Monday, August 31, 2009
news from the front
this photo depicts the mountains visible from redlands, the southern californian town i am writing from. over these past two months i have been in semi-retreat writing here, no doubt all sorts of difficult situations and painful experiences have taken place in the world outside this house. but until they penetrate this self-induced bubble, they remain vague 'suffering and causes of suffering.' even now, when serious disaster nears, my head somehow must remain firmly turned to my screen and on that screen Word and not an internet browser must be open.
in the past few months i have written five chapters, and now have the conclusions left. my deadline for handing this to my phd committee is friday, which means thursday afternoon must be spent at kinkos making copies to send them overnight. this is excellent news. except that having offered all the mental and physical energy i had over the past two months, i am running low. and it is 109 degrees, the AC has chosen this summer to become in operative, which has actually been largely manageable because being near the desert, temperatures drop dramatically at night and a well-shaded house like this can be kept fairly cool in the days as long as it gets well cooled at night. but ... at the moment we cannot open the windows at night to let the house cool down because forest fires are devouring the nearby hills. here and in a number of other fires raging across southern california, thousands of home have been evacuated, and already two forest-fighters have given their lives. a crew of prison inmates was enlisted in the struggle to bring this raging force of nature under control, and when the fire began to engulf their campsite, the two firefighters who fell had been trying to find a safe route out for them. one of the two leaves a wife pregnant with their first child, due to be born in the next few weeks. some people refuse to evacuate, thinking they can defend their homes or wait it out, but by the time they are willing to be rescued, the towering flames of fire make it impossible to reach them. men die, children are orphaned, countless animals will be trapped in flames, humans become homeless and fearful for their lives' investments and shelters and dreams. all this only comes to my attention because the air we invisibly share has become dangerous to breathe. so the windows stay shut at night, leaving the house no chance to release its heat out into the night air, and so this house is indirectly warmed by the fire.
today for literally the first time in weeks, i left our yard and looked out and up at the mountains. i last paid them any attention when i was selecting a photo to upload on a past blog entry, in the early phase of this writing. though obviously they have been there this whole time, until they burst into flames their presence appeared utterly irrelevant, one of the million background details our brain processes and doesn't bother us about because it does not matter. we can focus on our little corner of the large world as narrowly as we like, it seems, and even if we can lose sight of it at times, our connectedness to it does not disappear. not even for a moment.