The other night, as we were driving home in the early dark, we came upon a dead moose. The action of the flashing police lights contrasted starkly with the stillness of the body. Long legs, glossy coat, motionlessness.
That is what I do these days. I wake from dreams of hopelessness and fear, and I cry for a bit, until it is time to walk Rosie Dog. Then I get out of bed, not wanting to move, and we go for our walk, and I pull things together. It has been this way for the last month. It will continue.
This year the drought has pulled the water far back from the shores of the reservoir. It’s left the river that the landlocked salmon travel in the fall as nothing more than a trickle through sand. Bridges of land connect islands in place of moats of water. I can feel the drought in my bones, my flesh and the soil not so very different after a lifetime spent together.
Plenty of rain, and the reservoir will fill again. But damage exists in places we cannot see. Amphibian populations shrink due to missing breeding habitat and diseases their stressed bodies cannot fight off. Likewise, trees struggle silently, suffering in ways that play out over the years to come.
The things we lose do not come back. This world we treat so carelessly is made of finite substances. The cruelties we condone or enact on one another echo forward ceaselessly.
So do the kindnesses.
After the election, I tweeted something about my love for those who were suffering. I was promptly trolled by another writer flush with the victory of her candidate and looking to prove me a hypocrite. I have relatively few tools at my disposal in life. My anxiety is such that I am always battling imaginary monsters. It is an exhausting struggle that I have no confidence in winning. But I do actually love. I do care. Pessimism and optimism are twined so tightly inside me that I can carry endless despair over the horrors we commit toward one another and this world, while also holding the belief that we all have the capacity to be more. More generous, more compassionate, more courageous, more capable of learning, more open, more than fear and hunger and clawing our way through life.
This is the time of year when I comfort myself that the darkness is also finite, that light will come again and balance will be found. This year, the darkness stretches so much farther, and the light feels so much fainter. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps I have always been wrong is all I can think. What we lose now may be lost for good, be it endangered species or clean water or one another.
But if I’m going to err, it will be on the side of loving, of caring, of believing in the sliver of potential for more. Without that, we are nothing.