I’ve just returned home from two weeks on the road. Specifically, the roads of Washington, Oregon, and northern California.
It was beautiful. And a little bit awful. Like life; a constant swing back and forth between joy and sadness.
Beautiful art galleries. Boarded up storefronts.
Epic redwood trees. Clearcuts.
Blue-green ocean. High-tide piles dotted with plastic.
When I was young, travelling to the U.S. was a bit like visiting your wealthier cousins. This trip felt quite the opposite. Signs of decay are everywhere which served to make us all the more aware of our good fortune; to be able to indulge in a two-week, meandering vacation while, the vast majority of the planet is just trying to survive.
Don’t misunderstand; we had a wonderful time. We saw beautiful things, met beautiful people. We marveled at our good luck – with the weather, finding affordable accommodation, stumbling onto amazing little surprises. It as an excellent vacation.
But the point of exploring is to take it all in, right? Not just the manicured, tourist-ready places. To note the RV parks in nearly every little town which were obviously permanent housing. To feel the sadness of deserted downtown cores that residents avoid because of either the danger of crime or the discomfort of being surrounded by homelessness. To not look away from the nauseating amount of clear-cutting decimating the forests of Oregon and Washington. We are facing all the same things at home, if on a smaller scale.
But in the beautiful parts, there is such joy. And in the joy, I always find hope.
There is hope in that blue-green ocean, in the whales we spotted as we walked along a trail on the headlands. There is hope in the redwood forest, where an unimaginable network of life teemed beneath our feet as we craned our necks to the canopy. There is hope in every heron, sea-lion, and elk. There is hope in the kindness of strangers. There is hope in the sun rising each day.
My heart is full of gratitude as I contemplate the ease with which I can always find some hope if I try. Because, in my privileged life, there is always hope.
I wonder how I could give my hope to the hopeless. To the 150 million humans on the planet who have nowhere to call home. In my mind, I equate homelessness with hopelessness, although I don’t actually know the first thing about it. Thankfully.
For today, I will sit here by the fire, listening to the rain on the roof.
Warm, dry, and ever so lucky, I count my blessings.
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