During a depression nap late one August morning, I saw a vision of a road sign along the freeway on the south edge of Minneapolis where 94 and 35W meet and the sign said:
"This highway adopted by NIHILISTS."
There was a logo, three outlines of pine trees rendered in 2D and overlapped. It looked like this:
I feel like that image reflects the state of my soul these days --
A nihilist adopting a highway.
A pantheist falling in love with a dying planet.
A father defying the inevitability of an extinction-level event and daring to dream a world for my children.
August has been liminal.
August has been tough.
Before summer we were languishing. Remember? Now what is this? Exhaustion? Burnout? Grief? Anxiety? It's all of it and the late summer heat is heavy with the turmoil of a planet that is falling apart.
The earth will be fine, of course. Molten rock or gaseous blob, planets keep being planets.
But the earth we know -- green and blue and full of life and life makes art and language and we experience ourselves amongst it -- that world is not doing well. And well, it's my world. It's the world that made me, the only world in which I could exist.
The dualism at the heart of the Christianity I knew taught me to love not the world, for it is all passing. To be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God.
But God is gone and I love the world and at last I am home, the prodigal son returned from the bullshit of a Father who was never quite real, to the arms of existence herself, the universe which has always been my birthright. But we are not doing well, my species and I.
This is now, now.
This is me alive in my own skin.
I am tired and I am sad but I know who I am and that is a good and beautiful thing.
I am a channel of words and a prophet of nature at the end of the world.
A prophet at the end of the world... what a strange and sad and beautiful thing!
I was once told that only that which is eternal has value. I unlearned that and learned that I am temporal and finite, that "I" exist as a trick of my own biological consciousness.
still, I am alive in my own skin.
This is now.
I want you to know that this is your life.
It is happening right now. Not when the laundry is put away. Not when your next project launches. Not when school starts, or ends. Not when your to-do list is finished. Your life is happening now.
You do not need to get more organized, more sleep, more money before you start participating in your own existence and savoring the texture of ordinary life.
You are currently growing. You are always walking.
Don't wait for the next checkpoint in your life before you exhale and come into your own body and identify with your skin.
August is now, with all it's anxieties and aching and wonder.
I fucking hate August.
I can't remember the last time I felt a good vibe about the concept of August. Even as a kid, it felt claustrophobic with the weight of summer's end.
Since I left God the Father I have fallen in love with the earth that has always been my home. It's a visceral affection for the aspen trees waving in the summer breeze, a deep attraction to the creek winding behind our house, an aching longing for the bruised sunset sky, and a slightly-horny crush on the moon.
Allowing myself to feel this way about the reality around me has done more for the God-shaped hole in my heart than my Father in Heaven ever did.
Last year, my love for this little corner of the earth grounded me as summer turned to fall. Watching the leaves fall and the creek turn to ice and the green woods fall silent and cold and white was like watching someone you love fall asleep.
I kissed the earth gently on the forehead and wished her rest, knowing she'd was up green and blue and full of life on the other side of the calendar.
This year is not the same.
The sky is heavy with smoke and the creek is all but dried up. Already the leaves have begun dropping.
The one I love is sick. I don't know if she will survive.
My stomach is in knots with sadness.
I've moved straight from Denial to Depression as I struggle to come to terms with the fact that we are almost certainly on the doorstep of a mass-extinction event. It seems almost too terrible to be true.
And I am sad about the end of humanity. I feel anxiety about societal disintegration, and anger about the needly human suffering that will ensue. I worry about my children a lot, and my grandchildren even more.
But I am also sad for the woods and the creek.
I always knew I was going to die. We all are. But the land isn't supposed to die.
It's supposed to go on and on and I am worried about the one I love and I am sad.
I want you to know that this is your life. This is now, now.
Your moment of awareness in the unfolding organism that is the universe.
And I am sad that I came into existence just as my species engineers their own extinction, but I am so grateful that I have had a moment to experience this before it all burns up.
Meanwhile the world goes on. Oh, Mary Oliver, you always know what to say. Meanwhile the geese are flying home again. So we keep walking.
It's ok. It's all ok. We learned that from the trees.
Meanwhile I will be passionate about doing everything I can to leave the earth.
For me, that probably means to keep doing what I'm doing: Sisyphus rolling a rock with a smile on his face.
After all, this is my life.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series called "Summer's End", taken from the pages of my journals from the summer months of 2021. I've also adapted it into podcast episode by the same name.
Read Part 1 here: Summer's End (July).
Listen to Summer's End on Existential Happy Hour wherever you get your podcasts.