“The sky is falling,” said Chicken Little.

The topside of my car is speckled with ash today.
Neighbors reported last night that it was “raining ashes.”

This is not a new phenomenon to me. I remember the ash buildup from the Eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980.

centerfold image of before and after Mt. St Helens eruption 1980.

A similar ash was scattered all over our Puget Sound area of Washington State, but in Central Washington’s town of Yakima, car engines were choked by the intake of the ash fall. Twelve inches of it being moved off streets with snowplows!

The ash in our sky is coming from slower destruction — roaring forest fires all around us, north, northeast, south and southeast. Our forests are burning up. As I type.

Our whole country is being ravaged by weather-related disasters. While the East Coast of the US is drowned in water, the Western areas are dry as a bone and crackling with voracious flames eating up our forests and mountainsides along with the trapped creatures who live there.

Is there a message here?

How about this message: Go to live on a snowy mountaintop in Tibet.

But that Tibet mountaintop has been turned into a sort of tourist destination, I read. The Dalai Lama has a lot of company visiting up there.

I always have wondered what it like to drown. I was a competitive swimmer and lifeguard back in my youth. Drowning was something I really could relate to. Even the possibility of being dragged down to the bottom of the deep-end by a drowning person. Drowning is not a pleasant thing to imagine.

And also — what of Joan of Arc, for instance? One of so many burned alive — and this is happening in this year in buildings in cities in this country and in countless places abroad. It happened in front of our eyes on 9/11,

I read somewhere that animals don’t have “feelings.” Rubbish!

My animals have always had feelings. Step on a paw and find out.

I have to stop imagining the animals in the forest fires and floods. It is too much. But I read in a book one time that pain that is experienced by a living creature (of any kind) is its particular pain, and when it is at its maximum extreme, that is all there is — no more. That the combined pain of a million creatures together does not magnify the pain of each one exponentially.

It would be tempting to bail out of pain like this: Like those who jumped out of the blazing World Trade Center, only to die on the pavement below.

Horrible to contemplate.

But I can say what the pain of childbirth is. It was, for me, the first time, pain beyond description, except that I noticed that the top of my head seemed to lift up above the pain into a place of numbness for a few seconds. I could hear myself keening, but I was not feeling pain. The keening helped lift me higher.

NOTE: For those not intimidated by childbirth stories — -I was strongly determined to follow the (new to America then) practice of The Lamaze Method of natural childbirth. I was surprised that the medical community in Honolulu, where I had my first child, was unaware of the Lamaze method, and I had to teach my obstetrician what he was supposed to do — and that he should say push when he thought it was time. He forgot to say it. The baby was born before he could say it! Boy oh boy did I deliver that placenta!

And then I came back down from that place of numbness into the bearable pain and was very glad I had chosen to deliver without anesthesia to fog up my baby’s brain.

The pretty Filipino nurse trollying me out of the delivery room looked at me and said, “Next time you have epidural, right?” I said no. She was very surprised.

Okay. That is my experience of unspeakable pain. I can’t speak of it because I was “not there”. Some kind of shock apparently set in that removed my sense of pain for that unbearable moment.

That experience has comforted me when I think of the horrible things that some particular living creatures have to endure. Men on the battlefield. Even people in the electric chair. Or POWs under torture.

There is a grace offered by what Plotkin calls The Great Mystery, (and which I call God, ) that comes into play, remarkably, at the time of death or near death pain.

So this is my response when heavy weights of misery close in at times when a lot of creatures are dying — I pray for that mercy to make their suffering bearable until it is over.

That is the kind of grace I am asking God to give those who are in the pains of death, by fire, by drowning, or any other kind of dying. Let the grace begin.

by SGHolland ©2017 
Matthew 2 4 < — about temptations in extremes of terror.
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