Am I Fiddling While California Burns?

While the Sonoma fires were raging, I was traipsing through Prague. As the smoke trailed down to Santa Cruz, I was touring the art galleries of Berlin. When a friend’s Boulder Creek home was at risk from mountain flames, I was on a canal trip in Amsterdam.

I’m eating duck, dumplings and dark chocolate. I’m drinking Moravian reds and German Rieslings.

Am I fiddling while California burns?

My country suffers daily from an incompetent president who attacks military widows and football players, and supports slashing heath care subsidies and taxes.   Shouldn’t I be back home calling representatives? Phoning voters in districts that need to be flipped? Marching with Indivisible?

Have I gone AWOL?

“Very sick and would like to talk to you please” was the subject line of a dear friend’s email last week. I woke up to the news in a Villa in Prague.  It was the middle of the night in St. Louis. I had to wait hours to call. Then I cried.

The next day I learned of the serious illness of another’s daughter.

Fifteen minutes before I boarded my Air France flight from SFO to Prague in early September, a close friend texted the sad news of an unexpected death in her family. What to do? I wanted to dash, catch an UBER, rush back to Santa Cruz to comfort, to console. Let my luggage fly solo. My group was called; my boarding pass scanned. I located my assigned seat.

How can I be of help when I’m thousands of miles away?

I’ve been traveling in Europe for the past six weeks, with another six plus remaining. I’m absorbing the wonders, the history and the culture of this resilient region. I take photos. I post on FB. I blog. Trips to Paris, London and Milan are on the horizon as I join Paul on his lectures, catch up with Santa Cruz friends, and rendezvous with my older daughter Stephanie. I’m lucky. I’m grateful. But I’m feeling a little guilty.

Fortunately, the accessibility and sophistication of technology allow me to send flowers, connect by text, email, or telephone. (Yay What’s App!) Even chicken soup can be delivered.   I make online donations to candidates and causes. There’s probably an emoji for every emotion I feel.

Is that almost as good as being there? I sure hope so.

“No guilt, have fun. CA will burn. America will tremble without you this time, and you can relax and enjoy the autumn,” my lovely friend Jenny reassured.

I sent her a virtual hug.



























Author: reneessemesterabroad

I'm a retired attorney following my philosopher husband through Europe as he gives lectures and teaches. I wish to capture the experience in this blog.

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