Like many others this week, we popped for a month’s subscription to the Disney Channel and watched Hamilton. Sheesh, what a wild ride. I never thought I’d have a chance to see it, and I’m glad I did. My fervor for the first half didn’t quite hold for the second, but all in all I was amazed. Other than reverence for their creativity and stamina, what moved me most was the passion, the on-fire-ness. I couldn’t help, after it was done, comparing this to the oozing fetid rot we’re battling now. At least King George, nuts and vile as he was, could stand up straight and put words together. None of these founding dudes were without problematic aspects, but, well, you know what I mean.
Our political peril is being drowned out by our pandemic peril, and both are wiping out the fact that Siberia is melting and our wildfire season here is about to start. And it’s predicted to be a doozy. We’re been busy with our evacuation preparations, having learned some lessons from the last one, and Conrad has been doing daily battle with stray brush and tall weeds. Last year’s blessing can’t repeat: we were sheltered by friends in an unevacuated zone, and they even accepted our cats. This year, we’ve cleaned out our ancient maxivan to be a shelter, hopefully parked in somebody’s field. It’s no longer a dependable long-haul vehicle, but it would very likely be OK for something like Petaluma, and there’s space enough in it for the cats and us. We’ve had a blue ton of camping experience, just not with cats, so I think we can adapt.
But that’s just the immediate disaster prep. I don’t feel wonderful about what’s down the road. And it’s even harder to stay above water when the art you’ve based your whole life on is suspended. Theatrical production? Book publishing? When you can’t gather and nobody has money?
I inherited my depression and have spent my life surviving, but this is wicked. And yet something Conrad said today, on our way back from the ever-generous ocean, reminded me of an attitude adjustment. Our first experience with the Society of Friends, or, if you will, Quakers, was long ago when we were in Manhattan for a while and the kids were young. Leaflets were being handed out somewhere around Murray Hill, and Conrad said, “This sounds interesting.” And indeed we tested the waters at our meeting in Lancaster, and spent years as faithful attenders.
This is the core of one precept. Turn your attention to what is closest to you, and do no harm. First, your own self. If you are not treating yourself with nurturing love and care, change that as best you are able. After you have given that your best shot, consider the next ring outward: your immediate family or closest relationships, look honestly, and adjust what you can. Stay with what is nearest to you and what is actually possible to change for the better. Only then move your focus outward, to your friends and community.
Do you see how many steps there are on the way to addressing the entire society whose dysfunction is drowning us? I am not good material for demonstrations. I have no illusions that having my eye put out by a rubber bullet or having my body broken by a rage-driven car would make enough of a ripple to change anything, although I have enormous respect for those who can risk that. But I can speak softly to an unhappy friend. I can deal sympathetically with a frazzled company rep on the phone, even though I would really love to melt the wires with profanity. I can cuddle my cats and water my garden. I can let three breaths go by before responding sharply to something that nettled my butt.
And I can take every chance that comes along to let gratitude well up, to fill and spill over with love. The gold of sunrise. That first long hug of the morning. The wild wind and whitecaps of the exuberant ocean. The awakening of “yes” by those who have cared to memorize and share poetry. My own stubborn trust that somehow I can intuit structure and then let touch guide me to fix the motorized side mirror on the Prius that got yanked loose by the whap of a branch. If the Multiverse is sentient, surely it appreciates praise. No matter what you believe, you can imagine that Gaia’s food is joy.
That’s a beautiful read, Elizabeth. And good luck with the upcoming fire season.