I wake in the middle of the night, feeling lost and anxious, and ask Kurt, “Do we know the election results?”
“No, not yet.”
I can’t sleep anymore. I get up and put on the kettle for tea. Our teenage daughter, Hazel, can’t sleep either. At dawn, she wraps herself in a blanket and comes to the kitchen. She pours a bowl of cereal and makes me one too. I sit next to her and hand her a cup of tea. The two of us eat our Cheerios and drink our tea in silence.
“What do we do now?” She asks.
“We feel all the feels.”
“I read that we only have seven years before climate change is irreversible.”
“In my experience, change rarely comes from the top office.”
“Then where does it come from?”
“From the ground up. They say that women are going to decide this election. I think women are going to lead us through the challenges ahead. The old ways aren’t working anymore. Women will create a new way.”
“With a really old, white guy as President.”
I sound strong, but my heart is beating fast. My breath is shallow, and my chest is tight. I can’t get enough air. I know this feeling. It is grief.
Science and truth and dignity lose.
It isn’t for sure. Nothing is.
I need to get away from the red and blue map. I can see it inside my closed eyelids.
Luckily, my friend Tania knows a place in the forest where we can surround ourselves in geologic time, the resiliency of lichen, and the natural cycles of change.
I leave Hazel and Kurt watching Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” and take the dog out to meet Tania at a trailhead.
We scramble up a scree field to the western side of one of the Flatirons, the slab-like peaks rising above Boulder. We lean our backs against nothing but sky and a 290-million-year-old sloping mountain. We stay there for a long time in silence.
The rocks and their lichen necklaces say to me, “All will be well. All will be well.”
When it’s time to go, we aren’t ready to return home.
“What if we bushwack up to that ridge?” Tania suggests.
It’s exactly what I feel like doing.
We bushwhack through dense pine forests and up steep, slippery rock faces. At one point, I have only one good hand hold on the rock. I’m perched precariously. It’s unclear where to put my foot next, or where the next hand hold might be.
“How are you?” Tania calls up to me from the ground.
“I’m okay right now. Just not sure what’s next.”
Then we laugh at the obvious analogy to the whole nation waiting in the unknown about the election. Maybe that’s how we get through this uncertainty: one hand-hold at a time. And when someone asks, How are you? We can take it moment by moment and answer, We’re okay right now.
We climb like this for several hours. When the rock is too steep for Leo the dog, Tania goes first, and I pass Leo to her. We scale the rock this way, passing Leo between us, making slow but steady progress. Leo clings to me with a look that says, You have gone totally insane. Then a raven flies over us, his wingtips only an arm’s length away.
The jagged ridge is in sight. I wonder, Will there be another ridge to climb or have we made it to the top? We crest the ridge and look. It’s a jaw-dropping view. Snow-capped peaks touching bluebird skies for miles. The Continental Divide runs north to south before us.
The only problem is we don’t know how to get down. Then I hear Tania shout with joy. She has found a trail. We can’t believe our luck. Hidden behind a boulder is a well-worn path. There’s even a sign tacked to a tree pointing us home.
We intentionally got lost and found our way home.
On the first switchback down, there’s a Limber Pine.
A rare species whose scientific name is Pinus flexilis. Limber Pines can live up to 3000 years because their branches are remarkably flexible, even in the driest of climates. Their branches twist, bend, and bounce back from the heaviest snowstorms and the strongest gales.
I hug the tree, hoping some of its wisdom sticks to my clothes.
Tania laughs, “That’s right. We all need to be more flexilis to get through this year.”
Soon, we are back at the trailhead. I feel stronger, lighter from our adventure. I was unsteady before and now I feel brave again.
One way through all this painful waiting is to physically feel our way through the unknown, in order not to fear it. Courage loves action.
How are you?
I’m okay right now.