Today was a day out of time, if such a thing is possible. In a similar way to the day of the solar eclipse, the sun appeared very unusual throughout this day, due to the thick haze that hung over the city. Smoke and ash from the many fires burning across the western United States and British Columbia was carried by the winds here to our fair city, obscuring the sun and creating a reddish golden veil across its light.
Towards sunset, the reddish tint turned nearly blood red as the sun grew closer to the western horizon. Then the crows came. They had already appeared on our street’s tall, old trees earlier in the day, cawing loudly and aggressively. One was found dead on the easement underneath one of the largest trees afterwards. When the sun turned red, however, the crows came back in full force, crying loudly and circling round and round the group of trees at the end of the block where I live. From my upstairs apartment window I watched and listened to them, striving to understand what they were telling each other and me.
Clearly, the red sun was bothering them; they knew it was unnatural and not as it should be at dusk. Perhaps they knew other things too; about the floods and fires happening across the vast landscape. They carried on for about ten or fifteen minutes, until the sun was virtually out of sight, then eventually quieted down.
After sunset, I walked the few blocks to our neighborhood park to see what I could see. Almost full tonight, I wished to catch a glimpse as it rose in the east. Walking in a large loop, I finally came to rest at the marble pavilion that marks the center of the park. Stepping inside, I quickly walked across to the marble pillars facing west, where one can still see some of the mountains that Denver is famous for. Of course, due to the haze, no mountains could be seen. The people who were gathered here and there around the pavilion were all silent, some on their cell phones, but others simply quiet, gazing out onto the park, and the eerily whitish grey sky of twilight. After a few minutes, I left and continued making my way around the loop of the park. I kept looking to the east, knowing that the moon would be there and hoping to catch a glimpse of it. Then I saw it, coming up between the dark shadows of trees. Sure enough, La Luna was there, round and completely pink, like a man’s sunburned bald head.
After communion with a very old hawthorn tree for grounding and strengthening, I slowly made my way through the park and back home. As I walked, I reflected on this past week’s extraordinary events. Flooding of biblical proportions in south Texas. Wildfires are burning due to extreme high temperatures and no rain along the west coast from Los Angeles all the way through Washington state, where the governor declared a state of emergency in all counties due to fires and threat of fires, and up into British Columbia. Fires are burning in Montana and Idaho, and southern Wyoming. As I googled this subject for an image to share here, I found out more: 2017 has been one of the worst fire seasons in years, that upwards of a hundred fires, both uncontained and contained, are currently burning, and over seven and a half million acres of forest have burned.
So much water, and so much fire. The fire needs water, and the water wouldn’t know what to do with all that fire. Except just keep raining down.
Prayer is not a refuge or shelter so much as it is an opening of arms, an acceptance of whatever storms exist in the world. You don’t really pray for your situation to change, you pray to be able to handle your situation. It’s not the world you want to change; it’s you that you want to change. –Kazim Ali
Within a few days, most likely the haze will lessen, the sun will shine brightly again, and the people will carry on like nothing is amiss in the world. For many, to contemplate the enormity of what is occurring now in America, in Asia, and around the globe is simply too much, too overwhelming. So they simply choose to not think about it. We have forgotten how to listen to the wild, to hear the cacophony of a hundred crows overhead and be unable to hear what they are telling us. We glance at a blood red sun or a stunning pink moonrise, but most don’t give them a second glance. Many people in the cities no longer have the capacity to see nature, even when it is right in front of their eyes. This is the great tragedy of our times.
There is a Buddhist practice known as tonglen. The practice is described thus: “In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age- old patterns of selfishness. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others.” (https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-practice-tonglen/) Imagine if enough of us did this practice during times like this past week: breathing in the pain of all of those affected by floods and fires, including humans, animals, and all living beings (such as trees); and then breathing out compassion, healing, and love for them. I think it would make a huge difference to those who are suffering, if the rest of us, who are fortunate enough to not be in the middle of the unfolding tragedy, breathed in the pain, and breathed out relief.
Try tonglen, or use the power of your prayers and healing energy directed towards those who are suffering now. In this way, we can strive to heal and make sense of a world filled with chaos and unbelievably catastrophic acts of nature. We can use them as a catalyst for great, beneficial change for humanity. Just breathe with intention.