I’m having a wonderful summer. For the first time in six years, I have a regular work and life schedule while my daughter Lily is out of school. For the past five summers I’ve always been on some insane TV project that kept me busy 60 to 80 hours a week, which always turned my summers into a blur of early mornings and late nights, with blazing hot car rides and late hours in edit bays. I’d hear the building air-conditioning turn off at 8 p.m. and work until the room got too hot to bear.
I swim in the morning in the public pool. I then come home and I make Lily and Robin breakfast. We eat outside in the backyard. We cut red yellow and purple flowers that we know the sun will burn, so we might as well bring them inside and put them in vases on the dining room table. We pick limes off our tree and set them aside to ripen for lime-aide. We feed the neighbors’ pets while they are away and pick ripe figs and grapefruit off their trees. I dress and drift into work just after the light morning rush, work eight hours, and then come home, and we drift into a evening of cooking, eating, laughing, playing in the front yard, cards games and bed. It has been idyllic, and it reminds me to slow down and lead a more simple life.
And I have time to read.
And to think.
And to ponder.
And to worry.
I wonder if this idyll will end, and how it will end, which makes me cherish this California life while I can.
As I write this, Russia is poised to invade Ukraine. Hamas and Israel have stopped fighting and both claimed victory in Gaza, which is in shambles. ISIS is taking over in Syria and Iraq, setting up a brutal caliphate, and jihadists are doing the same in Benghazi, Libya. West Africa has an Ebola outbreak that may have touched 30,000 people. Boko Haram has taken over the northeastern portion of Nigeria. In South America, Argentina is in default on its loans. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world.
Mexican drug cartels control much of Mexico, and although there isn’t as much open warfare in the streets, there is still kidnapping and murder in every city and 25,000 people have gone “missing” in the last five years. Those are just the political conflicts that come to mind as I write this and circle the globe in my mind.
Then we reach California again, and my current bliss, with an underlying awareness of our current fragility. We are in the midst of a five year long drought that may be a 50 or 500 year drought, which the American West has gone through in the past, before global climate change exaggerated every weather pattern.
And how many of our global political conflicts are actually expressions of that global climate change? Most North African and Mid-East countries are suffering from drought, poor crop yields, and hunger, with large populations of people under 30 who are underemployed. This is definitely the case in Egypt, which has now drifted back to military rule. It’s the hot brutal summer after the Arab Spring. China is polluted and the Russian permafrost is melting, creating huge sink holes. Every conflict is a conflict over resources and who should get to control them -- and humans justify their warfare by blaming “the other” and invoking their version of God.
A friend recently posed a question on Social Media -- has World War 3 officially begun? Maybe it has, and we just need historians to give us an actual “spark” date, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which sparked World War 1 a century ago.
A hundred years ago, California was blithely ignorant of the crises going on in the rest of the world. In 1915, San Francisco hosted the 1915 World Fair, or the Panama Pacific International Exhibition, to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, and to also celebrate the rebuilding and rebirth of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire. While we in the West strolled the International Pavilions and boated in the lagoon that surrounded the Palace of Fine Arts, World War trench warfare had already begun.
I feel we may be repeating ourselves. California is slowly recovering from the economic downturn. We are out of the red. Investors are buying our bonds again. We feel we are on a rise. I am enjoying the idyll, and I hope that it continues. I hope that winter comes and brings a normal El Nino weather pattern that fills our reservoirs but doesn’t flood us. Like Goldilocks, I hope it’s “just right.” At the same time, I worry that this idyll will end harshly, and there is hard work ahead for all of us. What form it will take, I do not know, and I do not know how to prepare for it, except to rest, live a simple life and be ready when it happens.