This morning, I woke up to let my cat outside, and the smoke was so thick in the still-dark morning air that I could see it.
It was so strong that my first instinct was to jump back inside and shut the door to protect myself.
My brain keeps urging me to get in my car and drive somewhere that the air is clear, somewhere that I can breathe and see the blue sky, but I can’t think of a place near enough where that might be true. I’m in California—the whole state is burning to the ground.
Last night, I learned that Big Basin State Park has been, as per the official report, “severely damaged.” The giant redwoods that have lived for thousands of years may or may not have gone up in flames. No one can get close enough yet to find out.
But as I stood at the sink loading the dishwasher last night, it hit me that I have never been there. I’ve lived in this area for 30 years and the park is a 30-minute drive away, and I have never been there. Why? Well, because it’s always been there. I had time.
I can’t explain to you the regret I felt, scrolling through Facebook seeing pictures my friends had posted in their grief, from the trails and of the majestic trees that I will most likely never get to see. I know, in the bigger picture, this is such a small thing. But the realization that it smacked me in the face with is not small at all.
Do. Not. Wait.
If this year has one lesson for us that is threaded throughout every atrocity it has thrown at us one after another after another until most of us are simply numb with shock and grief, it is this: stop waiting.
And I know that is a comical thing to say when 75% of us are still following the rules and trying to stay home as much as we can due to this virus raging through our communities and taking us out for no rhyme or reason at all (and of course it is, because 2020), but here’s the thing: there will be a time when we can move freely throughout the world again.
When the smoke clears, both literally (for my state) and figuratively, how will you show up?
Even if you don’t believe in an orderly universe, even if you think all of this is chaos and random and the fault of the scourge of humanity, of which we are all a part of, I bet you are still thinking about taking a different approach to things. I hope you are. And if, like me, you are always looking for signs, believing in your soul that there are forces at work at all times trying to send us messages and speak to us without words—I know you are ready to change.
2020 will not let us look away.
It will no longer allow us to find relief in idle distractions or bury our heads in the sand so that we can buy some cheap peace. 2020 will kill us, do you understand? 2020 is sick of our sh*t and has had enough.
If Covid-19 can’t convince us, how about the murder of George Floyd in broad daylight by a man sworn to serve and protect? No, that’s not enough either?
Okay, well, how about months of protests and riots then—spurred on by a “leader” incapable of leading with anything approaching wisdom or goodness? Still not enough, huh?
How about a few hurricanes, earthquakes, and raging fires, then?
Our world is literally dying before our eyes.
If we think the universe, or God, or some outside force is not screaming at us that we either change now or cease to exist, I don’t know what to say. To me, it’s plain as day.
What we need to change is unique to each one of us. But there’s not one person among us who couldn’t do better in some way. This year is begging—no, demanding—that we figure out what it is and do it.
Do not wait. Start today.