I’ve had an emotional week. It took the insistence of my cocker spaniel, Murphy, to get me into the solace of the forest today, rather than curled up on the couch watching re-runs of Psych. We had a little bit of overnight rain after a long coastal drought, and by afternoon the clouds had lifted and even the air quality seemed to have greatly improved, relieving us of the smoky haze that has been hanging over the coast for several days. On a day like today it might seem fathomable that nothing bad could be happening anywhere. From the beauty of our personal, mossy, fern filled forest one would barely imagine that less than 150 miles east of us a 30,000 acre wildfire is gobbling up the beauty of the Columbia Gorge and that other huge fires are consuming vast areas of forest land in 8 states and Canada.
Columbia Gorge Photo Credit: Tristan Fortsch/KATU-TV via AP
A wildfire burning in Glacier National Park has burned down the historical landmark Sperry chalet, a stunning, unforgettable memory for me of a 13 mile round trip hike I took with friends in my early twenties. I could not stop the tears. Though many of the fires were started by lighting, some, including the Eagle Creek fire on the border of Oregon and Washington, were human caused. It is hard to accept that the majesty of the Columbia Gorge will be changed forever because some teenagers were reckless with fireworks. That has been the hardest thing for me to turn around in my heart.
In the past week I’ve allowed both natural events and political instabilities world-wide to slowly smother my usual sense of joyful curiosity and gratitude for the simple beauty around me. I’ve let a kind of despair begin to choke me, letting anger and blame to creep into my field of emotional and spiritual vision and then kept myself smoldering with an ugly dose of cynicism, all of which has come out in a variety of truly unflattering ways. I have been particularly angry at the seeming indifference of those teenagers and more than ready to declare their punishment.
I spent days stewing in an overwhelming morass from it all. So much suffering and nothing I can do.
But eventually I had to look at reality. Is that actually true?
Of course not.
There are many different disaster relief programs set up in any of the affected states for anyone interested in contributing. You can google local efforts to assist those in need, or simply start with the Red Cross. I know I can’t give to all of them, but I can do what I can.
We are a beautiful country, a compassionate country. We are givers. We want to help. So with the West on fire and the clean up from hurricane Harvey barely started while hurricane Irma barrels toward Florida, just take some time to consider what you can do from your own resources. And that doesn’t have to mean money. There will be hands on restoration groups being put together who will be grateful for any kind of volunteer help in the months to come. And there is prayer. There is compassion and empathy. There is forgiveness.
A friend of mine recently reminded me that we always have the choice to let love win over anger. Today, when I really felt my heart change, I fully understood exactly what she meant. Moved to the top of my list now of those I wish I could help if there is any way to do so, are the kids who started the Eagle Creek Fire.