My sacred places are burning.
Sonoma County, heart of my heart, is on fire, and its magnificent wildlands, its rolling oak woodland hills and grasslands are steadily being destroyed. Annadel and Sugarloaf Ridge State Parks, where I have lost myself in a steady wash of serotonin joy at the sheer beauty, the wildness, the richness of creation, are aflame; Annadel is mostly gone now.
It’s hard even to get my mind—much less my visceral understanding—around this fact. Things are moving quickly and every day of the past five has brought new alerts, new evacuation orders. The fire that dislodged me from my home stabbed deep into my home town of Santa Rosa, and came within a block of burning everything I own.
How can the magnificence of the Pony Gate Trail, or the North Burma Trail be lost? How can the bedrock of my spirituality—a love of place—be simply erased so suddenly, without warning?
Pagans often use the four classical elements—air, fire, water and earth—as metaphors for the various states of matter, for their associated correspondences in alchemical or occult systems of belief. Air is knowledge, communication, clarity, intellect; Fire is passion, transformation, will; Water emotion, depth, wisdom; Earth patience, memory, ancestry, groundedness. Many (perhaps even most) Pagans call on these as allies, invoke them as powerful supporters for the outcomes they seek in their rituals.
But what when these “elements” (and let me grant, this is a system I almost never use any longer, as it isn’t based in any scientific reality) become enemies? When Fire goes crazy and Air (in the form of driving winds) becomes its destructive facilitator and instrument? How are we to understand the forces of Nature when they kill what we love?
In fact, the forces of Nature will, given time, take all we love: friends, family, places, possessions. This is an iterative Universe, and the old is torn apart to make the new. It is the Way of Things.
But some things seem so solid, so dependable! They have been with us for all of our lives. I find I have fallen into that most human and dangerous foible: the idea that it can’t happen here.
Oh, my mountains. Oh, my meadows.
It seems we’ve had a lot of shocking news that we thought “couldn’t happen here” lately. And there will be more, as the deranged manchild in the Presidency colludes with his meanspirited and callous fellow party members to attack the disadvantaged and the environment.
So love it while you can, people. I have been telling myself for weeks that I was overdue for a hike in Annadel; now, those places I loved are forever lost. They will become something else, over time, but they will never be my familiar, beloved haunts again.
Yes, we must fight. Of course we must fight the fire.
But love the burning world before it burns.