Letters to the Editor
Dec 3, 2018
The Burning Of Paradise
Embers like little fire flies flickering in the dark or these bright colored leaves of Autumn trembling on the branches and then blown in the wind to land on roof tops Quiet sparks awakened to a nightmare a blaze
List all the eye beholds, trees, homes, churches, schools, stores, cars, all the beloved possessions, symbols of more than just things, ripped away into a fury of flames till all remains are smoldering ash and metal carcasses
Wisps of ghost and smoke surround the now tent town of Paradise Exiled people camped in a Walmart parking lot holding one another tightly in simple relief of being Others known and dear, gone, unfound among the rubble that layers the ground
Soon rains may come, turning sorrow to mud to be trudged upon, packing the earth, covering this time in history, where next spring’s grasses will grow
Across the border in a small valley of Oregon, I stand by my home. The wind is strong and dry,
sending the bright colored leaves of Autumn spinning in to the air to land on roof tops I bow to the powers that be
pray for the protection of my own community and release from fear of what may come.
Nov 29, 2018
An Officer and a Gentleman Helps Heal Community
With Thanksgiving in two days, the crowded roads had me irritated and pining for home. Headed West on N. Phoenix Rd., I turned left at the light to enter I-5, South. Suddenly, a little, black car zipped from my right into the tiny space in front of me. I typically treat cut-offs as accidental, usually due to a blind-spot, but this was intentional. Cutting in front of a semi, he dashed across the “slow lane” and into the passing lane of the congested freeway. I angrily sped behind him in my much larger, much less nimble SUV. Immediately, I saw the State Trooper in my rearview mirror. Not waiting for the siren or lights, I pulled over and watched the little, black car speed away.
Officer Tom Harrison politely informed me I was guilty of multiple violations. He said most freeway accidents occur on ramps, as cars rush on and off the freeway. Horrified I’d cut off a semi, he suggested I could have SLOWED DOWN (the only time his voice raised) and waited for the 18-wheeler to pass before I merged onto The Five. My attention undivided, I listened and felt his genuine concern for people – those passing through, those in our community and especially, in this moment, me. He hadn’t seen the black car but believed me when I said I had reacted to, “getting cut off by that d**k in the little, black car!” Channeling a psychotherapist, Harrison validated my feelings and appreciated my honesty. “It’s a normal, human response to get triggered by another person’s behavior.” He spoke my language, about how nice things would be if we just take a breath, have compassion for each other and not personalize each other’s behavior. “The guy didn’t cut YOU off. He drove into the space in front of you.” He had already said he wasn’t going to cite me, so there was no manipulation in the tears Harrison’s kindness stirred. I felt such love and gratitude to be alive! Before taking my license to his car, he told me to take a breath. Once out of his sight, I burst into tears, surrendering to the release of this unexpected emotion. Crying is a healthy, non-violent way to move stagnant energy and remove toxins via tears. So, I let the waterworks continue, until Harrison emerged from his vehicle.
Reappearing at my window, Trooper Tom congratulated me on my impeccable driving record (Ah-Thankyoo), then gave me a detailed, written warning. I wasn’t required to do anything; I could even toss the warning. He had one request, which was optional. “I’d like you to be accountable to two people. Tell them about this and emphasize how you FELT when you were cut off.” He hoped that when faced with a similar situation, one of the two will remember my story and make better choices. He made sure I was OK to drive, instructed me on how we’d both safely re-enter the freeway, and we said goodbye.
My previous experiences gave me the perception that cops are bullies with something to prove – some had low EQ, sometimes shining as dimly in the IQ department. Others believed they were required to play the role of a hardened authoritarian to be taken seriously. Feeding my perception was the growing division between cops and citizens in our country and community emphasizing cops with big chips on their shoulders. However, that perspective fails to consider how difficult their profession is. More importantly, it fails to see and appreciate the human behind the badge. I suspect Tom Harrison, the human, was triggered by my reckless driving. But he’s done the work to not let the trigger dictate Officer Harrison’s actions. He could have written me a ticket and called it a day, with or without a forceful attitude. Instead, he took a breath. He saw my humanness, assumed the best in me, and took a chance I might join him in making our community safer. He unknowingly changed my perception and also helped me heal a part of myself that needed healing (I eventually got clarity regarding the tears), for which I am incredibly grateful. When perceptions change, feelings change, and healing can occur. If this story stops one driver from a behind-the-wheel-trigger-reaction, then Officer Harrison will have gotten his wish. If it positively affects one person’s perception of Officers of the Law, I will have gotten mine. Regardless, the next time you get triggered by another’s behavior, take a breath and remember they are just being human.
Nov 18, 2018
As you’ve heard: “Denial ain’t a river in Egypt!” Denial flows from Washington DC to the western states.
Data indicate that the area burned by fire has been increasing over the last few decades. But data also tell us that going back a century and beyond, the area of western forests burned was much greater than today.
So, what’s been happening? Since the wildfire trend started in the 1970/s or 1980/s before logging was substantially reduced, that cannot be the problem.
However, what happened in the mid-early years of last century was an extensive campaign of fire suppression. Meanwhile, during the 1970s – 1980s and onwards climatic conditions started becoming notably different as temperatures rose, snowpack declined, and soils started drying out producing worsening drought trends.
Throughout the world, areas with our winter wet / summer dry climate support vegetation that is fire prone, fire adapted, and fire dependent. Since fire critical to the health of our forests and is inevitable with global warming continuing, we’ll never prevent fires however hard we try. Urging yet more fire suppression rather than sane fire management is displaying ignorance.
It’s alarming to see uniformed citizens and politicians blaming the wrong causes for fires.
Co-facilitator, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN)