Fire and (hopefully) Rain
A year end message from Executive Director Mike Bodkin at Rites of Passage
Here we are again, approaching the death of an old year and the birth of the new, circling through terrestrial, cosmic and personal orbits. The year, which began with the inauguration of a boy-president, saw a resurgence of attacks on women, people of color, immigrants, and basically anyone who is vulnerable in our society. The gifts of life itself, as offered to us by Mother Earth, have also been under attack: our water, our air, our forests, our many diverse species. Human-caused climate change has been linked to extreme weather around our planet, including the wildfires that have ravaged California this past year.
We live on land that is part of an intentional community in Northern California. On the evening of October 8th, we were awakened before midnight by an emergency cellphone message: “Prepare to evacuate.” We packed a few things and waited for the next, confirming message, which never came. At 12:30 pm, with others in our community, we decided to leave. Driving out, we saw a mountain of orange flame heading our direction. We headed to town and did not look back. It was two weeks before we could return home-to a home that, despite being threatened by fires from three directions, somehow managed to survive intact. Meanwhile, 42 people died and more than 8000 structures burned in fires that raged over three counties.
In the midst of the devastation, we somehow managed to visit friends, go hiking in forests that were not burning, and laugh a lot. As my wife and work partner Renee put it in an email she recently sent to a friend,
Mike and I are doing very well. Many life lessons learned from the fires. Chief among them the universe is random, everything is a temporary condition, staying in the present is highly rewarding and love and gratitude count for a lot. Also adrenal fatigue should be taken seriously and laughter helps 99% of the time. Our fire story in a nutshell.
In the end, the fires proved to be a kind of blessing, strengthening community as people came together to help each other. A few weeks ago, about 70 people from our watershed showed up for a gathering at a neighbor’s property to tell their stories of what was saved and what was lost, to honor those who provided critical support during the fires, and to celebrate our continuing presence on this land. Then a week later we had a thank-you dinner for all those who had sheltered, fed, befriended or otherwise helped members of our intentional community during the fires. Over 50 guests attended.
And that may be the message for the coming year: stay strong, stay present, don’t give up hope, find good community, tell your story, give your gifts. To do this in the presence of raging fires is to find real strength. Eventually the rains will come.