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Coping with Fragility in a Changing World


Purple picture of the earth from space

As smoke descends on our small mountain town in the Sierras, it forces us to shutter our windows and turn on the air filter.


Another monster forest fire rages, sending thousands fleeing the flames, seeking shelter, hoping the brave firefighters can save their homes. The inferno spreads at incredible speed.


One report says it is burning at the rate of twenty-four football fields per minute. Pictures of billowing plumes rising high into the atmosphere conjure apocalyptic images. It is close enough to grab our attention, far enough away that our “go-bag” remains in the house.


We have lived here for more than a quarter of a century, and when you reside amongst the pines, it comes with inherent risk. Prolonged drought and oppressive heat, though, have exacerbated the danger. Igniting dry fuel does not require much instigation. Pondering the hazards can stop you in your tracks.


The cause, human-induced climate change or the normal shifting of weather patterns, matters little when considering the effects of more frequent natural disasters or monster storms. I’ve talked to friends across the nation who live in tornado country, known hurricane paths, and flood zones. All experience apprehension and sometimes fear.


It adds to the difficulties we constantly face. Already we must navigate a society where mass shootings have become the norm and where viruses threaten collective health and the response to which creates divisiveness. Then there is the incendiary political discourse from both sides of the aisle that has replaced civility and racial inequities still festering over two centuries after the founding of the United States. Add nature’s wrath to that toxic stew, and you have a recipe for hard living.


Life in 2022 seems fragile. More than one octogenarian has told me this is their most difficult decade, fraught with unique challenges. So how do we cope? That’s an answer everyone must discover for themselves. Therapy, prayer, leaning into community, meditation, exercise and communing with nature can provide mechanisms to manage our stressors.


For me? Today I pray for rain.


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