Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
It’s starting to look like the live oaks in my area are dying. I’m no arborist, and I haven’t been able to nail down whether these trees typically turn yellow or brown in the fall, but that’s what they’re starting to do and it has me anxious. In our neighborhood and on a number of local hikes, we’re seeing hundreds of these old soldiers apparently struggling. We won’t know till next spring whether this is normal or a catastrophic loss.
This is what I get for not paying attention to my surroundings before.
Or it could be that I’m searching for metaphors that might help explain the tenor of these times. Even if the trees survive, they’re in deep distress. We all suffering through droughts of more than one variety. We have the climatic drought that’s reaching historically critical levels. We had a ten-day heat wave with temperatures around 110 each day, even higher in places like Death Valley.
But we’re also in a moral and ethical drought, a drought that expresses itself in acts like Ron DeSantis flying fifty immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard for nothing more than political giggles. We have MAGA people issuing death threats to school board members over books they don’t like and to Boston Children’s Hospital for performing gender reassignment surgeries on minors (which isn’t true but was disseminated by right-wing media). We have a Trump-appointed judge acting like a Trump consigliere in her orders concerning the classified material he stole from the White House. We have people hating on each other like there’s no tomorrow, and perhaps there isn’t. A tomorrow. Because Vladimir Putin is backed into a corner and has a major nuclear plant in his crosshairs.
So the death of thousands of California oaks seems like a natural reflection of life on earth right now, when you think about it. The air is fouled. Disease is spreading like conspiracy theories.
I hope I’m wrong about the trees. I hope they do this every year but I’ve been too focused on my own trivial life to notice. But I do know that the Mosquito Fire, which I wrote about recently, is now approaching eighty thousand acres and is heading straight for those ancient Sequoias I told you about, and it’s taking out thousands and thousands of living trees as it marches like an army to the east. If it’s not one thing it’s another. We live in a time when metaphors for what’s happening are way too plentiful. A pandemic. An insurrection. Floods. Hurricanes. Fires.
It’s hard to remember a time when these things weren’t loaded with so much additional meaning.