In the wake of the unprecedented disasters in our community, I have been reflecting on what would help us move through the pain and forward once again. Everywhere I turn people are understandably in shock. Some don’t want to discuss it — but instead wish to press on with daily activities, as if nothing had happened — while others can’t talk about anything else.
In either case, it is still too much to process at once; I know that we all will be dealing with what happened in the months and years to come, each in our own way.
In the spirit of creating a space to mourn so we can understand our feelings before pressing on, I would like to share a poem. I normally don’t write poems, but after the community vigil, I was unexpectedly moved to write it to process my experience. It is my hope that by sharing this, it may spur others to also reflect deeply on how recent events may have also left an indelible mark upon their spirits — and that maybe, it can help open up a new narrative of grief.
Our Wild Coast
She breathes life into us, the wild wilderness.
Her hills call to us, her beaches cleanse us, her sun kisses our cheeks.
We ended up here from many corners of the earth,
called by her magnificent beauty and palpable presence.
You can’t not feel the wild nature here.
The ridges behind us encircle their arms around us,
pressing onward toward the sea.
A motherly squeeze and a feeling of reassurance.
I know what those peaks look like.
But we live in a changeable land.
Just as sure as the day turns to night and stars come out,
so too do the winter rains and ravaging fires come.
The flames lick the canyons and ridge lines,
the rains form gullies and shape the landscape.
Change in these hills is usually slow,
Imperceptible, steady, forgettable.
The stretches of geologic time expand behind and before us,
and we exist in a moment witnessing their static beauty.
And in an instant we are made witness to a flash forward in time.
One change after another after another after another.
Searing fires, belching smoke, and unforgettable changes in the land,
beyond the point of recognition
beyond the point of rationalization.
We are challenged in our conception of time
…of what we value.
No longer are our moments our own,
rather we are a tiny pearl on a string of endless ebbs and flows
along a fickle, changeable, timeless coast.
But perhaps we are gifted at least
with an understanding
of the frailty of life
the power of nature
and the eventual internal security that comes
with an acceptance of change.