A Heatwave of Independence
For three weeks plus, temperatures in Portland, Oregon have been above 90°. There has been no rain since June 1. I find myself longing for Slip&Slides, for Mr. Wiggle (video link for those who’ve forgotten – and for those who may have never known) – and resorting instead to random sidesteps into the spray of lawn sprinklers.
In Portland, and all across the Pacific Northwest, June has generally been a mostly rainy month. Rainy and cool.
I don’t know if it’s petulance of some genetic thing, but over my 27 years here I’ve never gotten over being first baffled, then somewhat righteously offended when my June birthday – always smack in the middle of summertime before – is overcast, rainy and uncomfortably often not even reaching 60°.
The related PNW insiders description of this time of year goes something like, “Yeah, we get summer. It starts July 5 and, in good years, can go into early October. Other than that – rain.”
But it’s a rainforest. We live in a rainforest that we and the colonists before us have aimed to domesticate into cities, towns, farms, ranches, resorts, and attendant highways, parking lots and, oh yeah, malls. Still, rain is signature to the northern Pacific climate. We who live in the daily-ness of it may complain, but we do love the green. We love the snow in the Cascades in the winter. And we LOVE the water, touting Portland’s water as the purest and best tasting ever. Of course, that attribution has been possible because, living in a rainforest, there’s been lots of it.
So here’s where independence comes in. Here we are – full into Summer. On the threshold of that mythic day-after-The Fourth of July when Portlanders have been able to count on being released into weather matching the season’s name.
Independence – this quality so central to the way people of the United States understand ourselves; can cut both ways. We’ve all heard the argument that links thoughtless independence with the troubling changes in climate attending the measured overall warming of global temperatures. And it’s demonstrably true that rugged and narcissistic independence is often more harmful than of benefit. At the same time, great innovations have been attended with careful study toward discerning long-term effects. Einstein himself was deeply troubled with the profound difficulty knowing if and when our interdependence ought to take the lead with relation to discoveries and innovations linked with nuclear fusion.
Here in the record-breaking heat of Portland, deeply concerned with the worse conditions in India and Pakistan – and here, too, on the extra hot eve of holiday celebrations of July 4th, there are not just important questions about the balance of independence with our inescapable interdependence, there are actions to be planned and taken. There are changes to be made and sustained.
Independence of thinking applied to the wellbeing of all and informed by careful listening and cooperative sustained action – well, that seems great use of this characteristic celebrated by the people of this country on July 4, and every other day. It seems wise to weave that valued characteristic with our essential interdependence.
And it doesn’t seem overstatement to suggest that the only thing hanging in that balance, is life itself.
Heatwave or no, stand in your independence and take action. Take action for life. Take action knowing whatever you do affects everyone who breathes the air of this singular and precious globe.
No way around it – there’s just no independence without interdependence. There never has been. Never will be.