Clarity

cathwinter2

We snowmobiled 9 or 10 miles. I was in the lead and came around the corner to see the spire of Cathedral Peak gleaming in the midday sun. It wasn’t till later, on the way back, that I turned and snapped this photo. By then the sun had dropped toward the ridge and a thin layer of cloud filtered the brightness.

One of my favorite places to be is this wide glacial valley near the Cascade crest. The Cle Elum River is slow here, meandering through flat meadows fringed with dark firs and spruces. I’ve seen this place in the drizzling rain, in the hot sun through wave after wave of whining mosquitoes, in the brief colorful autumn of deep shadows and bugling elk. And in winter, when the trees appear to be brushed in ink against the pale meadows and flat sky. Today we ate lunch on the porch of the old cabin, basking in the warmth. I remarked on the silence, savoring the absence of any human clamor. Those moments must be treasured.

I’ve been thinking a lot about clarity these days, observing those rare times when the cold winter air snaps away any fuzziness. The sky and mountains seem to be especially clear and light, and the air seems to contain more oxygen. Lately the valley bottoms have been socked in with a dank penetrating fog, the kind of cold air that sinks and persists for days. It can be a week or two before I see the ridge on the other side of town. There is a blurry heavy feel to every day life, and the world outside the fog feels far away. Everything is obfuscated.

Like many people, I’ve been working through a procession of emotions and thoughts since the election in November. I’ve been shocked, despairing, unsettled, disbelieving, outraged, and occasionally amused into raucous laughter. American politics have been fraught with tension since the beginning of the republic, and the more I read of history, the more I believe it so. Tension between the interests of the individual and the greater good. Tension between the kinds of economy we could have. Tension between Puritans and the wild west. Tension between our values and those of other ideologies. I am a child of the Cold War and the protests of the 60s and 70s. I have witnessed turbulent times as well as relative peace and plenty. I understand that those in power will lie and prevaricate in order to stay in power, whether they believe their own lies or not. After September 11, 2001 the lies coalesced into a semi-cohesive version of reality. I remember laughing with my friends that “facts don’t matter”. Some people will insist that the earth is flat, that the Iraquis had weapons of mass destruction, that rape can be “legitimate”, that climate change can’t exist. It was easy to ridicule such ideas.

I’m not laughing any more. “Alternate facts” is another way of obfuscating, blurring, lying, creating a delusional reality. Besides obscuring the view of the big picture, settled fog has a way of stagnating the air and making it impossible for pollutants to escape. Pretty soon the air itself is toxic. It takes a major shift in the weather, a big storm to shove the fog and bad air out of the valleys. Then clarity returns for awhile.

In the meantime, we all need days like today. Days when we climb up out of the fog and emerge into brilliant light and clear air. Days when we can see, when it’s so quiet we can hear ourselves think, and when we can connect with a truth bigger than our own ruckus.

May you find clarity where you are.

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