As the summer of social distance expanded from our packed cities, into nature’s trails and rivers, and as we now move into the fall of discontent, what is the etiquette for existing outside of our overrun earth and fishing banks as we move into an isolated winter? Nature was our punching bag this summer. We brought our angst and emotional uncertainty to its gentle valleys and pristine shores. But what will happen when winter brings its white blanket and another potential lockdown?
I watched from the normally peaceful confines of our cabin this summer, the sheer disgrace of humanity as it’s discarded garbage piled up on our trails. Felt anger, as the trees and signs were graffitied on our quiet little tract in the woods. Then the unthinkable; uncontrollable forest fires raging across the entire region.
The Creek Fire coming so close, that I went so far as to organize a plan to remove family heirlooms and precious antiques. This massive fire, that burned over 379,000 acres, still lies smoldering on the other side of Devil’s Postpile, just a few miles from the cabin.
You think you know what’s coming for you in life. You imagine things that you thought were important. Am I going to land that next project? Will I be able to pay my bills this month? Am I keeping in touch with my family enough? Is my mom’s health ok? Am I getting enough exercise? Eating too much sugar? Flossing enough? You don’t think “Will there be a global pandemic that will destroy all of my plans for the next eighteen months?” Maybe kill my relatives. Then add to that; a historic wildfire and hurricane season, murder hornets, riots, record heat waves, and one of the most contentious elections in history.
I remember thinking as the fire crept closer and closer to the cabin, that if the cabin goes what is left for me? This place that has brought me so much joy, peace, and purpose in the five years it’s been a part of my life, may suddenly not exist anymore.
I started obsessively watching the daily Creek Fire incident reports like other people watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Casey the Alaskan Team Chief became my Kim, Brian the Division Chief my Khloe, Fireman Dan my Kourtney. I studied the map with an anxious brow, while calculating how many miles of forest it would need to burn through before cresting the hill above the cabin. How many roads it would need to jump. Hoping the burn scar of the Lions Fire would check its destructive path towards our little nook in the Sierras. The unknowing and uncertainty were excruciating.
But aren’t we always living in an uncertain world? Is anything in life for sure? Are you leading the life you imagined in your childhood? Is it better? Is it worse? I guess for most Americans, it is probably better than most, even in the worst abused depths of our society. But is any level of abuse acceptable? Is that just a human problem that has been around for centuries? How do we deal with the human problem of now? Are these problems of the body or the general mindset? Does one problem feed the next? Civilizations have toppled so many times, did they know when it was happening? Will we?
What if it’s now? What if Trump is Nero. Floyd is Jesus. Derek Chauvin, Pontius Pilot. Does it matter in the end? Violence begets violence. Ignorance begets hate. Cain killed Abel. Martin Luther was assassinated. Jon Benet was abducted. The ark floated. New Orleans sunk. Does it matter when a microbe comes for society? Did we create it in a lab? Did the animals we have subjected for a millennium give it to us? Is it the final justice for humanity?
Probably not, but can we learn from it? Have we finally evolved enough to understand real compassion? Do I have a right to hope? Or should we just absolve ourselves to the righteous bunker of social media, instead of the internal work we all need to do? If so, let’s just all pray for aliens.