A red half moon rises through the smoky dusk this evening. A cold front passed yesterday afternoon, cooling the air. The crickets outside my house respond to colder temperatures by slowing the speed of their chirping and lowering the pitch.
The past few days are settling, a kind of order returning to a place where wildfire kicked up a lot of chaos. It left people dead and injured, destroyed buildings, and tore across the landscape. It made national news. And it happened fast. I went to work one morning with the intention of moving forward on a trail project but by midafternoon was hiking as fast as I could to get to the trailhead so I could drive out of the forest as fast as I could. Half the sky was filled with smoke as dark as the bottom of a thunderhead, and the information coming over the two-way radio was not good. It kept getting worse. By the time I reached town, all I could think of was to reach my house in order to throw some clothes, camping gear, a toothbrush and the cat into the truck and evacuate.
We slept two nights on the floor of my office in the ranger station. Henry enjoyed socializing with all my coworkers and they seemed to enjoy his oversized personality. He provided some comic relief to a situation where towns were evacuated, roads were closed, and we had to accept that some of our own were killed in a fast-moving fire. Those of us who were able kept fighting the good fight. The fires kept burning.
And they’re still burning. You won’t find many climate change deniers in the wildland fire community. We have seen how fire behavior has changed over the years; become more intense and unpredictable. Conditions are a little bit drier, a little bit warmer. This is a really bad year in the Northwest.
Grief and sorrow are on my mind, my own and that of others. Where there is love, there will always be loss. The greater the love, the deeper the wound when the loss occurs. I’ve felt this when places I love catch fire and it seems like destruction. I’ve felt it when people (and animals) leave my life in one way or another. I want to keep the love as it is, but it always changes. Things always change. I wish I could turn back the clock so that those young men didn’t die. It’s an impossible wish. So feel my own intense sadness and find that I am strong enough to be in the presence of others whose sadness is more profound than mine.
The best thing to do with a broken heart is to leave it cracked and open. More love gets in and out that way. Also the beauty of the world, the fragility and persistence of life penetrates through the heart and into the soul. Oh, I grieve…but that rising moon and the cricket chorus and the subtle turning of the season…
Green things will grow again where now there are ashes.