The Way It Is

“Life is not the way it is supposed to be.  It is the way it is.

The way we choose to cope with it, is what makes the difference.” –Anonymous

I went to Ojai, California, recently to attend a memorial service for a dear friend.  I had not been there for almost two years, and was concerned about how much damage remained from the Thomas Forest Fire that raged there last winter.  Although the damage was evident in both the town and the surrounding areas, I was very surprised and pleased to see green growth sprouting up from groves of trees blackened by the flames, and wildflowers blooming in the meadows. Many homes and outbuildings that had been ravaged by the fires were being rebuilt.

In Native American culture, forest fires are welcomed as a natural cleansing of the forest where they occur. In fact, fire is necessary to heat the pinecones that release the seeds that create the new trees. I watched from my house in PineTop as members of the White Mountain Apache tribe used controlled burns to keep the undergrowth cleaned out so both the trees and the animals that live on the reservation could thrive.

Most of us view fire as a destructive force.  I watched the news coverage of the fire, and felt afraid for my family, friends and other residents, when they were required to evacuate.  No one was sure what they would find when they were allowed to return.  Some did lose their homes; most were lucky, as the firefighters fought successfully to save their property.

On my drive back to Tucson, I thought about the difference in attitudes about forest fires in general. I found myself thinking that while the fears were very real about the possibility of lives and property being lost in the record-breaking fire that lasted so long and covered so much acreage, long-term damage was small in comparison to what could have happened. Most deservedly, the firefighters were hailed as heroes.

While I was in Ojai, most of my friends were glued to their television sets to watch the Senate hearings to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.  I like to figure out what I can learn in any situation that might help me in another.  I saw the parallels between the massive fire last winter and the political climate we are in right now.  I heard friends lamenting,  “This is the worst time our country has ever experienced.  We are so divided.”  Part of the reason I believe this seems true is because we know instantly when anything happens anywhere in the world.  In our 24-7 cable news world we are bombarded by facts, opinions, hidden and obvious biases, and blatantly inflammatory vitriol. (Mary Morrissey calls CNN Constantly Negative News.)

While some see very little good that can come from this heated interaction, I believe that this is a cleansing time for us a nation. I see individuals getting involved politically who had never been involved before.  More people are registering to vote for the first time, paying attention to party platforms, and women and minorities are running for office in record numbers.  I see a firestorm of political change, and I believe that is healthy for us as a nation.

— Pat Masters

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