Bigger and better, sure. But what about biggest and betterest? You know? I’m talking enveloping whole city blocks in your constant expansion! You’re growing baby and there’s no stopping you! But how does that make you feel?
In this installment of Women On The Edge you’ll see work from Beca Acosta (December 6th), Diana Budds (December 13th) and Hope Mora (December 20th) that focuses on the feelings behind a constant forward momentum.
Hope Mora, Imagined Futures, 2019
Diana Budds, Let It Burn, 2019
Let It Burn
California has two seasons: wet and dry. Lately, the dry seasons have become longer and the wet ones shorter—if they come at all. Enter the wildfires, which always burned in the west, feeding off the grasses nourished from rain and crisped into gold during summer and fall. But after a century of fire suppression—a forest management strategy that extinguishes flames as quickly as possible—they’ve become more destructive. Forests, shrub, and grass become overgrown, which means more fuel for fire.
Before the U.S. Forest Service adopted its suppression strategy, smaller fires burned naturally—sparked by lightning—as part of the ecological cycle. Indigenous people also set controlled burns, knowing instinctively how to tend to the land. Fires clear dead debris, kill invasive species, and provide nutrients for new life. Plants, trees, and animals have evolved for these conditions. Lodgepole pinecones require fire to open. Black-backed woodpeckers will fly from recently burned forest to recently burned forest to dine on wood-boring insects in charred trees.
But now, trees with bark thickened over millennia of evolution to withstand fire is no match for today’s bigger and hotter flames. When a fire does happen, it’s harder for forests to recover due to the scale of loss. Meanwhile, climate change—the result of economic overgrowth—is an added pressure to regeneration.
Healthy forests need to burn to thrive and people do, too.
Growth just happens. We’re always growing. But the idea of “growing up” that I formed as a kid was about responsibility, independence, and being self-possessed. Toddlers throw tantrums, not grown ups.
Over time, this became totally unsustainable, of course. Trying to remain unbothered, un-phased, and telling myself I shouldn’t feel how I felt was my way of immediately smothering fires when they started. I thought by keeping it moving, I was staying in control—I was being mature—when really I was gaslighting myself.
It took a wildfire at the end of 2018 for me to realize that. It was a long time coming, but I’m glad it came. The months after were hard, too. It was like scorching already scorched earth. It was filled with fighting and hard decisions about loyalty. It was losing control then taking charge. Ultimately, it was realizing that I was growing in ways that were suffocating me.
Sitting in all those messy spaces was really freeing. So now I just really don’t give a fuck about my mess. I think about it in terms of prescribed and controlled burns now—those necessary releases and resets that free up space for me to be a full and imperfect human.
Beca Acosta, Anger Meditation, 2019