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POINT OF VIEW: The Long Bleak August of the Soul

Green Plant in Bleak Desolation - Deposit Photos

It’s been a bad month.

Out in the world, fires are burning up the very trees we need to slow climate change, sending clouds of choking smoke into the air and filling the Sacramento valley with a nasty orange haze.

Hurricanes are supercharging over the gulf and bringing torrential rains to the places that need it least, flooding people out of their homes.

Religious extremists are taking over a country and shoving women and gays back into their respective closets.

Covid, in the form of the cursed “Delta Variant,” rages on against a backdrop of idiocy, hatred, horse dewormer, and willful ignorance.

And the bluest state in the country may see a replacement GOP governor elected with less than 2o% of the vote.

I’ve never known an August so unkind.

Here at home, we’re back in lockdown. Yes, we’re both vaccinated, but even a great vaccine (which these seem to be) doesn’t offer us total protection. And even if it did, the smoke and the heat would keep us locked inside for now. It’s a bitter pill to swallow after a couple blissful months of near “normal.”

So how’s your August going?

I close my eyes and recite the first part of the Serenity Prayer, one of the places I’ve turned to for comfort in these rough days:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference…”

I’ve never been an alcoholic, but those few lines speak to me at this moment, in this place I find myself. Whether you believe in God or a higher power or not, there is wisdom in knowing how to sift through all the mishegas to discern the things you can affect, and those which are entirely out of your control.

Right now, most of what ails the world is beyond me, and the constant worry about politics, climate change, and even the dangers of simple human contact threatens to overwhelm me if I sit too long with it.

So I have to choose my battles.

I reach out to my friends and urge them to do the small things they can. Share beauty. Breathe love. Write your congressperson. Vote.

And then I tend my own gardens, real and metaphorical.

Mark and I have taken up a new practice each morning. We sit down together, and each of us shares a thing we’re grateful for, and then a thing we’re hopeful for. These are often simple – good friends and a clear air day.

Our hopes, especially, are usually for little things. Concrete things. Things we can celebrate if they come true, and things that won’t crush us if they don’t.

It helps us both to start each day both grateful and hopeful – to see the world through the eyes of possibility instead of defeat. Sometimes the green shoots can break through the dried Earth, and bring with them the hope of renewal.

Yes, August sucked. But we’re hoping that September is better.

Sometimes the smallest seeds we plant grow into big, strong trees that shade us all. Sometimes all they need is hope.

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