The 5th day of smoke from the fires up north and it's astounding how wide the range is. I’m writing this from a hotel near Yosemite (workshop here tomorrow) and I can still smell it.
At first I didn’t understand why everyone was staying indoors and wearing masks. Didn’t smell much different than sitting around a campfire. But someone enlightened me: smoke from a campfire or wildfire is still not great to inhale, but this smoke is something different altogether because houses and cars have burned and that means toxins from plastics and rubber and such have been released. And that stuff is bad for you.
And that got me thinking about our toxic president and his cronies. Hardly a day goes by without him making a cruel, dangerous, hateful comment or action and nothing is spared— he’s letting Nazi rallies and crazed shooters and Wall Street greed go unchecked while refusing help to American hurricane victims, trying to shut down millions of American citizen’s affordable health care, turning the Dreamer’s Act into a nightmare, put a coal guy high up in EPA, an idiot heading education, keeps threatening nuclear war, etc., etc. and yet again etc. This is not like a natural wildfire that’s unpleasant to breathe. These are invisible toxins that are leaking into every breath we take and no one is immune.
Last November, my spirits went down to 40 below zero and I simply could not imagine how I’d get through these next four years. But after the Women’s March in January, that turned around and I felt this as the wake-up call we all needed, the thermometer that showed us some surprise temperatures in our country and then the collective determination to turn it around. And that spirit has pretty much held for the last 9 months.
But the recent turn of events—hurricanes, fires, mass shootings, pestilence—make me feel alarmed beyond my comfort level that our leadership is like the 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse instead of the wise parent helping us get through. I thought I could retreat comfortably into Bach on the piano, my hall-of-mirrors Facebook group, my oasis-in-the-dessert school that remains a happy place for children and adults while daily looking the hard issues in the face, playing jazz with my cohorts (we performed at a school today—fun!!!) and of course, the comfort of family and friends. But who am I kidding? The toxins are leaking in all the cracks and crevices and not even Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah can laugh them entirely away.
Thanks for letting me say this out loud. Tomorrow I teach another workshop and as always, will do everything in my power to keep fun at the forefront married to deep reflection and renewed determination to tell the truth to children and ourselves, but to “say it with music” so the spirit stays buoyant. But every once in a while, you just gotta give a little voice to despair and hopelessness and alarm. There. I’m done.