Last week I sat atop a cliff overlooking the water, 130 feet above the ground, simply enjoying the view. Across the bay, fiercely green conifers lined the water’s edge and stretched into the distance until I could no longer make out individual trees and my vision morphed them all into a blob of pine. The azure water that filled the coastal inlet of Long Reach was still, save the little ripples whipped up by the breeze running over its surface. In the middle of the inlet sat a tiny island, dotted with trees and shrubbery, which looked like a place someone could pitch a hammock and forget about the world.

That’s exactly what I tried to do on my last summer hike. It wasn’t just a chance to feel the sun on my shoulders or breathe in that earthy, forest fragrance. I really just wanted to clear my head and find refuge from the news of injustices and tragedies with which we are barraged daily.

It’s been a summer full of those tragedies and injustices, but what’s been particularly difficult about this season is the frequency with which these events occur. Almost every day it seemed something troubling, anxiety-instilling and frankly, terrifying, has landed on the front page.

It’s easy to forget some of the heinous headlines of the past few months because the rate at which they occur has left us little time to comprehend, or even catch our breath. So let me remind you.

It began with violence: a bombing killed 22 and injured a hundred more at a pop concert in Manchester, England. Only a week later, terrorists drove into crowds on London Bridge. And then they hit Barcelona — and London again with a bombing in the tube.

On our own soil, a deranged man and longtime domestic abuser, shot up a field where some of our nation’s leaders were practicing for a bipartisan baseball game in Arlington, Virginia. U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise was critically injured, but is luckily working on his recovery.


Then there’s our executive branch, which is manned by an administration riddled with self-made chaos and tumult. On a whim, it seems, our tweeter-in-chief pulled the nation out of the Paris climate accord, banned transgender people from serving in the military and ended a program to protect innocent immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children through no fault of their own.

We’ve also been brought closer to nuclear war with tough talk and promises of “fire and fury” against a maniac who has been launching missiles as casually as one might set off a fireworks display.

All the while, natural disasters are actually pummeling the country, one after another after another. Entire states are being ravaged by wildfires in the West. Miles and miles of earth are burning with no signs of stopping. Monster hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, have devastated the Caribbean, Texas and Florida, leaving cities in ruin and people without homes or any semblance of certainty for the future.

While wreckage piled up, so did injustices. There was no peace or justice in the deaths of Philando Castile or Anthony Lamar Smith, two black men shot and killed by police. Not guilty verdicts were handed down, despite evidence pointing to the contrary.

In Charlottesville we saw a spectacular show of hate by white supremacists, marching without fear through the streets of a normally quiet college town. All of that hate resulted in the murder of an innocent protester. It was a surreal moment that revealed just how deeply entrenched racism is in the fabric of our society.

Then there are the stories that are just as important but don’t land in our Facebook feeds: African people are dying of famine; Venezuela’s democracy is dissolving; Muslim genocide continues in Myanmar.


Last of all, our community of central Maine has not been spared of tragedy this summer. A Maine Marine was killed during a military exercise off the coast of Australia. A Pittston teenager died in a crash on the way to her first day of school. Two motorcyclists lost their lives in an accident while participating in a charity event to collect toys for children.

It’s all too much to take sometimes. We are not equipped to process this amount of human suffering. But while we really can’t (and shouldn’t) forget about all of the bad that goes on in the world, we need to make sure to take a break, unplug and recharge.

So whenever you feel as though the world is on fire, take a walk into the woods and delight in the nuances of nature. Let your brain relax as you navigate the twisting trails and climb the steep terrain. Take in the sounds of the leaves rustling in the wind, squirrels scurrying from tree to tree, a single acorn knocking against branches as it sails to the ground. Stop to admire how the setting sun looks as it cuts through the trees and illuminates circles of the forest floor. Relish the feeling of the wind cooling the sweat beading at the back of your neck.

Once you get to the top, far from the chaos below, the view will remind you of the majesty that surrounds us every day. Seeing this kind of uncorrupted beauty can bring hope and new resolve after being worn down by a news cycle full of hardship.

As I made my descent from that cliff, I felt the air begin to chill, and that too made me hopeful. It was a sign that soon summer will end; autumn is coming, and with it a new day, and a renewed strength to fight against the hate that threatens to poison what makes this world so beautiful.

Emily Higginbotham, originally from Illinois, is a copy editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. You can follow her on Twitter: @EmilyHigg. Or reach her by email: [email protected]

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