What a particularly challenging and poignantly vulnerable life experience it is to be living through another fire season in the Pacific Northwest. Each year it seems to come earlier and more ferociously than the last.
Experiencing these blatant repercussions of severe imbalance in our eco-system is sobering and heart-wrenching. At times it is difficult to not feel downright panicky.
Continuously following the progress and containment of many nearby wildfires asks of us a particular kind of vigilance, one that rubs up against our mammalian drive to stay safe and keep our kids alive. It’s a unique flavor of stress when we feel these fires encroaching on our precious town and other nearby communities.
Looking around our house and imagining what we’d grab if we only had 20 or 30 minutes before needing to evacuate brings a unique perspective on our relationship with objects, illuminating what carries the most value for us. To have our fire-safe packed with all the most important documents brings a simultaneous sense of preparedness and unsettledness. How odd that this has become the new normal?
Preparing the older children for the real possibility of evacuation, without scaring them beyond reason, asks us to meet and hold it all from a particular quality of centered calm that is difficult in moments to authentically embody.
Reading the true horror stories of precious people, families who didn’t have time to flee, who were not warned in time, and found themselves suddenly engulfed and claimed by the fires~ brings such an ominous sense of sorrowful concern. We leave our phones on at all hours in case we were to receive sudden notification of needing to evacuate.
And then there’s the smoke. Last year we were more casual in our family about consistently wearing high quality masks, and within a few weeks we all had deep respiratory inflammation and signs of liver stress. This year we are being much more cautious. We stay inside as much as possible and are incredibly privileged to have central air conditioning and high quality air purifiers running in our home. Whenever we leave our home we wear our masks, and even the children don’t resist. They say that if they take them off their lungs hurt.
I think of all the many local folks who do not have a way to breathe clean air through this season, and feel deeply concerned for the short and long term impact for us all.
Orionne has been watering the land around our house daily, keeping things as wet as possible. In the last few days he cut down and hauled away many tall trees that were dead and brittle-dry, obvious fire-fuel standing precariously close to our house. I feel so grateful for his incredible competence and hard work, and am amazed to discover what it takes to soothe and comfort me in this season.
We had a major power-outage late at night a few nights ago in our neighborhood that lasted until dawn. We’ve heard this can commonly occur when there’s a lot of smoke~ something to do with the shift in condensation. Wilder and Arayla slept through it, but Ezra got scared and came to sleep in our bedroom.
I lay in bed trying to sleep that night, feeling the collective anxiety creeping in and communal PTSD from all the annihilating fires of these last years—in Lake, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties and really all up and down the state of California—the devastating fires that violently leveled countless neighborhoods of Santa Rosa last fall, destroying over 2800 homes and killing 22 people.
The deadly Carr Fire that has been burning in Redding, CA 130 miles south of us for the last 9 days, as of today is still only 35% contained. They say because of the record-high heat and force of the flames, the fire is creating its own 25 mph winds to fuel itself, and a new weather phenomenon, called “firenados” is occurring. Yes~ a fire-tornado; as scary as it sounds. So far the Carr fire has torched over 121,000 acres, destroyed over 1500 structures and claimed at least 6 lives.
It’s so obvious how we share a collective mind-stream and nervous system, and how painfully we feel in our cells the trauma and losses others have suffered and are suffering right now. At times when I look outside at the trees in our yard, covered in a thin layer of ash, I think I sense them trembling in empathic concern.
What times these are, my loves. And of course it’s not just the fires. What of the numerous earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis of recent years? The effects of climate change are ruthlessly making themselves known, impacting every corner of our world.
And what of the horrifying political climate; the living nightmares so many dear humans are facing at this time, simply trying (and failing) to find a safe place to be in this world?
My heart truly aches and breaks with it all.
And, it’s clearer than ever what these times require of us.
It’s clearer than ever how we have a choice, every single moment, in how we choose to meet what’s arising.
Obviously it does not serve to ignore, avoid, or gloss over the challenges we are facing as a people. Nor does it serve to be consumed by terror, panic, doom and gloom. We live in times that require us to stay awake, aware, prepared, and available to respond to any number of challenges we might be asked to face.
In my experience it DOES serve to stay open, present to it all.
It does serve to keep feeling what arises~ the sadness, the raw-nerved fear, the grief, the outrage, the empathy, the vulnerability~ to keep it all moving through, so that our hearts and centers are available to meet what comes, moment by moment.
It does serve to let joy and gratitude find its way to be here, too. Wow. SO much to be grateful for!
It does serve to cherish the moments we can feel love thriving, prevailing, totally winning in our brilliant little lives.
It does serve to hold our beloveds close, to breathe in their scent, to cuddle and snuggle and linger in sweet embraces.
It does serve to be generous and patient out in the world, knowing that everyone is going through something, and the vast majority of people don’t have the resources~ spiritual, social, financial~ by which to make sense, prayer or medicine of the challenges.
It does serve to be super gentle and compassionate with ourselves; to be honest with ourselves about what is challenging us, and discover fresh kindness in response.
It does serve to pray, in whatever way prayer feels true and right for each of us.
Thank you Beloved Life, for another day. Thank you for this chance to feel so much, to open wider still, to tell the tender truth of my heart, to love more bravely in spite of it all, and to pray.
Thank you so much for this chance to feel, to love and to pray.
Sending love in all directions… xoxo J