Cast out of Paradise

We just witnessed the deadliest wildfire in California’s history.

I used to be a climate change denier, but no more. Part of my conversion experience (to climate change) has to do with living right here in California where the summers are hotter, drier and longer than ever and the fires just keep getting scarier. Governor Jerry Brown calls this “the new normal.”

The Camp Fire started November 8, about 60 miles from where I live. We followed updates closely, thinking of Toastmaster friends in Paradise (or “Pleasure,” as our President calls it) and a son in nearby Chico.  The inferno burned 153,000 acres and destroyed almost 14,000 homes. At least 88 are dead.

When President Trump visited what was left of Paradise, a.k.a. Pleasure, a reporter asked if he thought the fires had anything to do with climate change. He said, no, it’s all about forest management and went on to praise Finland for the beautiful way they rake their forests, which he thinks is a good example for California.

That started a firestorm of words on social media where diehards insisted the President was right, while amused Finns trolled the internet with funny memes involving rakes and the hashtag, Rake America Great Again.

Less than a week later, Trump’s own administration  released its National Climate Assessment, containing input from 13  federal agencies including NASA and the Department of Defense. The report contains dire warnings about the reality of climate change and its  adverse outcomes for the US economy among other things.

Trump’s response: “I don’t believe it.”

In between eye-rolls and Facebook debates, checking the news and choking on putrid air, I managed  to write a poem, partly inspired by a thoughtful post from Father George Foxworth, but also prompted by something Mrs Hak Ja Han Moon said at the November 12 Nassau Coliseum “Peace Starts With Me” Rally. She acknowledged the extreme weather events we have seen recently across America, and urged us to attend God. If we attend God we will know how to solve these problems (my paraphrase).

Here’s my poem, “Cast out of Paradise”:

It’s ashing in California.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

On Thursday morning the sky turned black and dead birds dropped like stones.

Some humans fled the flames. Others perished, strange clay shapes in Mother Nature’s kiln.

We fret about air quality, as sooty smoke covers town and country,

grimy and gray like the veil of a jilted bride.

The fumes we strive to avoid carry the cremated remains of other people’s lives.

Fire is a ruthless teacher. We have much to learn.

“Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust shalt thou return.”

-Maree Gauper

November 14, 2018



Interesting note: Those quotes about ashes and dust were embedded in my memory after years of attending Ash Wednesday services. Out of curiosity, I searched to find out which part of the Bible they came from. I expected the Book of Job, but I was wrong. It was the Book of Genesis.  God spoke the words “Remember, man, that thou art dust” to Adam and Eve when he cast them out of Paradise.



7 thoughts on “Cast out of Paradise”

  1. I like your poem very much, and I’m happy to learn that you are no longer denying climate change!
    I saw Jerry Brown’s quotation elsewhere as the “new abnormal.” Either way, we are in trouble as long as Captain Clueless is at the helm of this country.

  2. I can relate to your horror at witnessing the devastating power of the Camp fire. However, for me it’s too big a leap of logic to go from the fact of hotter, dryer summers for a couple of years in California to a climate emergency. The 97% of scientists’ concencus on this is a myth. Many climate scientists don’t see proof that human activity has anything to do with the minimal global warming that has occurred.

    1. I’m with Robert B. on this. And with hubby, Robert G. on the beautiful poem. Lastly, thank you for treating those who disagree with some of your political views with respect, which is what
      you do, Maree G!

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