Mercy, Mercy Me

“Mercy, mercy me,

Things ain’t what they used to be, no no

Where did all the blue skies go?

Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east…”

Marvin Gaye

I went inside my heart to see how it was. Something there makes me hear the whole world weeping.


I return to Oak Grove to look for a place to rent, and get off the road for the winter. It feels good to be back to the familiar, to know how to get where I’m going, and take my secret shortcuts to get there. Although everything is the same, it seems different. There’s a yellow pall across the sky from a fire somewhere, and it looks as if everything is covered with a layer of ash.

I go for a walk along the Willamette River. I’ve never seen the river this low. The land bridge to Elk Rock is completely exposed. Pine trees are filled with dry, brown needles, not a few here and there, but whole limbs.

Later, I walk around my old neighborhood. Yards are dry and dusty. The leaves on trees are curled and crisped, as if burned, from heat and lack of rain. It’s a tinderbox. A careless fire and a strong wind, and all of this would be gone in moments.

My body trembles. I can’t breathe. I crumple to the ground. I feel as if I’m going to die here, under a pine tree, gasping for breath, on a patch of dry pine needles. I think of once mighty rivers running so low that they are rivulets, and leaves on trees that are scorched from the heat, and the smoke from fires that have swept across the west that shroud the night sky, and I cry,

chest heaving,


wet and salty


 If only these tears could fill the rivers and water the trees. I want to save the world but I don’t know how.

In the past year, a firestorm swept through a large portion of Oregon that came too close for comfort to where I lived. Five months later, an ice storm brought down limbs and whole trees on power lines throughout the Willamette Valley. Some areas were without electricity for weeks. I felt fortunate to have been without it for only four days.

Mid-June it’s one hundred fifteen degrees in the Portland area for a few days. There’s a wildfire in Oregon, another in California. Lake Powell is so low; it seems a trickle between its two great banks.

Everywhere I go, roads are being re-paved, and new roads are made with black asphalt. Why do we continue to use it, when it absorbs the sun’s heat and then radiates it back at the end of the day where we live, making it uncomfortably hot, creating a demand for air conditioning, putting a strain on energy grids that, in many areas, are powered by dammed rivers that are reaching dead pool levels?

Through Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, I notice many vehicles, usually trucks for small businesses, spew black exhaust. There are floods in Germany. Sardinia is on fire. It’s one hundred twenty-four degrees in Sicily. Because there hadn’t been enough rain, the people of Ireland are told to conserve water.

Flooding devastates the city of Zhengzhou in China, and the fires in Oregon and California are out of control. A shroud of smoke hangs over the night sky.

In Abiqui, there are dramatic storms with sharp lightning strikes and booming, rolling thunder, followed by downpours. In the morning the earth is dry, as if the rain had been a figment of my imagination. The Rio Grande is reduced to a stream by the time it reaches Albuquerque.

Sicily is on fire. And then Greece. And Calabria. Torrential rains flood Japan.

It seems there is a weather disaster somewhere in the world every week. I don’t understand how people can deny climate change. Do they not pay attention to how the Earth has changed during their lifetime? I don’t understand how they can excuse the climate chaos that is happening as simply another earth cycle.

I don’t know if it’s minutes or hours that I’m on the ground, weeping, my mind replaying all the things I’ve seen and heard over the summer. Earth is compromised. What will there be for our grandchildren?

I don’t know why I feel personally responsible to make changes beyond the daily things I do to live lightly upon the Earth. Words are all I have to offer to encourage people to make changes in their lives to help Earth’s healing process, and to our local, national and world leaders to make the sweeping changes that will make the greatest impact. Even though I have much to say, words fail me.

When there’s not another tear left, I get up and walk back to the room where I’m staying, picking pine needles off my arms and legs, and out of my hair.

It takes weeks to find a rental. Aside from the outrageous cost of rent, most places want a lease for one year. I plan to be here only until spring. Friends tell me that Waverly Greens has short term rentals. It’s easily accessible to everything I do, and it’s near the Willamette River for walks. By mid-October, I settle in for the winter.

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