For three days we haven’t been able to walk outside. We open the door quickly to let the dog out for a pee. It smells like a campfire lit in a small room, all doors closed. I masked up several days ago to water some flowers and pick tomatoes. Today I’ll do the same. We’re lucky to have a well-sealed home and make-shift fans equipped with serious air filters, but the city hosts hundreds of homeless who live in tents, and many houses are filled will hazardous air by now.

Trapper Creek on Sept. 6, 2020–now threatened by wildfire.

Outside of our city, fires have decimated towns and homes, and forests burn–including an area north, along Trapper Creek in Washington where we had been camping with friends only one week ago. It has been our refuge for years.

As I write, 28 wildfires burn in Oregon alone. Until Monday, September 7th, the problem was manageable, but that’s when unusual winds from the east blew in–powering the flames. More than a million acres have burned in Oregon alone.

From so much loss all around us, I ache. And I am grateful to firefighters working all hours to keep flames from destroying our city and more. We hope for rain, but it’s not in our control.

I dream also of when we will realize together we’re guest on this planet–and stop blaming and get moving toward kinder, productive action.

In California today, our president’s message is scolding rather than compassion, You need to manage your forests better, he says. He also argues against science.

While employing men and women toward service to clean up the forests would have been a great way to put people to work on federal lands over the past months and years, support and action is what we need now–not looking backward.

Firefighters are exhausted—and we will need more people to join the efforts. A hurricane in Louisiana is now on its way, too. More troubled lands in our nation. We need collaboration, cooperation–and less talk toward re-election. Show us, don’t tell!

We also need respect for science and to teach the masses to think more critically.

Scientists are people of all sorts, but their business is to ask questions. A scientist makes a hypothesis—an educated guess about what is what—and then works to determine if his or her thinking can be supported.

Even the most religious of people need to embrace science.  Many scientists around the world are religious, yet human beings create division. As we fail to honor scientific thought and discoveries, our behaviors grow dangerously destructive on a planet that has offered us a home but warns of possible eviction.

For any of you who still think Trump a president with your best interests in mind, I beg you to reconsidere, please.

We need to care about each other. We need to realize the Earth is not ours and does not need us. We are guests on the planet, and the Earth will go on even if we destroy ourselves.

The wildfires burn. They might not be so bad had the federal government better managed the forests—TRUE. Yet there’s much more to the story. While it would have been possible and wise to put thousands to work dragging dead, dry wood and debris from those lands, the science is clear: Weather patterns are changing due to increased pollution caused often by human greed and breaking treaties.

My luck of birth was into the Pacific Northwest. I’ve also been fortunate to travel and see other places which taught me that what I had was precious. I returned to Washington and now Oregon to live in the beauty and sleep in the forests which has helped me to love life better. But I saw devastation. I saw tropical forests left as slippery slopes of clay, fertile soils washed into the ocean. I lived in a village where women and children carried water in jugs from a creek far from their homes . Across that island, the drinking water left people sick.

The cause of these crazy wildfires now is more than poor forest management. It’s the burning of coal. It’s the way we drive and drive and drive and fly. It’s the way we burn and toss and disregard. It’s corporate profit over a living wage for many.

It’s over-fishing the seas, and all the acts we do that melt glaciers on Mt. Rainier and make the Arctic uninhabitable to polar bears.

We suffer from greed.

We need to ask forgiveness from the land, sky, and precious water because we don’t know what we don’t know. We’ve damaged our home, and no insurance will cover the crime.

And when we walk the Earth and shout and scream and react without any reflection as to the damage we cause, our lives do not get better. We burn even if our bank accounts grow bigger. We die of thirst. Even the wealthiest will not survive for long. They, too, will become refugees—or their children.

More forced inward time now is what we have here in Portland.

All around the world, people were forced to stay home for months. For some, the time offered self-reflection and a cleansing of the lenses. Some emerged with a calm resolve to make their communities better for all.

Let us all move toward a more luscious and caring vision. Let us speak out in whatever our language.  Let us move our bodies, and believe in a better future where we bow to the Earth and take only what we need.

And let us work toward a world where you are me, and I am you—and all are housed .

Let’s stop blaming but instead learn to set and teach clear and loving thought and boundaries.

Let us empower our vision—and go forth in the spirit of food, water, and shelter for all with humility and gratefulness.

The forests are burning, and we need them. Homes and lives have been lost, and we can make better choices that will make a difference.

Debra Elisa, September 14, 2020

LINKS YOU MIGHT LIKE:–a personal account of experiencing the fires and fear as they near.

6 Replies to “AS THE WEST-COAST BURNS. . .”

  1. Thank you, Debra, for sending me a link to your blog. I didn’t know you had a blog already going or I would have signed up after I met you in the NTP program. This was a very thoughtful and articulate post. Truth!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *