For a few days, with the exception of a beautiful Sunday afternoon, Tahoe has been downwind of the Rim Fire north of Yosemite. Visibility dropped to far less than a mile. One early morning after full daylight, the horizon was as near as the trees just beyond the neighbors. No one was out riding their bikes, the smell of campfire was everywhere.
But no one thought of evacuating, either. We could still breathe. It was only under stress that most of us became aware of the borderline suffocation that we all felt. A few reacted with asthma, and we all attempted to stay indoors if we could. But few of us actually fled. Commerce continued and we carried on earning our livings, rubbing elbows with our friends and generally sharing the misery.
One of those mornings I awoke with pain in my chest each time I inhaled. It was mild pain, but scary nonetheless. If it hadn’t clearly been connected to my breathing, and if the sky hadn’t already been occluded with smoke for days, I probably would have thought it a mild heart attack and called 911 immediately.
As it was, I got up, found my inhaler, and made coffee.
How circumstances distort our perception of reality. If you examine things even slightly, you realize what a miracle our every breath is. That we exist at all is beyond comprehension. Our body takes oxygen from the air, distributes it throughout the body, and allows every cell access to it constantly. Then it hauls off the poisonous residues and expels them. Over and over again, continuously.
And it does the same trick with food, an even more difficult task.
Perhaps most astoundingly, it does all of this without us being aware of it at all
But, then, awareness itself is the one mystery and miracle we do seem to acknowledge. No wonder religions persist. Who knows what it’s all about?
But, what a gas it is!