Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal.

Big Sur is really hurting.

A month after we stopped smelling the morning barbecue scent wafting up from the fires to the south, firefighters have finally contained the blazes that have effectively wiped out the summer tourist season in Big Sur. It's been hard to watch; the NYT has a little write-up about the aftermath of the fires and the many lives that were devastated - everything from seasonal employees in the local hospitality industry to pot growers whose lucrative crops went up in smoke.

It's a lesson in impermanence, for sure; one of the central wisdoms of Buddhism being, of course, the recognition that life is transience, everything changes, nothing is permanent, and that we are foolish to think we can cling to plans or any sense of certainty. I keep thinking of this when I read about the way lives changed in Big Sur this summer; people were planning on certain things, setting away their money for the quiet fall and winter seasons, and then in rushed Nature with her wild unpredictability to remind us all how small we are and how silly it is to think we can harness a particular plan for our lives and rest assured that nothing will threaten that. These California fires are a lesson in non-grasping for me; though we knew severe weather and tornadoes and whatnot growing up on the Great Plains, the vast devastation and natural power of these ancient forest fires remain breath-taking and humbling for me in a way I've not experienced on another level.

Impermance, transience, change. No expectations. Acceptance, not resisting what is. All big lessons wrapped up in this summer of fires, this thwarting of expectations, down in Big Sur. My heart hurts for them. And yet at the same time is somehow reassured by the scale and scope of Nature's ability to remind us of our irrelevance.

Fire Damage Takes a Toll on the Economy in Big Sur (NYT)


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