through renewable energy IS possible! And it is far past time to make the transition.

Do you know that every time a coal-fired power plant goes offline it is the equivalent of taking half a million cars off the highways in terms of lowered emissions? And do you know that advances in wind and solar make them not only a cleaner alternative but much more affordable? I have been in more than one public meeting where Ameren officials extolled the cost effectiveness of renewable energy!

The climate crisis is huge but so is the impact of thousands of people determined to engage. So, how can YOU engage? I’m going to make a shameless pitch for you to join us at Sierra Club. Become a member and a volunteer—activities range from participating in pollinator gardens to joining live actions to jumping on a bus and heading to Springfield for Lobby Day. You’ll get support and training, and you will be with like-minded others. You can do as little or as much as your energy and time allow. Each and every action will matter and will make a difference. It is but one way to give hope feathers! Feel free to email me at for more information.

One last brilliant bit from Brezney. “Thousands of things go right for you every day…made possible by an unimaginably immense globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear reactions in order to convert its own body into light and heat and energy for your personal use. Is it a happy accident? Or a big, broad hint, from a cosmic intelligence that adores you?”

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