I’m in Costa Rica, on a mountain bike tour that I committed to in August. Meanwhile, my ex and my boys are in Santa Rosa, which has the worst air on the planet. They and a great many people I care for are living under the threat of the Kincade Fire, which has been burning for four days and has grown, like an adolescent boy, to a 74,000 acre conflagration that threatens two communities and caused the evacuation of most of Sonoma County, the largest evacuation in the county’s history.
Right now, having fun feels like a sin against something, much the way I felt in church as a kid when I’d catch myself fantasizing about skateboarding, rather than thinking about what Christ suffered for my sins. I mean, I ought to at least be plugged into someone else’s suffering, right?
The contrast between these two worlds—the fire in Sonoma County pushed by winds that have topped 100 mph and with a humidity level hovering somewhere near Mojave Desert, and Costa Rica where it rains every other hour and the humidity level approaches monsoon—confuses me in a way that is so fresh as to keep me from being fully present.
The unknown of this place and the unknown of the fire has untethered my sense of the future. Sure, I’ll return home and get back to work, same as usual, I think, but the distance between points A and B is unknown, and the line joining those two locations is no more straight than a child’s scribble.
The reluctant lesson I’m conceding on day two of this tour is that we need to get out and see the world. Within one circle of my friends there was some discussion recently about air travel and the need to eliminate that from our lives out of our regard for the planet’s future. But when I think about what constitutes most air travel—people going places for business—I think we, as a society, would do well to look first at how we could reduce business travel. You can do an awful lot with Skype, not to mention how much corporations would save each year by not flying employees all over the globe. Most of us will fly maybe once each year purely for pleasure. Ending all travel for vacations will only make our world smaller, us less sensitive to other people, other cultures.
The subtext to this lesson is that there are other places to live in this world, and while I don’t want to leave Sonoma County, my need to provide a safe environment for my boys won’t allow me to dismiss that thought out of hand.
Life in Sonoma County is on hold. Bike Monkey’s race, Sonomas, was to happen this coming weekend, but was canceled because, well, I’m sure you all get it. So, no mas for Sonomas. Similarly, while I’d been considering a one-day ride this year for the Red Kite Ronde et Vous, I’m shelving that until sometime next year. Bringing people into our county for tourism in the next month feels disrespectful to all the disruption and displacement my community has suffered.
Rain batters the roof, a white noise machine that will lull me to sleep even as I worry about where my boys are sleeping.