Our beautiful home state of Oregon is on fire, as is much of the West. It’s a surreal, apocalyptic landscape, and I’m finding it hard to absorb this latest disaster. We’re grieving for our friends and family, and grieving for the loss of what has always been an idyllic place to call home. Now, more than ever, I am acutely aware of the ephemeral experience of life as we know it. I can’t help but wonder, “How much more must we all endure?”
Meanwhile, here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, we’re dodging another tropical storm this week. I wish we could send some of this rain to Oregon.
In the midst of another round of disaster and anxiety, I’m searching for solace in nature, meditating to calm my crazy mind, talking with loved ones, and reading poetry that speaks to the commonality of our experience. (And, of course, wandering in circles, fretting, eating chocolate, and staring into space.)
We are all on this journey together. I remind myself that along with the devastation and suffering, there are always things to be grateful for. (But if anyone who has any power to change this trajectory is listening…C’mon!!! Give us all a break!)
Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the dryer.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door.
The other cat—the one you never really liked—will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up—drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice—one white, one black—scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.
~Ellen Bass, “Relax”
[…]it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
~Mary Oliver, “Invitation”
Be safe, dear ones. Take exquisite care of yourselves and each other.
Love, Laurel & Eric
Exactly what I needed on this very smoky morning. Actually made me laugh, and wonder, and sit back and get a bit of perspective. We are OK here in GP. Daughters evacuated here but have returned home to unburned houses, one in Brownsville and one in Shady Cove. Daughter in Northern Washington escaped the worst fires surrounding her home there. We all have smoke and sadness and frustration. But we are OK. For Now. As we always are but sometimes it is easy to forget that life itself is so transient that just being alive is a treasure. Sometimes. Not always, but more often than not. Not sure if you get any notices from WordPress since I am now posting there instead of blogger, but there is a bit on there about what has happened around here.
Thank you. Always lovely to hear your heartfelt words and see the beautiful visions from the camera.
It’s good to hear from you, Sue…and congratulations on your new home! Stay safe in Ashland. We miss seeing you guys.
Sue, you said it well…just being alive is a treasure. That poem by Ellen Bass made me laugh, too, and helped to put these crazy times in perspective. So glad to know that you all are safe in Grants Pass. We’re hoping the rains come soon to Oregon and all of the West. Stay safe!
We too are in the midst of smoke from the Fires but we also along with family and friends are OK. We try to keep a positive outlook but 2020 has made that hard. Now if we could just find a method for getting some of your rain! Take care you two.
Janna, I’m glad to know that you all are safe…but I know the smoke is daunting. 2020 has definitely been giving us plenty of opportunities for practicing how to stay positive. You all take good care, too.
Beautiful sentiments Laurel….it’s hard to pay attention to the small things we have, things to be thankful for. Thanks for reminding us with such thoughtful words.
Sue, every day now I’m reciting aloud the simple things that make me happy…it grounds me and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by all of the big stuff I can’t control. I hope everything is going well as you guys prepare for your fall journey.
Hello dear friends,
We were thinking about you and your Ashland home. Relieved to hear the update.
We were camping on the McKenzie River until last Monday. We had a glorious week of hiking and swimming. We contemplated staying a few extra days. If we had, we would have been evacuated in the dark Monday night. The spots we were just at have been hit hard by the fire. I pray for the backpackers we passed on the trails.
Back home in Portland, the smoke is horrific. Thanks for your post. Definitely helps the outlook.
Be safe during the storm. Sending lots o of love your way.
Georgina and Tom❤️
Oh, Georgina! That is so scary to think that you two could have been caught in the fires on the McKenzie. I’m so glad you had a wonderful week of camping and so glad you left when you did.
The photos we’ve seen of Portland look apocalyptic. We trust that you guys are creating music and art and staying safe in your beautiful home. We sure missed seeing you this year. Love to you both!
Spending time free from tech in Capitol Reef was a great way to relieve the stress. When it gets overwhelming, I tell Mike to snuggle up with me and I feel much better.
Deb, taking breaks from reading the news helps to restore my sanity. And snuggling with Eric is always good. :-)
Hello Laurel and Eric,
Thank you for sharing your experiences in Florida! We are fortunate, we have only lost power a few times during this disastrous episode so reading the poem by Ellen Bass reminds us that life is tough, yet we carry on, laugh, cry and here we are. We cannot remember when there has been so much disaster happening all at once! Politics, pandemic, fires, civil unrest….
We look forward to hearing how your lives are threaded with the remodeling, storms, humidity, etc. It helps to have another perspective during these challenging times.
Hi Zora & Wayne, it’s so good to hear from you. I’m glad you liked the poem by Ellen Bass. Life is so precious, so tragic, so comic, so everything! And she seemed to capture it all in one poem. It made me feel better. :-)
We can’t recall a time when there has been so much being thrown at us all at one time, either. It’s helpful to know that we are not alone, for all of us to share our stories, and to keep looking for moments of joy. We hope you’ll soon be getting refreshing rains in Oregon. Take good care.
As always, your posts are beautiful and much appreciated. “Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Strange days indeed.”
Thank you, Susan. Can you imagine if someone had warned us about these crazy times? I don’t think we would have believed them! I hope your travels continue to be peaceful.
Oh the irony…massive flooding in the southeast, huge fires in the west. Humans keep being resilient, but I worry about my grandchildren’s future. Then I remember…my grandmother worried about mine🙏
I’ve had similar thoughts, Joan. We worry about our daughter and grandson (and all of the children in the world). And then I think of how much previous generations have endured. Let’s hope that these challenging times will result in a better, kinder, more just world.
I try to stay positive with everything, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t almost chuck my phone across the room this morning when I read the forecast and saw we were in for another two days of terrible air quality. But notice – I said “almost.” My phone remains in one piece and I consider that a victory.
That’s pretty much where I’m at these days. And I don’t feel bad about it at all.
I hope Sally takes it easy on you guys and everyone else down there. If she really wanted to be a dear, she could head west and help these firefighters out.
Laura, considering how much you’ve had to change your plans recently, and the smoke that plagued you in Portland and continues to keep you confined indoors in Bend, I think you are showing remarkable restraint in not having a total meltdown. Traveling in a motorhome is fun. Being cooped up in a motorhome is NOT fun.
I hope the smoke clears for you soon. I really do wish we could send some of this rain your way. Why does everything this year have to be so extreme??
Thank you for your thoughtful words.
Please stay safe, Ilse
Thank you, Ilse. I hope you are doing well in these challenging times.
I find myself in exactly this same spirit. One too many natural disasters on top of all the un-naturalness of our current lives. Holding you and Eric in the light as the latest hurricane makes it’s way to land. Thanks for sharing Ellen and Mary. Both resonate loudly and clearly. Aren’t we all yelling “Uncle!” by now, and wondering when we can take a long breath? Miss you and miss watching for when our paths might cross. Virtual hugs!!
Jodee, thank you for your good thoughts. Friends provide so much comfort in these troubling times. I’m glad you appreciate the poems—both seem to capture in just a few words the essence of the struggle and the joy of this journey of life. Like you, we’re ready for some ease, though! We’re looking forward to when our paths cross again…hopefully sooner rather than later. Hugs back to you!
We spent Labor Day near Ventura, CA in temps that reached 115 degrees, then drove within a mile of the San Bernardino fire on our way to Las Vegas. Some and ashes everywhere in CA and smoke so thick in Vegas we couldn’t see the mountains. After spending the summer in Oregon, WA, and Montana, this situation make me very sad. Loved your pictures of St. George’s Island. Looking forward to being there in January. Stay safe and have a piece of chocolate for me. Joe
Joe, it sounds as though you’ve had some scary moments in your travels recently. I hope that you’re far away from the fires now. It makes us very sad to witness the devastation in the West, too. The Pacific Northwest is especially dear to us, and we’re shocked by what has happened. Meanwhile, in Florida, we’re getting flooding rains. On a happy note, by the time you get here in January, hurricane season will be over. Safe travels!
Oh, I love the poems you post — often new ones from my favorite poets! It must be so hard to be so far away from Ashland right now. We are only a few miles from one of the biggest fires (Eugene), still only 5% contained, and we have friends and family in Phoenix/Talent/Medford who have lost everything. This is the world now. Thank you for helping remind us of paths to navigate it with grace.
Heather, I’m so glad you enjoy the poems I post. They really help give me perspective and bring me peace. I’d love to know some of your favorites.
We’re stunned by the wildfires in our beloved Oregon. We’ve spent hours talking with friends and family, and it’s devastating to know what they’re going through. I’m so sorry that you’re suffering from the fires near Eugene—who would ever think, in such a wet and lush landscape, that this could happen? You’re right, this is the world now. We have to figure out how to navigate what “is” while doing what we can to turn things around and help each other. Take good care.
Natural disasters appear to be more common and bring greater devastation. Here in coastal Southern California, we have been lucky… so far. But, the news from my brother and sister-in-law in Northern California and from friends in Oregon and Washington is hard to hear. I had a similar thought to yours about the tremendous need for rain on the west coast, and the over-abundance of it in the south and east… it just doesn’t seem right.
Stay safe. Your photos are beautiful. Challenging weather does produce some gorgeous skies (we get amazing sunsets when there are fires to the east of us).
Nicely said Laurel… Our best to you both down there in the land of suspended moisture…. Wish we had some of that here… BTW – Our daughter got married Saturday in Bend in the midst of all this. It is an epic story that we must share some time.
All our best,
Riley & Karen
Riley & Karen, we’re always happy to hear from you two. We can’t wait to hear the story of your daughter’s wedding! Our friends in Bend tell us that the smoke there is horrible. You guys take good care and stay safe.
Janis, I’m glad to hear that you’re safe in Southern California. The fires in the West are so scary. As you said, natural disasters are more common and more devastating. And they seem to be speeding up. The extremes are just so extreme!
Thank you for letting me know that you’re enjoying our photos. They always remind me that no matter what, we’re surrounded by beauty.
Sigh, indeed. And a deep breath. We hope you and Krash and Pippa are well.
Our usual mantra for dealing with challenges is “It could be worse.” That one is wearing a bit thin these days. I do have more respect than ever for our ancestors who survived seemingly crushing situations, like living here in Florida in the 19th century with no air conditioning, no protection against mosquitoes, and no warning of incoming hurricanes.
Shannon, we say that a lot, too. And then things get worse!! So I am NOT saying that anymore.
Being stuck in Florida for the summer, we’ve had many conversations wondering how in the heck people survived here in the intense heat with no protection from the elements, ferocious biting bugs, and as you said, no storm warnings! It’s bad enough even with all of our modern technology. Is there some kind of prize for the four of us surviving this summer?
Better times are coming. Or maybe worse times. It’s all horrible and wonderful and logical and nonsensical. Eat the strawberry! 💜
Joodie, could the better times hurry up and get here?? I mean, c’mon. Enough is enough. I like what you said, though—it truly is all horrible and wonderful and we might as well enjoy that strawberry (and everything else, while we’re at it). 😍
Another beautiful blog in words and pictures. I too wish you could send your rain west. I fear the beautiful places I’ve seen there and those I was hoping to see this very year will never be the same at least in my life time. So much all at once as if a pandemic isn’t enough. But then we (as in humans) have not shown the ability to take subtle hints about what will happen if we continue to ignore our environmental impact.
Thanks so much for the laughs of Ellen Bass. So so true unfortunately. Where did you find her?
Fingers crossed that Sally passes you by at a good distance though I cannot wish her on anyone else either.
Thank you, Sherry. Like you, I wonder what will happen to the beautiful places in the West that we love so much. I completely agree with you about the effects we’ve had on the environment. We were all hoping we had more time to turn this around…perhaps we still can. Nature is incredibly resilient but we have to stop the harm we’re doing.
Isn’t Ellen Bass great? I can’t recall how I came across that poem, but I’ve read it many times now, and it never fails to make me laugh and make me appreciate this moment.
Thank you for this Laurel.
We’re back in Ashland and had hoped we would have dodged the smoke and fires this Summer. Almost, but…..
It is quite the time in the world and our world.
Be safe and well. Regards to Eric.
Robert & Colleen, we’re happy to hear from you two! I hope all is well in Ashland for you, despite the temporary devastation of the smoke and fires. It is, indeed, quite a tumultuous time in the world and our world. Take good care—we’re hoping for rain for the Rogue Valley on Friday!
Laurel, a near-miss double-whamy; play the lottery, eat a strawberry or just sigh with relief… until the next wave.
Ha, that pretty much sums it up, Suzanne! We’re riding the waves from Hurricane Sally right now. What a crazy year.
Thank goodness for things like meditation and poetry in this crazy world we live in right now! I hesitate to say that 2020 couldn’t get any worse…because I am afraid it actually could! Wishing you both good health and safety!
Lisa, I know you appreciate the soothing and centering effects of meditation and poetry, too. I’m also leery of saying that things couldn’t get any worse. It sounds superstitious, but everything is so wild right now! We wish you and Hans good health and a continued safe haven in Prescott!
Love and hugs to you, Leah! Hope you two are doing well.
Perfect post for this crazy world. It’s hard to believe how many different disasters are happening at one time. Sometimes we all need to take a step back and be thankful for the little things in life, like that breath. We were wondering just how close the fire came to your Oregon home. Wow! Two miles is so close. Take care dear friend. Send some rain this way!
Pam, I still often wake up in the morning and wonder if this is all just a really terrible nightmare. As you said, we just need to keep being grateful for the small things in life. And we’re deeply grateful for the enduring friendships that are lifelines in these challenging times. :-) You guys take good care of yourselves, too. We’re looking forward to when we can finally see you again!
Others have said what we all are feeling. Thinking of you now with Hurricane Sally at your doorstep. Take care of each other, and stay safe.
Thank you for your good thoughts, Janie. I hope all is well with you and Russ…are you planning to head south this winter?
The world has gone mad, so we dont watch tv nor do we subsribe to dish or cable! I thought of you immediately when I heard about the Oregon Fire in the west, then thought of you again when Sally came knocking at your door out their in the east. Whether RVng or staying in place, there seems to be no escaping. For we here in Wickenburg, September is here and yet we have not have our monsoon rain and the desert is parched. We could use some of your rain there!
Take care you two, and hugs from us. Thank God, Sally was kind to you.
MonaLiza, I’ve also been curtailing my exposure to the news. I read The Atlantic and The New York Times every day and pick and choose what interests me, but I don’t watch or listen to the news. It’s way too stressful.
We were so lucky that Sally passed us by (although we did get lots of rain and wind). I hope you’ll soon get your monsoons to bring some coolness your way. Big hugs to you both from both of us!
[…]it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
~Mary Oliver, “Invitation
Thank you Laurel. I didn’t know how tired I was until I woke up after falling asleep while reading your post. “Relax” must have done it for me. Alas however, it is Mary Oliver that strokes my soul. 🥰
Oh, Cyn…isn’t that one of the most beautiful and timely passages from Mary Oliver? I always find solace and hope in her writings. Take good care, my friend.
I thought I left a comment, but maybe I only dreamt that I did. Or maybe I’m thinking of my response to your comment on my blog. In any case, I want to comment on that poem by Ellen Bass. It was either on your blog or on Kelly Corrigan’s (author of Tell Me More and Lift, to name just a couple) Facebook page that I first discovered Bass’s poetry. Like Mary Oliver, her words really speak to my heart. Thank you for sharing “Relax,” as well as your beautiful photos, which bring such comfort in such a troubling time in our country.
Stay safe. Wash your hands. Vote!
Les, I discovered Ellen Bass a couple of years ago, but this is the first time I’ve posted one of her poems on our blog. “Relax” seems to be perfect for these crazy, uncertain, frightening times. Reading that poem really helps me take a step back and get a better perspective on life.
I hope that you and Rod and your mom are doing well and out of the smoke on the beautiful Oregon coast. Hugs to you!