When I wake up to see tendrils of fog hanging from the streetlight, or rain-wet roads, I know we have arrived unequivocally in autumn. Apparently, September used to hold potential for the first snowfall as well, but that hasn’t happened in the past decade. These wetter mornings tend to punctuate strings of sunny blue autumn days – the kind of days that inspire you to plant bulbs and buy pumpkin-spice flavored things.
I had a longing to see the aspens this year. Leaf peeping is all the rage in September in the Rockies. In fact, it’s so much of a rage, that I have avoided going up into the mountains – especially into Rocky Mountain National Park – for years.
There is a Japanese term, shinrin-yoku, which basically means ‘forest-bathing’. This is the idea that a forest holds healing properties, and you can take advantage of that by ‘breathing it in.’ In South Korea, they’ve adopted this idea on a national level, and are moving toward establishing ‘healing forests’ through the country, as an antidote to city living. This is running through my mind as I hike the ridge above Fort Collins, ‘breathing in’ a small grove of beetle-killed trees. Do damaged forests have the same effect?
It’s June 1st, 2017. My mom died three years ago on this day. And while I contemplated a grey tangle of branches, the POTUS was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Since I moved to Colorado more than 12 years ago, the pine bark beetle has transformed the landscape of the Rockies. Warmer winters have allowed the infestation to spread through most of Colorado.
A little story in honor of an old friend…
This place is called Inch. It’s a long white strand of sand, bordered on one side by a wide strip of tall grass, and other other, by the wild Atlantic. When we arrive, the ocean is discharging a fury that grew over a thousand blue miles of wind and waves. The beach is completely deserted. We are tired from cycling into the damp wind, but exhilarated by the ride. We lock our bikes to a chainlink fence and knock on the door of the dilapidated, rusty trailer home at the edge of the beach. There are a few other farm homes scattered down the road, but it’s not really a beach day, and there’s no one in sight.
Beach at Inch along the Dingle Peninsula – much more populated than I remember it. My own photos are much too faded to share here. [Photo by Pedelecs (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates suggested that the arc of the moral universe rather “bends toward chaos” in his appearance on the Daily Show in 2015.
So which is it? Does the universe bend toward justice or chaos?
Carl Sagan wrote about the importance of understanding science (the habit of rational thought) in preserving our democracy, and said that “if we don’t practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us – and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, a world of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who saunters along” (from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996).
I was hoping for a photo here that would appear a bit scarier…But maybe these clownish jack-o-lanterns are perfectly appropriate.
A little over one year ago I began my very first (long-awaited) sabbatical as a university professor – four months ago today I arrived in Ecuador. I get lots of well-meaning people saying things like ‘Time must be whizzing by for you,’ and ‘I can’t believe you’ve been away X amount of time – I’m sure you can’t either!’ I nod and smile and laugh (or do the equivalent in FB and email). This sense of time escaping us is something we all share. But the truth is, this has absolutely been the longest year of my entire life.
One year ago today, my Mom left this Earth.
Sunset in Hawaii – Photo by Marilyn Shellito