A World Flipped on Its Head - Marie Boucher
How does the world get flipped on its head? One minute you’re buoyed by the Milky Way, floating, feeling like you can touch the stars, hugging the galaxy--You’ve been singing with whales, humming with hummingbirds, drinking in the most glorious sunset, as if the Creator were painting it and erasing it before your eyes--ochre red, gold, swaths of pink, rippling on the horizon, reflected on expansive midnight blue
…until every color fades to grey and melts away…
You’ve just seen an old friend, affirmed
“YES”--the old world is unraveling,
Empires are falling--Babylon fell, Rome fell
“But this is more than the American empire…”
I assert,” It’s ecological collapse, planetary shifting we must learn to collaborate or perish…” “We’re evolving on a social evolutionary and planetary-scale where quantum physics and metaphysics align, where ‘We are one’ can not only be felt but known.“ We take a breath and hold the paradox.
Yet, the world is falling. Everything is collapsing. You see the news, Thich Nacht Hanh left this earthly plane at midnight on January 22nd, 2022 in Vietnam.
But, it’s still January 21st--just after 8 pm in CA.
You feel the asymmetry of time and space.
You decide it’s best to get home. It’s so windy, sultry, but a dry wind like in the desert..you think out loud, “Is it called a chinook or a sirocco…?” It’s a fierce and humbling wind…not gentle.
You’re driving home on Highway 1, listening to a meditative CD entitled ‘Yoga” and see an eerie red fog ahead. How could that be? Reflections from night construction?
No-- it looks like an unearthly fiery red on grey.
You’re filled with dread---Your heart sinks.
You unroll the window to inhale the wind. You round the bend and there it is… as you feared, a giant plume of smoke and flames glaring blood red and orange assault you.
You’ve just turned the bend into the Apocalypse.
Bliss to Apocalypse in a few heartbeats.
The world has flipped on its head.
Thich Nacht Hahn is dead and Big Sur is on fire.
Those warm, sultry winds that comforted you moments ago are now a roiling inferno on the hillside, behind iconic Bixby and Rocky Creek bridges-- a spot fire jumps the highway in front of you, smoke billows, flames race along the ridges down the drainages.
We had just uttered “No--not now” to the Apocalypse but here it is--tearing down the hillside.
You’re not sure whether to proceed or if you can.
You can’t get through to 9-1-1.
“Try your call again later,” Siri says. You dial again. “FIRE, FIRE. Send more Engines. Fire has jumped the road. It’s bad.” You try to warn people, flash your brights and emergency lights. What is the signal for “FIRE--turn around!” You wish you knew the signal.
People are parked near Palo watching like it’s a movie, yet it’s so surreal. I’m driving forward, through the fire zone, praying, pivoting from bliss to nightmare, peace to inferno, feeling deeply for all those who live in these hills who’ve already paid the price for living in paradise.
They thought they could breathe now.
It’s supposed to be winter, the rainy season.
But now, in the age of climate change,
any day could bring catastrophe.
I barely make it through the plumes, the flames are dancing. My friends are dancing back at Esalen. They don’t know. The power is out. They’re ecstatic dancing on the edge of the world. Meanwhile, we’re worried about Mr. Magic the cat, the neighbors that stayed, who always stay to fight the fire until help arrives. People are enjoying their Friday night at Fernwood and the Tap House. They don’t know yet. How do we sound the alarm? How do we assure everyone will get out safely? How will the water tenders attend to the flames?
They sent the heavy crews home.
Wildfire season was supposed to have ended.
The world has flipped on its head.
Where do we go? We must sit and pray.
Help where we can and get out of the way.
Allow the professionals to do their work.
It’s about coming together as a community.
Everyone is quoting Thich Nacht Hanh today…
“...the Next Buddha…[will be] a community.” And so let it be that we hasten to be that enlightened community that takes care of our ecology and all humanity. Let us be that. Let us be the Buddha In community. Let us be the ones we’ve been waiting for. Let us be the Buddha in community.
Marie Boucher is an English professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. She has participated in poetry readings at Curated Words, Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium, and Wednesday Night Poetry. Marie has published in the Porter Gulch Review, Monterey Poetry Review, and is compiling her book, Eternally River.