First Responder

“Thousands of Years” A picture of Bristlecone pine cones taken by Alan in Colorado.

“Thousands of Years” A picture of Bristlecone pine cones taken by Alan in Colorado.

Rains continue to come and go today. It’s a nice break to see the temperature at 73 degrees Fahrenheit at 1:30 in the afternoon. This feels like it’s been one of the worst summers here since the drought some years ago. Some of the trees still look scalded, for lack of a better word.

The birds continue to sing, though not in the numbers I’m used to hearing when a good rain moves through. The summer has been hardest on the wildlife. I’ve seen more animals moving about in 100 degree plus heat in search of relief this summer than ever, including coyotes who’ve been out time and again during the day over the last six weeks or so. For the moment, it’s as though the battle between the environmental heat of Hell and ideal operating temperature of Heaven has taken a lunch break; I hope it’s an extended one. For this particular moment the plants and animals seem thankful, as am I.

Between rather long articles about environmental change, and what I see as a reflection in the news stories about populations world-wide, we could all use a dose of clean and cool air, a good soaking rain, and a breather from the swirling mass of competing ideologies that have been whirling about to extremes in the news feeds like the side effects of an altered atmospheric jet stream. It has been one of the worst times to know the illness that I do, especially when temperatures peaked here at 114 degrees this summer. Observing such weather or working can be bad enough, feeling as though it is an extension of your nervous system can feel more than chaotic.

The sounds of the birds pick up a little. The winds are calm but attempting a slight breeze. I’ve spent the morning reading and writing, having finally just about assembled all my years worth of notes for the sequel, along with a few more books in mind. Some side stories have remarkably turned into parts of the sequel I was writing. I thought it would be published this year, but just like illness, weather, and the politics of the day, sometimes the best of plans get a little sidetracked. Sometimes the best that can be done is to try to reassemble the pieces when possible, hold on to what gets you through it, and start again where one must. At this age, starting over again becomes a little bit more of a challenge than it once was, but I’ll still keep going forward.

I’ve chosen to remove a number of distractions from my life for now. I’ve disconnected, boxed up, labeled a few items to one day give to those I want to have them. What I’ll ultimately keep or give away, I cannot say just yet. But it’s time to stop reenforcing what is already prone to falling apart and pour a better foundation.

Some of the most beautiful works of art rise from collapse, and some of the most phenomenal people I’ve met in my life (and some I have yet to meet) do just exactly that — rise from what remains. No matter how devastating the loss, no matter how great the pain, no matter how troubled, shattered, or torn apart their lives, their families, or their towns, they manage to find a  strength in whatever source, whether alone or with others, to rise again.

I’ve watched a number of violent storms sweep across these lands over the last 35 plus years before committing to live here for the last 16 years, and learned that life’s overarching intent is never to be subdued, enslaved, nor wiped out, no matter how strong the wind nor damaging the hail that is thrown at it. No matter how much loss, and there has been great amount of loss over the years, life finds a way.

Life’s resilience isn’t just in its ability to adapt; it isn’t in its fitness, its strength or intelligence; it’s in its diversity. It’s in its ability to continue, to regrow and/or to grow anew through the variety of its forms. Life will stand in the face of whatever oppressive force of nature the winds and the rain and the hail throw at it and say, “I’m still here.” Where one falls, another takes its place. Rip a tree out by the roots and others will continue to grow. Burn down a meadow and the flowers will return the next year in greater number and with more color than existed before. “Level mountainsides of forests with the largest volcanic blast you can muster,” life says, “and I will spawn a new forest the likes of which you have never seen before no matter how long it takes.”

Thats because life, you see, improves itself with age.

Sometimes surviving a crash is the only way to know how to lay stronger tracks, put down better roads, or design a stronger foundation. It is also a good time to see among the survivors who is still willing to continue toward the destination, regardless of the mode of travel that is left to get there.

To all those who publicly and/or privately fight to survive every storm, crash, drought, flood, or fall regardless of the cause or measure of time,  — thank you. Whether you survive one day or a hundred years, you make the next generations potential success that much greater.