Molly Fisk: Nowhere to Hide

People are doing a lot of moving around lately — and I don’t mean zumba class, I mean relocating. A poet friend just shipped her little family back to their home state of Michigan from Silicon Valley, prompted by a job change. One of my youngest friends stopped cutting hair in Denver and now walks dogs in Portland. That’s Portland, Oregon, for any of you not on the West Coast. There’s only one Portland out here.

Much has been written over the years about the peripatetic American lifestyle and how much it’s changed since World War II. This feels different to me. People are wondering which places will be safest from the growing effects of climate change. One young couple is looking at land near Homer, Alaska right now: good when the temperature rises, not great when sea levels do. Others have checked out rural Maine, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, western Washington State, and Minnesota. Not to mention those leaving L.A. and San Francisco to move into my neighborhood: the Sierra foothills.

It’s fascinating to watch. When I unpacked here twenty years ago, I thought Nevada County might well be my last location. I came for love, not a change of scene, but once I’d arrived, I liked the arts-rich small-town feel of the place and its relative distance from civilization. This was the right size pond for the kind of fish I was turning out to be. Plus, Gary Snyder lived here. In the world of poets, that’s like moving onto the same street as God.

At 2500 feet, we’re not concerned with sea-level . . . nor hurricanes, tornados, or tsunamis. What we think about, morning, noon, and night, is fire.

A friend reminds me the planet’s not going to fall apart at one exact moment, which is what my brain seems to fear. Disasters will occur like popcorn heating in a skillet. Separate isolated events, slowly at first, with refugees escaping the affected area, as they’ve done in boats from Syria to Greece and in cars from Fort McMurray to Edmonton. Over time, it will speed up: things will happen so fast that helping people in place or accommodating refugees is going to become more difficult. There isn’t really anywhere to go that doesn’t have some tendency to get overwhelming, whether by drought, flooding, earthquakes, unquenchable fires, or war.

Part of the current restlessness is practical: a businesswoman watches insurance rates go through the roof and then become unavailable as the big carriers stop insuring against fire in California. In a few years her options will be to close down or to move. And I completely understand people leaving urban traffic jams and high rents.

But some of this wanderlust seems fueled by agitation. We don’t know what’s coming, how it will unfold, or when. This is really not fun for humans. Maybe it won’t be as bad, we think, if we go somewhere else.

How about you? Are you having a big yard sale this weekend? Are your suitcases by the door already? What’s your plan?


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  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. November 6, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    Terrific post, Molly. Climate change is moving forward while humans seem determined to stick their heads in the sand. It is fascinating how many of us are making decisions about where to live based on presumed long term availability of fresh water, land for crops, temperatures that are manageable, and unlikely sites for flooding and earthquakes!