Sunday, June 18, 2006

Summer minus thunderstorms and fireflies

Sometimes I forget that we're on foreign turf here...especially with the abnormally wet spring out here in California keeping things unusually green. But, alas, the dry and crustiness is setting in at last. We've been living here for almost a year already--unbelievable. Time goes faster and faster. And without the colors of fall, the snow of winter, the explosion of spring and the thunderstorms and fireflies of summer, time all seems to flow together and before you even noticed a year has gone by. It's a strange world out here. I wonder sometimes if the geologic unrest has somehow seeped its way into the people. This is a place of extremes. The one bedroom house across the street from us sold in a week for $600,000 and meanwhile, every Friday when we put out our recycling, there is a parade of people dragging their possessions down the street in grocery carts stopping to dig through our trash. The economy is dominated by computer professionals making six figures but the streets are full of aging hippies and minorities whacked out on drugs and people evicted from the mental institutions by the brilliancy of Ronald Reagan. The green of winter is lost in the brown of summer but you can only really notice when you leave this concrete jungle. Because even though there is always something blooming here in Oakland, there is also always the unending stream of roads and traffic and parking lots and down and out people begging for money...too many people, too little space. Too much money, too little money. Too much rain, too little rain. And yet people continue to flock here. I go to school an hour and a half north of here and I notice my shoulders relaxing as I begin to see the hills and the fields stretching out before me as the extremes of urban living fade away and the sun rises over apple trees and vineyards. And yet the stand-still traffic heading in towards the city reminds me that people will pay the price of four hours of commuting each day to avoid the reality of the city. Being faced with the desperation in people's lives every day is uncomfortable and humbling. It's so hard to know how to intervene. It starts to desensitize you after a while. And I don't want to be desensitized. I want to have enough energy and empathy left to work for change in this world somehow without burning myself into nothing in the process. What a strange world.
I went to the doctor the other day--met my primary care physician for the first time. She asked nothing more about me than my name. She was too busy, completely overworked, and exhausted. We pay $400 a month for insurance, yet it still cost me $65 for my visit. A visit that consisted of me asking for help diagnosing the rash on my hand and the overworked, overexhausted physician telling me she didn't know what it was and that I should go to a dermatologist. I'm lucky to be able to afford that, but I left furious. The people in our society who often need healthcare the most can nowhere NEAR afford that kind of visit. It made me feel hopeful that studying herbal medicine may be a way to empower people to take charge of their own health. To take care of themselves so they don't get sick in the first place. To reconnect with the earth that is hidden here under the streets and sidewalks and parking lots.
I have hope that things will change--change in the only constant. But I am so saddened by the cost. By the reality of the society we've created.