Burning

Flourish Vol. 39

We’re in the thick of it now; the slow burn of a dying summer, whack-a-mole fires and heat waves roiling the West Coast. I thought maybe I’d migrated far enough north to outrun it, but the smoke found me here, too, choking the horizon, turning this valley into a dust bowl and tinging the sun an eerie martian red I’ve only ever seen in California.

The days lately feel more indicative of the apocalypse than before, a thousand concurrent crises bombarding our senses incessantly. On weekends I find myself withdrawing from social media — and certainly the news —almost entirely, coddling myself in a willful, blissful ignorance for a too-brief window of mental oblivion. I feel my coping mechanisms failing, and falling short, as we approach the six-month marker of this alternate reality, since a time before any of this was normal. I find myself missing the same stupid, insipid things I did in the beginning, but now they are feelings, rather than thoughts, they are yearnings rather than words I say out loud. The parts that make this human experience worthwhile at all. Communal meals and crashing on couches, live music and tightly-packed bars, the energy pulsing like an electrical current through your feet. Sneaking kisses and glances and uncontrollable giggles emboldened by a slight buzz, stopping to see friends and family unannounced, trying on life in countries outside this one. Something like nostalgia for the way life used to be, for things we didn’t know we’d ever have to miss.

So I’ll take the wins where I can get them; a good day at work, a much-needed call with a friend, my music and animals and freshly-dyed hair and the dew in the night air. Currently, I’m riding high off a wine-fueled Bath and Body Works haul of candles with names like “Flannel” and “Cider Lane”, heralding the arrival of my favorite time of the year. Next weekend, we’ll drape the porch with autumnal garland and pumpkins, and the nights will turn colder, and then I’ll turn 27. Growing older is always a little bittersweet, but of course it’s hard not to feel like this was a lost year; for our country, for our world, and selfishly, for me, for my 26, whatever it might’ve been.

This has been a hard year, of growing pains and broken bones, of stark realizations, abrupt endings, death in the family, the bottom of everything falling out. I am constantly warring between gratitude and pity, between realizing that I am one of the lucky ones, and yet this is no way to live. But the flames are to the ceiling, and I have reached the point of feeling that maybe everything needs to burn down to nothing, to just the foundation of who I know myself to be. In a couple more weeks, I’ll have my second surgery of the year, one that has been many more years in the making. Something I thought would remain just slightly out of reach forever, always impossible had my life not fallen apart in the exact right way. And so I am taking the wins where I can, and tilting into the unknown with as much faith as I can muster.


Reads and recommendations:

Despite my usual avoidance of anything politics or news-adjacent during my off hours, I finally spent a night watching Knock Down The House, which had been sitting in my Netflix queue forever. It’s primarily about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first run for Congress, but also profiles the campaigns of other new progressive candidates, and is just as relevant as ever. It was fascinating to watch her campaign from beginning (she was nominated by her brother for an organization that scouts new progressive candidates) to end (beating an incumbent Democratic who hadn’t had a challenger in 19 years, becoming the youngest women to ever serve in Congress, etc.) If you aren’t already in awe of her story, go ahead and give this a watch.

This story by Jesmyn Ward, about sudden personal loss colliding with collective heartache, is just such a sobering dispatch from a year of relentless grief:

“Witness Black people, Indigenous people, so many poor brown people, lying on beds in frigid hospitals, gasping our last breaths with COVID-riddled lungs, rendered flat by undiagnosed underlying conditions, triggered by years of food deserts, stress, and poverty, lives spent snatching sweets so we could eat one delicious morsel, savor some sugar on the tongue, oh Lord, because the flavor of our lives is so often bitter.” -On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by a Pandemic


This week’s Why Won’t You Date Me is worth a listen — or two // "Driving around town, it looks like Portland always does, with a super fun Covid twist. But that in itself is an inherently Portland trait: we are a city of surface-level peace, of surface-level liberalism, of surface-level safety. But you don't have to dig that hard to expose the under-layer: this is a state founded on white supremacy, and it shows.” // College is everywhere now // “The social industry doesn’t just eat our time with endless stimulus and algorithmic scrolling; it eats our time by creating and promoting people who exist only to be explained to, people to whom the world has been created anew every morning, people for whom every settled sociological, scientific, and political argument of modernity must be rehashed, rewritten, and re-accounted, this time with their participation.” WOWZA. //


Outside my window the wind is whipping through the clay-colored dusk and our lights have flickered a few times, so I’ve lit a candle and queued up the musician I associate most with the end of the world: Father John Misty. I’m glad he’s returned with a couple more ballads to croon for us as this Titanic sinks.

‘I had a dream and you were in it’ / Was all you had to say

Stay safe, keep dreaming.

-Olivia

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