Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, by Pam Houston

This memoir was a timely read for me, given that a significant section describes the 2015 fire season in Colorado, during which her ranch was surrounded and narrowly escaped destruction. I was reading about this during our 2020 fire season, in which the largest, Pine Gulch Fire, threatens to overtake the 2002 Hayman Fire as Colorado's largest in history (for now!). I haven't seen the mountains ordinarily visible from the nearby park, for weeks, due to smoke from multiple wildfires, in Colorado and California.

She talks about the courage of firefighters, of friends who help evacuate her horses and burros to a safe location, about watching a wall of flame descend toward her buildings, including the 100-year-old hand-built barn, stopped ultimately by the moisture content in the aspen grove behind her house. And she gives some thought to how climate change and the drying of the western US exacerbates these fires, making them not only larger but more catastrophic, burning even the soil, turning the earth into a barren landscape. 

Starting life as the child of narcissistic alcoholics, she takes refuge in the woman hired to look after her, and flees home as a teenager. With a lot to work out of her system she finds high-risk occupations in the wild: Dall sheep hunting guide in Alaska, whitewater raft guide, had her arm broken into tiny fragments by a rearing thoroughbred's hoof... And becomes a successful author, able to make payments on her property by teaching writing at various universities, participating in conferences, and so on, which require her to spend significant stretches away from the ranch.

Nature and animals have been her refuge from trauma, and on one of the journeys she is gifted due to her writing, she observes: "We may have more complicated language, opposable thumbs, and this dangerous thing called reason, but any self-respecting llama or buffalo or spider knows enough not to destroy its own home.

She is unafraid to call out the insanities of our culture: "It is the Wilderness Ranch Subdivision which remains evacuated (NFS Inci-Web). I pause over the words "Wilderness Ranch Subdivision." What in the f***, I wonder, what in the f*** is wrong with us anyway." Fair question. 

As the Trump administration busily removes all restraints on the most rapacious urges of corporations, which as Bill McKibben has pointed out have only a single purpose, to make money for their investors, and therefore cannot recognize consequences beyond that purpose, we are accelerating the catastrophic damage to our only home. This administration has weakened protections on air, water, forests, public lands - PUBLIC, not "his" - and the creatures who depend on them. He has rolled back regulations on methane capture - methane being among the most potent greenhouse gases accelerating our race toward an uninhabitable planet. There's no polluter, no matter how egregious, he does not support. There is no non-human creature who counts for anything. Endangered species? A wave of extinctions is arriving. The web of life itself? Of no concern to this administration. 

VOTE FOR THE EARTH - tell Trump it's time to go.