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, 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