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[00:00:12]

Hi. Hello, how are you? I'm good, how are you? I I'm just so happy to hear your voice. It's great. Hi, I'm Bianca. Gave her I'm an audio producer here on The Daily.

[00:00:28]

Oh, my God. Oh, my God. What are you seeing? Well, right now, I'm just there's no windows around me, but I haven't seen the sky in like a week. And I happened to be working from the West Coast when the fires started.

[00:00:42]

It's like a haze. I've never experienced anything like it. Yeah. What do you see? And to be honest, I was feeling a lot of anxiety.

[00:00:51]

In fact, last night was the first time we've seen the stars and it's a very claustrophobic feeling and not being able to see the sky. And the other day I woke up in the smoke and this phrase popped into my head, an obituary for the land. And then I just immediately wrote to you. So the subject was checking in. I sent an email to my friend Terry Tempest Williams said, Terry, would you write an obituary for the land?

[00:01:21]

She's a poet. I just it undid me. She lives in Utah and she's written about the West for decades.

[00:01:29]

Nothing comes easily out here. You know, it's a dramatic landscape and it's dramatic weather. And so after that email we got on this phone call and we talked about fire and grief and fear that, you know, something is burning through and the obituary she wrote. You know, our family, I don't know if you knew this, but we were almost taken by fire on my father's seventy fifth birthday. We all hiked into Grant Park Chalet in Glacier.

[00:02:13]

And I think there were 18 of us and we knew there were fires far away, but everything was safe. We had you know, we were staying at the chalet and. I had had a dream the night before of bats coming out of the forest in a spiral, and my brother and I were sitting on this rock outcropping and I saw the spiral that's coming out of the forest. And I said, Dan, we have to get out of here.

[00:02:41]

And within an hour, the fires were all around us and then they got everyone out from the campgrounds, I think there were 24 of us put us inside the chalet in a circle and said, the fire's going to come, it's going to roll over this chalet. The windows are going to shatter. You won't be able to breathe. All the oxygen will be sucked out and then it will go over and hopefully will be fine. They really thought we were going to die.

[00:03:13]

The fire sounded like a train wreck, our eyebrows were singed, our eyes were red. We couldn't breathe and it literally, as a fire came roaring up it by some fluke, it went around us and blew up over us and. We survived and then it just burned all around us all night. It creates a mosaic. It burns and then it leaks so it doesn't take everything. And when we walked out in the morning, we had to walk out like 14 miles.

[00:03:54]

The grizzly bears walked out with us just below the hillside. I mean, if I hadn't been in a fire like that, I mean, a real forest fire in the mountains, like what is happening, if I hadn't felt that force, I mean, the energy that is being expended right now, I mean, I think it's a wonder we're not all amped because it's it's you know, we are not neutral bodies. I mean, we are fearing that.

[00:04:29]

And, you know, I just went outside and all of the patio furniture is covered in ash and, you know, you just think that ash. You know, those are trees, everybody, that's fur, that's feathers, it's it's. It's everything and it's, you know, we're covered in it. And anyone who says they're fine, they are dead to this world that is really dying and in grief, I feel like it's a raven on my shoulder.

[00:05:06]

I you know, I just walk with it every day. And that is the truth. I'm wondering what other fires you've been in and what you saw happen to the land after the fire?

[00:05:31]

Yeah, you know, as a Westerner, you grow up with fire. I have watched too many burnt forests in Idaho and in the West looking for Morrell's, because wherever there is fire, the next season is going to be a haven for gathering Morrell's. Another fire that I remember vividly was the summer of 1988 in Yellowstone National Park, and in that instance, one third of the park was burned and in many instances, new regeneration started within days. I remember the next summer returning and it was just a cacophony of new life, new birds, new plants, and it was shoulder high in fireweed, which are these magnificent fuchsia flowers on tall stocks.

[00:06:25]

And even now, you know, with fires in Montana and Wyoming and Colorado and Utah, it's lodgepole pine and they have cones called soroptimist cones. If you see those on the ground, you can't open them. They're just tight and they're spiky. But when they feel heat in the tree, when the flames come up.

[00:06:51]

They feel the heat and immediately before the fire is consumed, they open up in the seeds drop before the fire has even started to run.

[00:07:01]

So before those trees are consumed, the seeds have already been dropped and it's already been placed in the ground. Isn't that amazing?

[00:07:10]

That gives me hope. I mean, isn't I just find that that is such a beautiful adaptation. So I just, you know, for me, I think, OK, that is above that, you know, science and metaphor. So right now, we can't even know what is opening in us. But something is.

[00:07:40]

So I give you this assignment. And you went with it. Do you feel comfortable reading some of what you wrote today? Yes, I do. Put this down and get it.

[00:07:59]

OK, Bianca, what do you want me to read? Um, maybe toward the end where the part where you directly address the obituary.

[00:08:11]

OK. The obituary will be short, the time came and they died to the old ways of being good riddance. It was time, a terminal disease where humans put themselves at the center of the universe and in so doing have been dead to the world. That is alive to the power of these burning illuminated Western lands who have shaped her character, inspired our souls to restore our belief in what is beautiful and enduring. I will never write your obituary, even as you burn your throwing down seeds that will sprout and flower trees will grow and forests will rise again as living testament to how one survives change.

[00:09:03]

Let this be a humble tribute, an exaltation and a large and open hearted eulogy to all we are losing to a fire, to floods, to hurricanes and tornadoes and the invisible virus that has called us all home and brought us to our knees. We are not the only species that lives and loves and breathes on this planet called Earth. We raise a fistful of ash to all the lives lost that it holds. Grief is love. How can we hold this grief without holding each other?

[00:09:34]

I will mark my heart with an X made of ash that says The power to restore our life resides here. The future of our species will be decided here not by facts, but by love and loss. Let us cry every day like rain in the desert hand. On my heart, I pledge of allegiance to the only home I will ever now. Thank you so much. Thank you for asking.