Of Wanderers and Nomads
by Usha Alexander
[This is the third in a series of essays, On Climate Truth and Fiction, in which I raise questions about environmental distress, the human experience, and storytelling. The previous part is here.]
At the beginning our story—paraphrased from an origin story remembered by a Creed elder — two figures are walking along the clouds. They’ve been walking long and far. Looking down through the spaces between the clouds, they spy a beautiful, green landscape. rich and inviting. They long to go down to this land, but they don’t know how to get down from the clouds. So the two keep walking. When at last they see a speck on the horizon, in the far distance, they walk toward it. They speck grows, looming larger than they are as they get nearer. When the two look up at it, it looks back down at them — it’s Great Spider.
The people tell Great Spider how much they wish to climb down from the clouds and inhabit the land below, and they ask him for his help. So Great Spider begins to weave a web. He weaves and weaves and weaves, until he’s woven a boat. The two climb into the boat with Great Spider’s web still attached, and Great Spider lowers it down from the clouds. Despite his care, the boat rocks and sways precariously. After a long and harrowing downward journey, the boat ends up stuck in the top of a huge tree.
Usha Alexander was born to Indian immigrants who came to the United States in the 1950s and settled in the very small town of Pocatello, Idaho. She ran away to university at the age of 19, and later joined the US Peace Corps, where she served as a science teacher in the archipelago nation of Vanuatu. In the late 90s, Usha made her way to the San Francisco Bay Area of California, where she settled and worked for Apple Computer for many years.
Since 2013, Usha resides with her partner, writer and photographer, Namit Arora, in the National Capital Region of India. Usha has lived in four different countries and has learned to carry her home within herself, yet she frequently returns to the CA Bay Area with a certain sense of homecoming.