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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Flashbacks

Today’s World News

August 2021

Today’s headlines. Afghan government falls. People storm the airport trying to leave the country. I saw an image in one of the national papers of Afghani people in the belly of a C-17. This is the open-bellied military aircraft than can hold tanks and obviously hundreds of people. When the military transports troops, they have seats on the C-17s. These Afghanis were standing. My heart aches and I wept at seeing the desperation. Switch to Haiti with its earthquake and impending tropical storm, or to the US West with its fires and drought. Or switch to anywhere and see too many people affected by this century’s plague. Sadly, this is today’s world news. Wouldn’t it be pleasant if all media would take one day, one 24-hour period, and display only good happenings.

A small part of the Tongass National Forest

A small part of the Tongass National Forest

Today’s world is also yesterday’s and tomorrow’s sunshine in the largest temperate rainforest in the world. I read recently that the Tongass Forest stores 7% of the world’s carbon and by the end of this century could store up to 27%. Some if this information I got from NOVA’s https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/tongass-national-forest-americas-last-climate-sanctuary/.

It is an honor to live here in this wild forest. It is a privilege to live where I am safe from raging wildfires, feet-deep floods, encroaching ocean waters. It is a privilege to live away from the noise, muggers, and general chaos of a city. I lived in the bowels of New York City, yes in the safety of Fifth Avenue and Greenwich Village. But the unidentifiable muggers were always there. Here, we have no muggers and I know what a bear, moose, and sea lion look like. I will never mistake a bear or a moose for a nice, kind, decently looking one. I know to stay away. I know I don’t walk or paddle up to any of them. With awareness and a bit of common sense from living deep in the woods, I know where to walk. This place is crowded with trees. It is not crowded with people so close that I sometimes have to turn sideways to avoid bumping into someone. I once said, “excuse me” to a parking meter I was so close to so many people.

The noise at night never goes away in a city. The lights never go completely out. The smell of metal, garbage, exhaust, or all three is constant. I learned to like the silence of a museum, until I moved into a deep woods of an isolated community. Yes, it takes a few days to calm from the commotion of a city and people. It takes a while to calm from reading the dreadful news of today whether it’s Afghanistan, fires in the desert forests, people dying from COVID-19, hurricanes, floods in Germany and China. I manage to calm, though, and when I do, I love the absolute silence with no wind, birds, rustle of leaves, no rain, no distant airplanes, no one talking. I look. I smell the trees, the dampness of a rain forest or, when south, the smell of sage or ponderosa in the desert. Either place, I listen hard for any sound and there is none. The quiet is beautiful whether I stand alone or with my husband.

I left New York City when I was 17 and went to the University of Colorado. One day walking across campus my second year there, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Surely I startled. My German professor looked at me and after an exchange of hellos, he said, “You walk as if encased in a ten-by-ten glass house.” He was right. That is the only way to live in New York. Pay attention to self-protection. Look no one in the eye because that might be an invitation to be followed. I instantly learned that the campus of Colorado was not the environs of a big city. To this day, I hold the utmost sympathy, perhaps even empathy, for a person in uniform I see in an airport who has the 1000-yard stare. As I look at him with concern and care, I avoid him. I do not want to bump into him anymore than years ago I wanted someone to break the glass walls of my house and jostle me. My German professor was okay because I knew him and he was kind.

When I read today’s headlines, I can feel myself tighten for the tens of thousands of Afghan people who fear for their lives and families. I fear for the 6,000 American troops there who are trying to help American diplomats and others get out of there. I find a city can terrify me. A city in utter chaos feels so much worse, even as I sit in my house in the woods.

I hold the people of Haiti in my thoughts also. I cannot imagine a 7.2 earthquake. I have only felt the distant rumbles of a 6.0 or the close ones of 3.5. They did not frighten me for my trees and house were not about to collapse. We did, however, have some level of aftershock swirl a tree to the ground and almost land on my husband, but he was only hit by the top limbs and knocked down. I have lived through hurricanes; they do not frighten me because we did not live next to the ocean. Then the limbs of trees a foot in diameter fell away from the house. Nothing hit the roof and water did not pour in. I feel very fortunate.

My husband is still alive and healthy after three tours. We breathe clean air in the Tongass National Rain Forest. Our son is alive and healthy only one plane ride away here in Southeast Alaska. He has a lovely partner and three well-behaved and healthy children.

Flowers in our garden

Flowers in our garden

The sun shines some days. It rains lots of days. We’ve already harvested some beets, turnips, and carrots from our garden. We have beach spinach to eat and freeze, lots and lots of wild blueberries to pick for jam with plenty more to leave for the neighbors and bears. There are no blueberries at the store. We pick them from our bushes in the mornings these days.

Three happy children

Three happy children


Flowers and vegetables

Flowers and vegetables


I love the poppies that spring up from last year.

I love the poppies that spring up from last year.

We finished painting our Oregon house earlier this summer before the ash from he fires began to fall. Right now, my desk is not very tidy and I have too many things I wanted to write yesterday. Since those are my largest problems confronting me these days, I am very fortunate.

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