If you’ve ever rafted whitewater, you know the term,”face your danger.” Hold your oars firmly. Point the front of your raft directly at that rock wall and row hard away from it until the river’s current takes you right where you want to be into the wave train and out into the calm pool below. Whoop and holler. Embrace the ride.
One week ago, we all woke to the reality of a Trump presidency. The words, “face your danger,” did not surface right away. Instead, I like so many of my friends and family, felt disbelief. Fear. Sorrow. Wes and I held each other and experienced this strange dichotomy of our personal happiness in a world that felt changed forever.
I sent a message to my son Ian: “Dearest Ian, Waking to this tragic day and the scary reality of a Trump presidency makes me want to give you the biggest hug. Please know l love you so so much. We have each other. I am listening to Pandora and the song is “Bring him home,” from Les Miserable. I’m crying. It’s a sad day, and I remain your loving mom. We will get through this.”
On that same morning in Bend, I had a coffee date with Pam Hardy. We’d never met before, yet have corresponded and wanted to connect. How auspicious that our first day was this terrifying morning. We met at “The Sparrow,” a small cafe with outside seating and famous for a pastry called an ocean roll, a rich cardamom pastry that’s so exquisite, you can forget any ill in the world, at least until the last bite.
Pam knows way better than I do what it is to “face your danger.” She worked for years as a river guide, navigating such prestigious rapids as Lava Falls in the Grand Canyon. She fell in love with rivers and wilds, and became an ardent environmentalist. She speaks her mind. She’s warm, bright, an attorney, and a redhead. We liked each other at once.
We agreed that we’d never forget this beginning to a friendship where we immediately shifted from stunned grief to positive ideas for how to go forward with a mindset that embraces diversity, respects all views, listens well, loves well, and believes in what’s best, not worst about each other. We talked about what unites all of us who cherish wild lands and wildlife.
Later, Pam wrote a post on her Facebook page about going forward in her life in the way she’d approached running Lava Falls. Yes! Everything resonated. She focused on the calm smooth waters pulling her forward into the ferocious rapid and how to prepare mentally for what’s ahead.
I’ll share a few excerpts from her story:
“Anyone who’s rowed the Grand Canyon knows the spot well. The sight of this rock sends an electric buzz of heightened awareness through every cell of your body. Boats all get quiet, even the passengers. They can sense the change that just took place in the rower. It means Lava Falls is just ahead. Lava Falls is the biggest gnarliest rapid on the Canyon. Running it well often means either totally submerging your boat, or tackling waves so tall they cast shadows from overhead.
…What is that electric buzz feeling? Fear or exhilaration? Or are those the same thing, just viewed differently? Running Lava, just like dealing with the aftermath of this change, requires me to bring everything. Fear causes me to close in and get small – not the way to enter Lava! Exhilaration means it’s time to bring every piece of strength, vitality and accumulated river skill to the situation. It means I am going to step up, ask the River Gods for help. It means I am going in, heart wide open, ready for the ride of my life. How I enter the rapid, and what I do with the oars while I’m in there … they have some influence. But I wouldn’t call it control.
…I’m just passing the Anvil right now. I can hear the rapid ahead. I’ve run the river so many times. I’ve had the ride of my life over and over again. I keep going back. The river taught me to step into the exhilaration of uncertainty and dance.”
I’ve read and re-read Pam’s words.Do we allow fear to take hold of us, to close us in and make us small? Or do we go in with our “heart wide open, ready for the ride of my life?”
The uncertainty is huge. Our oars have some influence. We don’t have control, yet we do have our own tangible ability to make a difference in the sphere we live in. We have community, starting with friends and neighbors and expanding out across America and internationally. Another part of Pam’s post that seemed so fitting is this line:
“I’ve had the great fortune to travel this world with beautiful, kind, powerful people. Even if I flip the raft, I know someone will fish me out.”
I don’t yet know what our actions will look like. I know I’m getting ready to face the danger and to bring everything we have to save our planet and to work for a just world that values all species. I believe we have leaders who will show us a peaceful and powerful way to resist and to change this world for the better. I know we will fish each other out. We will be there for one another.
Thank you, my new friend Pam Hardy. Thank you to all my friends, family and community who continue to live every day with love, compassion, tolerance, fortitude, determination, and even joy. We have to remember the joy, the dance, and the thrill of a kingfisher winging around a river bend. Every wild bird calls to us to help them. This is our time.
PHOTOS OF A FEW OF THE MANY PEOPLE WHO GIVE ME HOPE: