Seeing Our Way
While I truly love my country, I really don’t enjoy the Fourth of July. Last night, as fireworks exploded all around the island, our cats cowered and cried in terror, along with millions of other critters, domestic and wild, all around the country. Veterinarians, veterans, and recent immigrants also dread the annual barrage, which triggers PTSD in those for whom big booms awaken fear and represent destruction, death, damage and endless loss. I woke up this morning to swirling fog, heavy with the smell of smoke from regional wildfires. Like last week’s heatwave, the stench of burning forests leaves me feeling sick and sad. Oh, and scared. Still scared: When the heat hit like a hammer, many of us found ourselves reacting with fear, as if to a fresh trauma, which in a way it was.
Unprecedented high temperatures are traumatic and terrifying because such heat is one more thing we have no control over. It can be life threatening for people who live in urban settings, in small apartments or homes that lack air conditioning, or for everyone when power goes out. Such heat is a harbinger of worse climate changes in the wings. Fortunately, heatwaves in the maritime PNW are far and few between. Or they were. Recent decades have seen a steady increase in the number and intensity of heatwaves, along with a steady reduction in rainfall. Drought has triggered a legion of woes for our native plants as well as people, and when plants suffer, so do birds, bees, bears and other wildlife. The past few years have felt like a blur of continual assaults on the natural world and on people. The inexcusable lack of effective leadership during the pandemic created even more trauma for millions of people in our country and billions worldwide. After all that, BOOM isn’t what I want to focus on.
Keeping Track Of Hope
What I do want is to find and appreciate ways in which our beleaguered country is improving. Fortunately, I’m finding them every day, in my family, in my neighborhood, in my community, in my state, and in the world. To help me remember them , I’ve started keeping lists of positive programs and beneficial changes that are shifting us inch by inch towards a more equitable world culture. Among those things to be hopeful about, here’s a big one for me: Washington State’s new Office of Equity, headed by Dr. Karen Johnson, a woman whose curriculum vitae reads like a lifetime of being a tireless force for good. (Curious? Check this out: https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-names-karen-johnson-phd-director-new-state-office-equity). Recently Dr. J met with equity groups all over the state, inviting responses to a listening survey designed to identify gaps, shortfalls, and blind spots in current programs and services that contribute to inequities. That openness and willingness to see and hear make me hopeful.
Here’s another powerful woman who gives me hope: Hilary Franz, Washington State’s Commissioner of Public Lands, who is responsible for protecting some six million acres of public land. She has worked hard to create positive relationships on both sides of the mountains, helping communities recover after wildfires destroy towns and homes, reminding us that about 88% of wildfires are caused by human carelessness. When she issued a state-wide burn ban before the Fourth of July weekend, it got less pushback than usual, since our wildfire season has already started and the state is tinder dry. People are starting to take more responsibility and be more aware of the consequences of their actions. Hilary’s wise, thoughtful community building work and its results make me hopeful.
Hello, Fear, What Are You Doing Here?
Over the last few years, many of us have developed a reflexive fear response to anything that feels like a threat. Last year, smoke levels were so high here that household smoke alarms were set off in the middle of the night. Everyone was constantly monitoring air quality along with local covid rates, and this morning’s smoky start had me checking AQI levels again and again, just to be sure. By midday, the outdoor fog began to lift but I was still caught in a fog of fear. Not just the pandemic brain fog so many of us are still experiencing, but an unreasoning fear that too often clouds my ability to see situations clearly. Fear can blind any of us, especially when we are repeatedly knocked off base. We may center back up the first few times, but eventually it gets harder to find our way home. Fear creates blindness, and while it’s classically easy to see blind spots in other people, it’s much trickier to see our own.
These days, when I notice my automatic fear response, I greet it and ask it what it wants. That may sound silly, but listening for an answer helps me slow down, breathe deeply, and center up before reacting. Fear wants to keep us safe, but when it blinds us, we’re apt to stumble around in the dark. When fears flare, I’m learning to refocus on thoughts and actions that are helpful and healing. Nearly always, that guides me to promoting and nurturing community. Encouraging conversations instead of confrontations. Listening to younger generations and unfamiliar voices. see our way clear together, now and into the future. Onward, right?
Soothing Rose Salve
When the heat hit, I gathered dozens of withering roses, stripping the petals and drying them for many uses. This simple salve is soothing to dry skin, its fragrance comforting to the spirit. Wide mouth 4-ounce canning jars are easiest to use, but any kind will do.
Rose Petal Skin Salve
8 cups petals from organically raised roses
4 cups organic coconut oil
Strip petals from roses and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Let petals dry indoors in shade to preserve the fragrance (it usually takes a day or two to dry them). Fill clean 8-ounce canning jars with rose petals, gently packed. Put the coconut oil in sunlight until it’s melted, then pour into the jars. Seal jars and put them in the sun to heat up for 2-4 hours. Move jars to indoor shade and let stand overnight. Next day, return the jars to the sun until oil is melted, then pour oil through a fine mesh sieve into clean 4-ounce jars. Seal jars and let cool, refrigerating if indoor temperatures keep the oil liquid. Rub a little oil on your skin and breathe in the lovely, refreshing fragrance. Makes about 4 cups.