California, it is said, has four seasons: flood, mud, fire and earthquake. With fires raging and an unprecedentedly large El Nino forming for the coming winter, I suspect we’ll see a lot of the first three in the coming months. As to the fourth, who knows?
As I write, the Valley Fire in Lake County has burned more than 40,000 acres and 1,000 homes, and has destroyed Harbin Hot Springs, a clothing-optional resort which was for many years the site of the Ancient Ways festival, a Pagan festival which once drew thousands of attendants. AW died out some years ago even as the other event produced by Glenn Turner, Pantheacon, continued to grow; there is something in there about the growing urbanization of Paganism, but that’s not my topic for today.
For many, Harbin was a special and magical place, a hushed enclave where soothing waters and exquisite, rolling lands forested in oak and madrone made for a special retreat from the world, a place where the truths of the inner self could be found and shared. On summer nights the soft hum of crickets suffused the place, and you could walk naked in blood-warm air along the paths, feeling at one with the world in a way that is hard to find these days.
Harbin is the second Special Place I have lost in as many weeks. My home of 18 years, Beauty House, was sold by its owner and Nemea and I have moved: an exhausting, traumatic process that has felt in every way like a degradation of the quality and grace of our lives.
It has been a devastating Season of Fire for us, following several years of hardship.
And elsewhere, of course, the so-called Islamic State is destroying ancient temples at Palmyra. These are days, it seems, when nowhere is safe.
At times like these, the only way through, I think, is in contemplating impermanence. All must pass with time–even very ancient and precious things, places, structures, relics. Things break, lands burn, structures are destroyed by chance or by will.
More than ever, I find in these dispiriting days that it is essential to have a vision of a better future–something to point towards, something to work towards even while accepting that what is at the moment is what is.
That has always been easy for me in a macro sense, in terms of environmental sustainability, population reduction, and increase in unbiased, cooperative and collaborative social systems. I know what a Better World looks like in broad strokes, if not in all details.
But what about just for our own little lives? Surely, when living in pain and hardship, we must have a vision of hoped-for better times. We must be able to see in our creative minds’ eyes the renewal of beauty and grace following days when they have been lacking. Surely there is a life which can be extrapolated from this moment involving more balance, serenity, joy, and comfort, and less fear and sorrow?
Things change. Following the fire comes the rain, and though there may be mudslides in the interim, green growth will return to hold the soil and remake the land. It will not be the same as it was, but it will be soft and green and bring forth flowers.
It will be the beginning of something new. A new special place, perhaps, incorporating some of the visible bones of the old. Or something completely different.
They dance together, Hope and Surrender. It is natural and human to want to leave times of suffering. But it is the way of the Universe to take and remake everything, given time–even what is beloved. As when dancing around a fire at on a cold night, there must be a sweet spot: a point at which we are warm, in light, included, connected, and neither burning nor freezing.
So I think, in this Season of Fire, it is time for me to start seriously contemplating what a Better World looks like at a micro scale. I’ve been reeling from unexpected tragedies for nearly two years now, trying to ride the wave of thus it is without too much wailing.
It’s time to start contemplating some Hope again.