Breathe, Love

Last week, we attempted a 3-day hiatus from reality to the Methow Valley, beyond the jagged peaks of the North Cascades. As we left home, smoke was moving into Western Washington from wildfires blazing east and south of the Methow Valley, which was surprisingly clear until Friday, when we returned home. By Friday, the wind had changed. It was smoky in the Methow, but ever so much smokier once we crested Rainy Pass and began to descend into the lowlands of Western Washington. Breathing would have been easier had we stayed in Eastern Washington.

Breathing has been a theme of 2020. We began the year with much awareness of planetary climate change. Then Covid-19 took our breath away with its sudden onslaught. The “I can‘t breathe”/Black Lives Matter movement swept over us. And now, wildfires and smoke in our region have brought us back to climate change.

Wendell Berry in 1989 wrote that we cannot solve problems on a planetary or global scale:

“The adjective ‘planetary’ describes a problem in such a way that it cannot be solved … The problems, if we describe them accurately, are all private and small. Or they are so initially … The question that must be addressed, therefore, is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet’s millions of human and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one of which is in some precious way different from all the others.”

Then he delivers a shockingly simple declaration:

“…Only love can do it. … Love is never abstract. It does not adhere to the universe or the planet or the nation or the institution or the profession, but to the singular sparrows of the street, the lilies of the field, ‘the least of these my brethren.’”*

Can we do it? Can we fall in love again with Planet Earth? Plant a seedling – can you fall in love again with the lump of soil you hold in your hands?