Beset as we are by multiple concerns like COVID19 spikes and college students returning, hungry children, businesses opening and schools reconvening, a contentious election, rising violence and division, a sagging economy, it seems impossible to do anything but watch the fires on the west coast which seem to expand every year. What can we do? We can give money but many people don’t have any extra money to give.
Each night on the news we see the personal stories of homes burned, loved ones lost, pets mourned. In Oregon we see whole neighborhoods burned to the ground. People are missing, presumed dead. How much more apocalyptic can our lives get? Is this the big one? Fire, pandemic, hunger, food shortages all presided over by a big bottle-blond man without a clue how to ride to the rescue of anyone, including himself. The only reason we are saddled with this loser is because there are Americans who refuse to see his defects. We have always done so much better than this before we became 50 separate states squabbling over skimpy resources.
Where is FEMA? What is happening to those made homeless by the fires? Are they all wealthy enough to have alternatives? Do they all have family they can go to? Are there shelters? What is all this doing to coronavirus numbers? Are firefighters at risk of the virus as well as the fury of the fires, or does the extreme heat send the virus cowering for an exit?
I want people in California, Oregon, and Washington State to know that, even with all our other concerns, we are paying attention to your plight. We are also worried that this is going to be a regular event. Even areas of America that are often quite wet are pretty dry this summer. Will parts of the west coast become uninhabitable permanently? Will the entire country just spontaneously combust one day like that huge area in Australia. We are sorry for their losses also.
Just can’t help thinking about Robert Frost’s poetic contemplation on the end of the world in his poem, Fire and Ice.
“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”
Fire is winning everyone, but it has nothing to do with desire, at least not directly. Perhaps Frost didn’t realize what a fiery emotion hate could be.
We are all becoming the new hunter-gatherers who must roam from store to store hoping to fill our freezers and pantries, refresh our supplies of anti-bacterial soaps, cleaners and paper products. But we still have homes. We can breathe without getting ash in our lungs. We get to sleep, hopefully, in our beds at night unless we are in a hospital. It is not that we stop living. We go to our small gatherings, some of us still go out to eat, we see family and friends a bit more often, many have gone back to work. But I can’t help picturing how our lives would feel if in the midst of a pandemic our homes started burning to the ground all around us. We are profoundly aware of your distress but for once we don’t know what to do. We can’t divide our resources in enough pieces to cover all our current disasters.
And now a new hurricane is bearing down on Louisiana and Mississippi, but Robert Frost did not seem worried about wind and rain. Perhaps he would have added another stanza to his poem if he were alive now.