Fires of change



On Tuesday we lost the sun to smoke.

On Wednesday, ash rained down like miniature snowflakes.  And again, on Thursday.

And Friday and Saturday and on and on and on.

Some lost their homes, some, their lives.

Fighters fought fires.  Emergency calls on our phones.  Evacuation zones grew.

The names of the fires themselves, as if a person, but more like a place:  Holiday Farm, Beachie Creek, Lionshead, Obenchain, Almeda and so many more. Lists of fires.

We watched the news to learn about containment and wind direction and how we were now the most heavily polluted air on Earth.  Oregon? Us?

Double masks to go outside to tend to the livestock.  I worry over the toll air will take on my 19-year-old horse, the young horse, the flock of chickens, the deer, the birds, the insects and their tiny lungs.

Gray, every day, we seal up vents and stay inside.  We are quarantined within a quarantine; nothing is safe to breathe.

Those fleeing the fires are delegated to tents and RV’s in parking lots, the lucky get hotel rooms. Volunteers pass out food and water and clothes… if you have to be outside, I worry about your lungs too.

The sky was blood orange the day the fires erupted; six days go by before we see a passing patch of blue.

Phone calls and texts from friends and family: “How are you? Are you OK? Please come here if you need to evacuate.” Some are crying, distraught over the loss of forests and beauty and feeling the despair of thousands. We are not alone.

Fire came to Washington.  Fire came to California.  Fires have leveled towns I’ve known and loved.  Vida and Blue River are gone.  I bought stained glass in Vida from a glass artist and longed to own property on Gates Creek.  All are gone now; I imagine the glass, hundreds upon hundreds of glorious sheets now become colorful puddles of exquisite hues among the ashy remains of the workshop and a life of creativity.

All are gone… it’s hard to fathom.  And there are more… Talent, Phoenix, Detroit.

Inside, a hollow of despair, a sorrow unexpressed, shocked into silence.  One foot placed before the other, we do what must be done.

Hallway littered with bags and boxes, the horse trailer is ready for last minute packing if need be, though the fire won’t reach us, strange arsonists roam the neighborhood.  Unfathomable to the rest of us, he starts a fire in a nearby field and runs away.  It was the first, most dangerous day, the day of heat and wind and a countryside dried to a crisp from weeks of heat and sun.

I pray for rain, drawing mandalas of wet drops, watercolors soften the paper and I weave deep wishes of healing water to quench the fires and return us to a place where we can evaluate the damage.

That first step will be the start of our recovery.  We lean into it, but it’s not forthcoming.

The fires rage on.  Uncontained but for 15%, 3%, 10%… numbers too small to take comfort in, we need percentages that are heavy and healing: 75%, 80%, 100%.

The winds shift slowly.  Today we are downgrades to “Very Unhealthy” rather than “Hazardous”. For the first time in a week, we leave the house and I see people without masks.  A man in his car, windows open, smoking a cigar passes me and I stare at him, behind a N-95, inside my sealed car with the air circulating internally.  Incredulous.

I see someone walking their dog, also no mask.  The someone, yes, and the dog too.  My dogs look at me, eyes wide and wondering why I sit all day and watch TV.

It only seems like all day, the TV being on during the day is an event reserved for illness or injury.  But She IS injured… my beautiful Earth, my lovely mother nature.  She’s been burned and so I watch the news and then comedies to lighten my heart’s load.

I also can tomatoes, beans, make jams, salsa and pickle cucumbers.  The cabbage is turned into sauerkraut, the kale gets frozen.  It’s time to harvest the garden but the ash falls on our fruit and vegetables.  We run sprinklers, mini firefighters, we wash what we can.

We do what must be done.

We pray.

We cry.

We volunteer.

We donate.

We reach out.

We reach within.

We bake, we read, we watch.

We used to be able to go outside.  Now it’s been 8 days of indoor recirculated air.  I miss the wind and the freshness.  I miss my world of green and cool and supple aliveness.

And then, after indulging my loss, I remember my gratitude for all I have.  For my safety, for my home, my life.  I’m grateful for the experience.  There is much to learn in every day that passes. 

Crisis contains opportunity; surely there is a chance for personal growth through tragedy?

And yet… now, it feels too soon.  I’ll get there, eventually.  When I’m ready.

I’m not ready yet.

I’m still in mourning.

Still awaiting containment before the first step of evaluating can begin.

I project my consciousness forward into the moment where I learn that the rains have drowned out the fires.  When we can lay down our arms, drop our guard and relax in the antidote for fire: water.  I pray the water does its job but doesn’t add to the destruction though I know our winter rains will wash ash into our creeks and streams and rivers and that too will take a toll.

But we are not there yet… we are in the NOW.  Now is a moveable moment, and soon, the now will be a now after the fire. 

This too shall pass.

We’ve done what must be done.

Written 3 days ago, this is snapshot of where we were at. Last night, the rains began. So grateful.


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