Monday, July 21, 2014

Hazed and Confused

Hazed and Confused

If you haven’t heard, wildfires have been taking over eastern Washington, with some half dozen different fires including the incredibly massive Carlton Complex which has torched over 215,000 acres to date.  Coupled with a couple weeks of 100+ degree heat, and as my friend Scott put it best, it’s felt like a smoky oven.  Needless to say, we’ve been laying low and doing our best to adapt to the situation at hand, things seem to be improving but I’m still skeptical for the future.  For now, we’re enjoying a reprieve and I’m reflecting as well as looking forward to how and best balance this reality as it unfolds.  Below you'll find a few pictures from our weekend of clarity, and a few words regarding what it's like living in a pressure cooker.  If you're into pictures or like your dose of crazy diluted as possible, remember to check us out on the Facebook and Instagram, where angry rhetoric is in short supply.

I feel like I’ve gotten my life back.  I know it sounds dramatic but for the last couple of weeks I’ve felt like a hostage, the thick smoke and incessant heat has kept us from being able to get into the mountains or even get out for many afternoon or evening climbs.  A near constant rhythm of helicopters keep beat in the sky, while the air, obscured by smoke and heat, has the appearance of a polluted or bombed out city.  The occasional police siren wails through town, most likely chasing down a speeding tourist, but none the less adding to the ambiance of a war zone. 

Chiwakum Creek Fire from Chumstick Highway

Amazingly, thanks to the kind luck of mama nature and the hard work of many firefighters, over the weekend the climate shifted drastically and cooler temperatures and clearer skies prevailed.  I don’t know if this is due more to the allotment of funds that allow the National Guard to aid in the suppression of the Chiwakum Fire, or the simple change in weather pattern, but I’m thankful for both, and even felt a small raindrop at one point, the first in weeks. 

Liz topped out on the Snow Creek Wall with a relatively clear valley behind.

Cycling makes you vulnerable in so many ways; narrow shoulders and speeding traffic are only the beginning in an endless number of uncontrollable factors.  When the smoke settled in Leavenworth, the place became a veritable ghost town, tourists detoured away and residents taking leave for greener pastures.  But this hasn't been possible for us.  Escape is a slow process on a bike, the whole while you’re sucking down the very thing you’re trying to avoid.  So we've laid low and hunkered down, enjoying many an afternoon by the river and in the cool and clean air of our temporary home.  Work doesn’t stop, life doesn’t let up, and so we’ve taken every consideration to try as best we can to limit our exposure and exertion in this harsh environment. 

Tumwater in a haze.

Mostly, outside of riding to and from work, and the long and hot days spent laboring, this has meant we’ve been pretty inactive, which for a time is a welcome relief in our lives.  Succumbing to the natural (implications) of your environment and limits of mobility isn’t something most people experience, and in this short time of relative inactivity we’ve gained an increased awareness and appreciation for the chaotic mobility our car-culture has created.  We’ve had more time to sit and think, to read, write, and reflect, and while this time has lead to some realizations, just as much has the haze heralded confusion in our consciousness when considering the trajectory and technique of our lifestyle.

Fruits of Labor: Vegetables.

We bought a juicer, turns out it doesn't really like wilted Kale or peas.
I wasn't that into the apricots, but carrot-ginger is foolproof.

The expectation of constant movement, constant action in our society is unrelenting.  If anything it is only increasing to a crescendo of frenzy that exists not as some point in the future, but as a reality we experience every day.  Work, play, action and experience dominate our existence to the point that we have no time.  This could be better explained in that we make no time, not for reflection, resonance, or meditation.  Every waking moment is filled with thought and action, entertainment and interest, and in a world that values growth above all else, productivity isn’t measured in terms of quality or cost, but simply by creation.  That you are doing something, even if it is wasteful or superfluous, is always deemed better than doing nothing at all. 

Liz enjoying a moment of nothing along the banks of 8-Mile Lake.
The short trip from town included about 20 miles of biking (up 8-Mile road),
and a 7ish mile round trip jog to the lake.  Wonderful.

I don’t mean to say that action or activity is inherently negative, this is just an observation.  It is a way of understanding and accepting these times of rest and reprieve in my life, even if they come in disguise.  While the smoke has cleared and we were able to get out for a few short days this weekend, I’m still reminded of these last few weeks, and their impact.  I too was raised under the paradigm of infinite growth, so to attempt to rewrite this understanding is no easy feat, I value action and experience as much as the next, and often find myself questioning critically my production and achievements in comparison to my peers, which is a fruitless task in the lifestyle I’ve embraced.  But still, I’m growing, I’m learning, I’m practicing my aptitude for not-doing, and not-thinking, I imagine it’ll all get much easier when the smoke clears from my head.  


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