The fires. We're all talking about the fires. A spider web trapping scraps of ash. The air, a Silent Hill scene. Something out of the Road. "Apocalyptic Sun," I've heard. I've read. I've said.
That woman at the bar last night, Sam? Told me she was glad she had gone last week. The area, the seven mile loop she walks connecting to medicinal plants kept calling her.
"They were getting reading to go to sleep for the winter," she said. But she didn't say sleep, she just made a little motion with her hands that motioned "to make small" or "shrink away."
Melanie drove out there yesterday. I told her the fire had hopped the Columbia. "How?!" she had exclaimed. She had been banking on the fire not reaching westward because of the Sandy river. Like a dog losing a raccoon trail, the fire couldn't conquer a river.
"Hot fiery debris blowing in the wind," I said.
I'm thinking of P's fires. The methodical way he would create them, each time attempting to improve from before. Getting stoned. Making all the considerations of balance and structure. Sitting back. Thinking of how fire building applied to everything in his life. How a good life takes strategy, planning, and drawing from experience.
What is this fire teaching us? To raise our sons and daughters to be better stewards of the land? To never take for granted what could be taken away? To speak to our plant allies more often and approach with greater humility?
Earlier this year I was able to bathe in the Oneonta Falls. With nothing more than clothes and a car key I made my way though the Oneonta Gorge, trudging through the river and clamoring over slick barkless logs. It wasn't peak tourist season yet so the only other people were couples cautiously scaling the log pile and trying to keep their phones from the water. It's amazing how much more efficiently you can move without people or shit weighing you down. Across the river in White Salmon I hiked the Weldon Wagon trail searching more the balsam root flower. I watched the sunset on the Washington side from my car. In June, through Wildcraft School, I learned about medicinal plants that grow in the gorge. St. John's Wort, plantain, violet, comfrey..
We're all talking about the fire and constantly checking the casualty list.. What has it destroyed? What will it look like when the fire is over? We pray for rain. We pray for our plants and waterfalls.
We feel very powerless. This is probably how we're supposed to feel though.