We Are Actually Not Okay

(Warning: preachy, imperfect, judgmental and angry blog post coming. Read at your own discretion).

I was seven miles into the backcountry with my friend, and we came upon a perfect site, along a lake devoid of people. We continued on, to see if we could find another site tucked back deeper, and still within the warmth of the setting sun. Three young-thirty-something men were in a great spot, packing their gear, and said “we’re about to leave, if you want to camp here tonight”. So we dropped our packs, went swimming in the pristine mountain lake, and came back to camp. Then we got closer, and found that the campfire was a bit warm (we were in a burn ban zone and there were some pretty big logs in there) and next to the fire ring they had left the contents of what seemed to have been a bad burrito. There was more and more waste, including human, within 15 feet of the campsite, the more we looked. K scooped it all up (she’s a saint), and went back about 200 feet to bury it 8 inches deep, as all waste should be out there if it’s not packed out. We talked about them a lot that night. What’s the instinct? What’s the motivation to leave behind that which no longer serves you, but without regard for the next who comes? When your choice comes out of convenience for you and not for the other? That you choose to let someone else pick up your literal garbage because you think it’s too gross to deal with on your own. Or that you choose to be an optimist and think, eh, some little chipmunk will eat this (it’s bad for them, ok, don’t feed the chipmunks bad burritos), or, it’s natural, it’ll decompose!

I prefer to be an optimist. I prefer to think that it will all work out. But this year, man, I just don’t know. This is our fire map today. Accelerated and amplified by climate change. Climate change created and amplified by a societal structure that values profit over people, profit over wholeness, profit over future. A choice for us, without regard for those who come next.

I so appreciate the check-ins from my friends spread all over the world. To see how we are faring, to send a virtual hug, to acknowledge that this unprecedented fire season must be just awful. It’s just awful. This morning, when I had gone back to bed because my allergies and this smoke are just too much, I had a dream about a happy bear, a whale, clear waters, and my family. Then I awoke and watered my gardens as quickly as possible wearing a N-95 mask. Because I’m desperately trying not to lose the tomatoes and the sunflowers and all that was good about being home during Covid.

That’s all. It’s tough. It’s sad. It’s scary. It’s a lot of loss on top of what has been a year of loss. My parents are driving cross country to see their kids and their very young grandkids for the first time this year, and they can’t get here yet, because they’re camping to avoid people. To avoid Covid. They are just a few days away, but can’t get here because the air quality is getting so bad as far east as Yellowstone that they can’t sleep in a tent. They will get here. They’re hanging low in good air quality and the rains will come and this will get under control, as it always does. And then, like a bad burrito we left behind at a campsite, we’ll forget we were here at all and go on with our lives.

Or maybe, just maybe, we will act not only on our own behalf, but for the other. Build community. And vote for what we want our future to be.