Why do we rake the forest floor?

Because nature abhors a vacuum.


I cannot take credit for writing that joke but I am happy to retell it. But, in the retelling I become somewhat sad. This is our joke. This is now who we are as a people. We are the land where our leaders think that raking the forest floor would have saved the countless lives lost over this past two weeks. A country where the most powerful man in the world cannot even be bothered to correctly remember the name of a town entirely wiped out by the worst fire in history. No, we have become the joke.


In the world of cannots, I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am today. Grateful first for waking up, grateful for breathing, grateful for indoor plumbing, and even more grateful for my French press. I feel the cold of the floor on my feet and I am grateful for sweat clothes and a heater. I pet and wrestle my dogs and am grateful that I am not lonely even though I am alone. My refrigerator has food that I can eat and my roof does not leak. Tonight I will share a meal, replete with wine and laughter, with old friends, new friends and friends I have yet to meet. Today when I put my shoes on I will feel grateful. Tonight when I take them off, full bellied yet alive, I will feel grateful.


I cannot imagine what it must have been like to lose everything. I cannot fathom the depth of despair that has gripped our neighbors to the North and South. For a few days I wore an N95. That was the limit of my suffering. Be honest, how many of you knew what an N95 was before last week? On the worst day I stayed indoors, drinking coffee, chatting about house sprinklers, and homelessness, and racism. I cannot fathom the depth of my own gratitude today. There is no benchmark, no milestone, no limit line, no story pole, no frame of reference, nothing that I can refer to tell me if I should laugh or cry, pace or sit, breathe or not. The rains came. The fire will stop, yet the challenges have not ended. The water and cold will hamper the search efforts, and the waiting, the not knowing, will crush the heartiest of souls.


Today, Thanksgiving, is my favorite day of the year. A day when we gather together and share a meal without expectation. A day when we count our blessings like the fingers and toes of a newborn child. A day without pain, if you remember to wear your stretchy pants. A day, followed by a night of deep sleep steeped with the promise of turkey and stuffing sandwiches on white bread with cranberry sauce, and a day off of work. A day where my best friends are allowed to sit under the table, nuzzle my guests and work tirelessly at cleaning the floor.


Most of all, what I really cannot understand is how we let this happen. Not the fire. Smart people will find out what happened and changes will be made in order to avoid this type of catastrophe in the future. No, I truly cannot understand how this happened. How did we get so lost in our privilege and infighting, to let this man, whose idea of preventing a forest fire is to rake around the camp fire so the leaves won’t catch a spark – mansplain – forest management to us and the world?  After our turkey, and wine, and laughter, and stretchy pants have become a memory, we must fix this. We must rid ourselves of this man who . . . just . . . sucks. Why? Because nature abhors a vacuum.


My heart is broken for all those we lost and more so for those who survived, and I am thankful for it.



Tommy Judt




  1. Excellent commentary. This is your best writing yet! BRAVO! Wishing you and your dear friends the best Thanksgiving ever!

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