Pandemics, Wildfires, and Climate Change

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Pandemics, Wildfires, and Climate Change

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The Covid 19 Pandemic is and was a transformative event representing history in the making. The state of Oregon and particularly Portland witnessed a trifecta of converging crises beginning with the lockdown on St. Patrick’s Day in 2020. That summer was one of the hottest in recorded history and saw the city and state divided in smoke-filled chaos. The literal last words of “I can’t breathe” uttered by George Floyd were being chanted in the streets downtown as wildfires raged in all corners of the state, set against the backdrop of a global pandemic. Everything felt surreal and the tension in the city was like a powder keg. By the following summer some advancements had been made, the first round of vaccinations administered, but the same underlying issues were present in Portland. Houselessness, fractured political ideologies, and Far-Right and Far-Left members clashing in an invisible maelstrom on the Willamette River.
My husband and I had adhered to the very stringent guidelines and protocol set by both the city and state to the letter. For a bit of context, my husband worked on the front line as a department manager at a grocery store and wore a mask for eleven hours at a time often six days a week for a year and a half, while I volunteered at the Red Cross and held down the home front. In August of 2021, we finally decided that we needed to get out of town, so we grabbed the dog and set a course for the Crooked River in Central Oregon. It was a two-week period of sheer peace and glory bookended by fear and anger at the negligence of fellow humans. We camped on the river and practiced mindfulness and being present every day, breathing deeply the fresh air ushered in by a strong breeze from the East. The “going there” and “going home” portions were marred by anti-mask protestors with weapons arguing about state’s rights, as death toll numbers were rising. The fires had already burned over a million acres with no signs of slowing down, and the reality of Portland’s social justice issues did not disappear just because we did. The experience left us feeling gratitude for the opportunity to explore, our good health, and open minds, it was our 18th wedding anniversary, in which porcelain is traditionally given as a gift. Ironic, given the fact that not only is porcelain extraordinarily beautiful but also incredibly delicate, a perfect representation of the state of things during the summer of 2021.

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This item was submitted on July 16, 2023 by Tracy Delperdang using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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