We went for a walk at 8:00 this morning despite the cold temperature because we wanted to be back inside before the wind started blowing again. And we just made it. As soon as we returned, I went out to clean and refill the bird bath (which was filled with pine needles, dirt, and other debris from yesterday’s wind) and that’s when the wind began raging again. (Note: the bath’s already polluted but there’s no point in cleaning now).
As noted yesterday, my anxiety levels were high (update: the fire in Park County spread to Teller County and has now burned 1,200 acres) and I chose to put on music loud enough to drown out the sound of the heavy gusts of wind while I played with ink and paints.
I copied each of these animals from a drawing book and consider them a huge success. Not because the crocodile looks like she has mumps or because what appears to be an otter was actually supposed to be a weasel. No, I consider my little art session a success because for a while there I was not thinking about our wildfire evacuation kit, the extreme drought and water shortage here in the West, or how the Biden administration continues to authorize more oil and gas drilling on federal lands. Instead, I was focused on drawing silly little pictures and learning how to use paints.
And now I’m going back to my art table where I’ll turn up the music and create some more. Oh, and comfort Emma when she gets agitated about those 50-mph gusts of wind.
Wishing you calm wherever you are.
Today the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued what is basically its final warning to governments (“it’s now or never” regarding greenhouse gas emissions), and my heart is pounding as I type those words. We the people need to rise up and demand radical action. Unfortunately, here in the U.S. our so-called leadership is actually talking about ramping up fossil fuel production. It’s insanity.
And when reality gets to be too much, I turn to nature. Today, it’s birds. Here’s a Limpkin I had the honor of communing with at Kapok Park in Florida:
May 6, 2019
Here’s a petite Bushtit outside my Colorado window:
September 24, 2021
Here’s a Turkey Vulture doing its important clean-up work in Cave Creek Canyon in Arizona:
May 15, 2019
Finally, here’s a Common Grackle singing its song in Nebraska clover:
June 2, 2020
And now I’m going to use the energy I’ve borrowed from those wonderful birds and head out for a run on the trails where I’ll drink up more of this glorious world.
Another wildfire in Boulder, Colorado.
Following the Marshall Fire in December.
NCAR Fire on March 26, 2022
Zippy and I were heading out of a very windy Boulder this afternoon when he saw the smoke and exclaimed, “Wildfire!” As I drove, he took the above photo at 2:30 (about 30 minutes after it started.) At times, we could see the bright red-orange flames. As we continued driving south on Highway 93 with our windows rolled up, smoke odors permeated the car. The air was hazy. Our beautiful afternoon was suddenly filled with anxiety.
This was our first time in Boulder since the Marshall Fire and our appointment had taken us past areas devastated by that fire. Blackened trees reaching for the blue sky next to homes that were nothing but smoke-stained brick and concrete foundations. Rubble. We’d gotten emotional at those sights and then, an hour later, saw the smoke of yet another wildfire. It was happening again.
The climate crisis is a collective trauma for everyone, but especially those who just three months ago experienced a wildfire. My heart is with the people of Boulder. I’m not sure what it’s going to take for those in power to make radical changes to avert the worst of what’s to come. So far, the crisis has accelerated to wildfires any time of year.
Cataract Lake. September 27, 2021
Humans, listen up
gotta get it together
this is not a drill
It’s fitting that smoke obscured this photo of a coal plant I took as we drove past on Saturday.
Craig Station. August 7, 2021
We’d been camping at Rifle Falls State Park and woke to the valley filled with wildfire smoke. We quickly packed up and left. Turned out, the entire western half of Colorado was (and continues to be) choked with smoke from wildfires in the northwest. There was no escaping it.
I’ve spent much of the past several days closed off in my bedroom with an air purifier. My climate anxiety was already high and then the UN released its climate report yesterday. (Just typing those words sent a surge of anxiety throughout my system.)
I called my Senators and Representative today, all wealthy white men from Colorado which has been experiencing the worst air pollution in the world, to urge them to drop their incrementalism and vote to save humanity. The Democrats stuck us with a bi-partisan infrastructure bill (something the loathsome yet highly disciplined Republicans would never, ever have done) and we desperately need the reconciliation bill that addresses climate and poverty. The Progressive Caucus in the House is saying #NoClimateNoDeal if climate is stripped from the reconciliation bill and I can only hope they, for once, hold firm. However, I’m not naive enough to believe they’ll use their power to do the right thing. Time and again, they go along with the status quo that’s currently killing us.
Still, I think it’s well-worth a couple minutes of everyone’s time to call their representatives to demand they vote for the people and planet. Demand they keep the reconciliation bill intact. The Capitol switchboard (202) 224-3121
Thank you in advance.
Bees, blooms, and butterflies.
Showy Milkweed and pollinators. July 9, 2021
I’m posting this photo as my reward for all I’ve accomplished today:
- Exercise (indoor, again)
- Revised a chapter
- Healthy (mostly) eating
- Finished Shirley Jackson’s LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES
- Swept the floor
- Stayed the hell off Twitter (mostly)
- Focused (mostly) on things within my control
- Played with Emma and snuggled with Marcel (and allowed Loki to nap without interruption)
Yes, I’m one of those people who derive great satisfaction from checklists. And they’re especially important to me on days in which I feel very close to the edge.
Well done, Tracy.
This morning I woke to Unhealthy air quality due to wildfire smoke and so chose to run inside on the treadmill. The good news is the 25-minute run worked its usual endorphin magic and I felt much better afterward. The bad news is that while we’re clearly and obviously experiencing climate collapse, we’re all just going about our daily lives.
By James LeeFormerIP at en.wikipedia
The young people of the Sunrise Movement, desperate for a chance at a livable future, worked their asses off to help elect Biden who, compared to Tr*mp, at least gave lip service to climate change. But is Biden really better than a climate denier when his administration boosts a tar sands pipeline that will cross indigenous lands? (While also, by the way, further enriching the already incredibly wealthy Susan Rice, who is an aide to Biden.) You either believe we’re in a crisis and use the enormous powers of your position to enact policy to mitigate the worst effects OR you say all the right things while continuing to coddle the fossil fuel industry.
Zippy and I planned to head to the mountains tomorrow for cleaner air and cooler temperatures (which I recognize is an absolute luxury not available to most people), but now we’re torn. Because does it make sense to drive to Crested Butte when that area is also experiencing Unhealthy air quality? Will we even want or be able to hike out to see the wildflowers?
Apologies for being a downer, but I cannot pretend the climate crisis isn’t happening. This frog wants cooler temperatures.
It’s been a hard day and I’m trying to accomplish tasks here and there in order to stay out of my head. Weeding the front flower beds, laundry, and vacuuming. Reading and writing a tiny bit. Kissing sweet Emma on the head. While all those things were constructive and helpful, they aren’t enough. That’s why I’m posting this photo — so that I can revisit the peaceful image as needed.
Lamb’s Ear and honey bee. July 3, 2021
And I invite anyone in need of a break from the stresses of reality to do the same.
I’m struggling to focus today so it feels very appropriate to post an out-of-focus flower from my garden last spring.
Cranesbill. May 23, 2020
Even though it’s not a sharp image, the bright pink and the various shades of green are soothing. And I have nothing but admiration for a bloom that stands tall while others hunker down.
My strategy to escape reality by burying myself in fiction-writing has already hit a bump. I wrote my 1000+ words today for my NaNoWriMo project, but I don’t like those words or where they’re taking the story. It doesn’t feel as if I’m capturing this character’s voice or have a particularly strong grasp of her arc. I know it’s early days and that these things change and change again along the way. But still. Not a great feeling.
My one consolation is that because there are BIG SCARY things looming in the very, very near future, maybe, just maybe, I can chalk today’s icky writing session up to all that?
Either way, I really hope to find my fictional refuge soon.
I spent the day in bed reading a Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin detective novel. A wise choice for my physical and mental health, I think. Why? The wildfires continue to rage in Colorado and when I checked my phone at one point today, the weather alert said “91 degrees. Smoky.”
So, it’s no shock that when I dipped into Pixabay just now in search of an image that resonated, I landed on this:
Tonight I shall dream of rain.
I live in Colorado. There are currently four wildfires burning around the state. Here’s a tweet from a Colorado journalist this morning:
I can usually see downtown Denver from my front yard. The last few days the buildings have been obscured by a smoky haze. Right now, I can see the tops of some buildings. But that “good news” is deceptive. I just spent about ten minutes outside, thinking it was okay because there wasn’t a strong odor of smoke. Wrong. I’m now coughing and my lungs are burning.
Just over a year ago, I participated in our Sunrise Movement hub’s first art build. We gathered to create a banner to pressure the Colorado Democratic Party to vote for a presidential debate focused solely on climate.
Our first art build on July 24, 2019. Boulder, CO
Our pressure worked and the representatives for the CO Dems voted YES to a climate debate. However, Tom Perez and the Democratic National Committee shut down our voices. There was no climate debate during the presidential primaries, despite the fact that the majority of people in the U.S. want meaningful action on the climate crisis.
Only two presidential candidates (Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) included serious climate plans in their platforms. Bernie’s earned an A- from Sunrise Movement. The presidential candidate the establishment contorted themselves to install as the party nominee? Well, Joe Biden earned an F-.
My state’s experiencing a years-long drought and record-high temperatures and is literally on fire right now. Except for Rep. Joe Neguse, none of the Colorado congressional delegation supports a Green New Deal. The Democratic representatives all understand that climate change is real, but unless they push for bold and meaningful action, they are no better than the climate deniers in the Republican party.
Meanwhile, Colorado burns.
I’ve been struggling and I know I’m not alone. We in the United States have been told in very clear terms that we are on our own. Our government serves the wealthy and powerful, and that’s it. We the People get crumbs while the elites party on.
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad from Pexels
Mental health is a huge issue for many, many people right now. Life’s always been a tough row to hoe, but this pandemic has upped the ante. I’m fortunate in that I have my writing. The middle-grade novel I’ve worked on for the past eight months has been my lifeline. I am very grateful for this project. However, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be sending the manuscript to my agent by the end of the month. And then what? Each time I think of COVID minus a writing project, my anxiety surges.
So here’s my official statement to the universe: Hellooo, I am open to new story ideas!
Your mileage may vary, but today I find this perspective quite comforting:
Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. ~ Carl Sagan
Rustler Gulch Trail. Crested Butte. July 26, 2018.
April 17, 2020.
It’s only Monday and I’m feeling anxious about various family members and all I want to do is hunker down with tasty snacks and forget about the rest of the week and everything that comes with it. Alas, life doesn’t work that way. Even this squirrel, who appears so content in the photo, was moments later focused on my intrusion. None of us are allowed to just be. Or, are we?
“There is a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. You see this even in insects and animals and birds. All of us are the same. A much more interesting, kind and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our curiosity is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is. If we are committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.”
― Pema Chödrön
Reality is a scary and anger-inducing thing these days, and today I am grateful for the middle-grade novel I’m writing. Last week, I completed the second draft (hooray!) and then had it printed and bound. I let it sit for a few days and then eagerly began working within those tidy pages. It makes me so very happy to have a compact, mobile version that I can work on anytime, anywhere. Bed? Yes! Patio? Absolutely? Kitchen table? Why not?
And when I wake in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts that prevent me falling back asleep, I focus on Geo and Sam, the two girls at the heart of my story. I aim to do them proud.
I’ve been trying to work on my revisions this afternoon. I’m listening to Beethoven through my earbuds in an attempt to drown out the present reality and it seems to work in short bursts. I’m focused and then . . .I’m not. So I decided to look at some photos to find something to put here, and began examining pictures of birds, flowers, waterways, and other typically calming images.
May 3, 2019. Clearwater, Florida.
Well? Right now, my heart is racing. Adrenaline is pumping and it’s as if there’s no escaping my anxiety.
Rather than try to (unsuccessfully) distract myself from these feelings, I’m going to try another approach. I’m going to sit with my anxiety. Because maybe it’s like how you’re not supposed to run when you encounter a bear: if I don’t run from my anxiety, maybe it’ll quit chasing me.
Backyard steps. March 26, 2020.
“If you find yourself worrying, go outside, take three breaths, address a tree and quietly say, ‘Thank you.’ If you can’t find a tree, a dandelion will do… Nature is magic.” ~ Robert Bateman
I woke with anxiety (in large part exacerbated by the reality of the corporate, political, and media establishment rallying around the candidate who’s campaigning against Medicare for All during a pandemic) and knew I had to do something. Pull the covers over my head and remain in bed all day? Or get up and get moving?
I wisely chose movement and for the first time in weeks, went for a run. Well, a walk/run. For once, I was kind to myself and didn’t berate myself whenever I slowed to a walk. I went out on the trails in the open space and within minutes, I saw a bunny under a bush. I greeted it as I chugged on by and then a few minutes later, I spotted a talkative magpie perched on the water tank.
Black-billed Magpie in neighbor’s yard. August 29, 2019.
I’ve become accumstomed to being the only human out on the trails, but today I encountered a total of ten people and three dogs. I hope that if they also woke with anxiety, that their time in the open space soothed their souls. I know it did me a world of good.
Hidden bee in lavender. July 16, 2016.
We’re months away from lavender blooming in our yard, but just looking at this photo brings calm. And when I breathe deeply, I can almost smell the flowers.
Must remember to breathe . . .
Red Maple budding out, March 10, 2020.
Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress. ~ Charles Dickens
I didn’t realize this maple was budding out until I was standing next to it, and I swear it didn’t look like this yesterday. Gentle and easy changes, indeed.
I’m not as far along with my revisions as I’d hoped, but I’m still here. Showing up to the page and making incremental progress. Progress that today felt drenched in doubt and anxiety. However, as every writer knows: words coated in any kind of emotion, positive or negative, beat a blank page.
I’m tidying up the first draft of the middle grade I wrote in a modified NaNoWriMo last November and December. I’m trying something new by asking my critique group to read it for our February meeting. I’m not used to showing my work at such an early stage, but my group excels at identifying plot holes, character inconsistencies, etc., so my thinking is that if I take advantage of their insights earlier in the process, I’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary revision.
This requires me putting on my big girl pants and trying not to let the terror take over.
Photo by Leon Macapagal from Pexels
I’m trying to focus on little bits at a time. Sometimes that means a chapter, or plot point, or character arc, or just a page. A sentence. Whatever it takes to keep me going. The anxiety is real, though. I have only a few more days to smooth out the roughest edges and then hit SEND.
Step by step, I’ll get it done.