What Do We Do When It Gets This Bleak?

On being small and human in this messed-up world

Anna Mercury
5 min readAug 21


Photo by Nick Fisher on Unsplash

It’s a bleak day in Burlington when you can’t see the mountains through the wildfire smoke. It rained so much the toxic algae bloomed again and the lake is poisonous to swim in. Central Vermont went underwater, the wells and river poisoned with toxic sludge of lives swept down the drain. I joked with all the neighbors, “Man, I’m from California. I’m not used to my disasters being wet.”

Back home in California, my 70-year-old father has been preparing for his first tropical storm. I’ve left Vermont behind, almost to the South now, to the open stretch of country where 10-year-old rape victims can’t get abortions, where schools now have to teach about “the benefits of slavery.”

That’s not even half of today’s headlines.

I’m trying to be present with each new wave of horror but my head’s still full of Maui. I’m wondering how many more people will be found dead this week. I’m wondering how many will never be found, how much history will be permanently lost, if the land will ever heal.

I’m thinking, for some reason, of the banyan tree that burned. I feel it in my heart like the sequoias and the Joshua trees that burn back home. These trees that, even in our fake, plastic world, we still can’t help but call sacred. I’m crying for the trees.

Why, against the backdrop of all this, am I crying for a tree? With all the real human beings suffering and dying and the institutions that control us corroding into rusted shells of hate to poison us with tetanus, why am I crying for a tree?

You can’t grieve for a planet, I don’t think. It’s just too big to fit. Against the Earth and the stars we are so small and our little human bodies can’t hold a loss that big. When grief gets too big, lives turn into numbers. A hundred and fourteen dead. Not names, not neighbors, just statistics. I think that’s why I’m crying for a tree.

I’m crying and I’m shaking with my fists balled up in rage. I want to slam my head into a wall, because there’s hurricanes in California and wildfires in Hawaii and our rulers want us to keep paying rent and think about “the benefits of slavery.”



Anna Mercury

Level 5 laser lotus, writing for a world where many worlds fit | www.allgodsnomasters.com