I had planned to write about the wild whiplash weather we had last week-end. About how we drove to Billings on Saturday in 104 degree temperatures with forest fire plumes exploding along I-90 and smoke blowing across the highway, and how on Monday’s drive home, it was raining and snowing and the mountains were dusted by the time we got back. The wild weather so added to the nervousness and anxiety of our time. And, I had also planned to talk about the stunningly clear and beautiful days we’ve had at the lake this week, in which “you just want to cry,” as Don said, and the quiet and gentle sunsets we’ve watched from the dock, now well before 8 pm. But, with California’s smoke so dense that the sun can’t get through, and one out of every ten persons in Oregon is preparing to evacuate, and smoke is settling in here today…and, then–today–it’s 9/11. I can’t find the words I was going to write.
Except, that I loved visiting our Billings family, finally, and seeing where they now live, and talking with Joy about decorating ideas, should they buy the house they are renting. And, watching Duncan do back flips in the backyard, and Anna sparkling as she introduced us to her very tall boyfriend. Chatting with Fletcher about his final days of work, and how he and his roommates will stay in our quarantine cabin next week on their drive back to Bellingham. And sleeping at the Millers’ empty home, which holds decades of memories of our friendship, and watering their tomatoes in the garden, under tall trees swaying in the breeze.
These are trying times we live in and it’s exhausting to have the weight of climate crisis, political distress, and pandemic, all at the same time, bearing heavily down upon us. Wouldn’t it be nice to hide in a corner until it’s safe to come out.
I recently finished her newest collection of poems, The Ledger, by Jane Hirshfield. In talking about her book last March, on Sciencefriday.com, she said:
“I would rather grieve than be numb and I’d rather face into the wind than hide in a corner and not be part of the largest questions we all are facing,” she says.
“I see no way for human beings to change course that doesn’t begin with awareness and doesn’t begin to see with your eyes open and to feel with a vulnerable heart so to a great extent this is a book filled with grief and trying to scry the darkness that’s coming. But it also is a book trying to, in some way, account for the unaccountable and try to at least take measure of what is the right way to live in these times. The answer is, of course, the only answer — you live as if what you do could make a difference.”
In any year, at my age, there is always grief lingering underneath the lengthening shadows of September, as the sun gets low and and we begin preparations for the long dark and silent winter on the horizon. It’s much harder, in these troublesome, apocalyptic days. Yet, what is there to do but awaken to each new day, doing the best we can–despite our vulnerable heart–and be aware of what is beautiful, in spite of it. Things will change, no matter what we do or don’t. Just yesterday, I heard the returning loons out on the lake, preparing for their journey south, and doing what they know to do every year, year after year, forever. The disruption of our lives, and the distortion of Time, makes it easy to forget–and take vital comfort in–the dependable seasonality of this short life we’ve been given.
Although the Wind…by Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield
Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.