I grew up in a mountain valley at an elevation of just under 5,000 ft. I have a great respect for Mother Nature and her mood swings.
It wasn’t unusual growing up to wake up to several inches, if not a foot or two, of snow. I’ve waited to go skiing until they had a chance to dig out the lower chair lifts. Ski hills that couldn’t open because of too much snow.
I walked to school in temps that froze my nose hairs. Yes, it was uphill both ways. Instead of a ride, I got this sage advice: “Breathe in through your nose so you don’t freeze your throat and lungs.
But I’ve always drawn energy from nature and her extremes. From the breathtaking beauty surrounding me.
When we lived on the east coast, I survived by taking the chairlift to the top of Stowe in order to have a big open view again. I get claustrophobic if I can’t see for miles.
I’m claustrophobic now. In the middle of the convergence of 5 river valleys, in our house on the hill overlooking miles, I can’t see a damn thing.
Out here the humidity is so low that it storms without rain. We get lightning storms that provide no moisture. They strike and spark and smolder until just the right wind comes along. Then they explode.
A single smoke plume on an otherwise clear blue day signals the beginning of a forest fire. Mother Nature blows on the tiniest spark until it feeds on dry tinder, beetle-killed pine trees and dry needles and takes off.
In the middle of the night I dream of water dropping helicopters and slurry bombers – the big airplanes you see on the news dropping red retardant. And I dream of campfires and s’mores only to wake up and realize it’s the smoke coming in the window that brings on the otherwise enjoyable images in my mind.
There is a fire in Idaho that used to be five. They’ve grown together into a massive unstoppable force, spanning hundreds of thousands of acres, moving our direction. Other fires have started closer to home - in every direction. There are evacuations miles south of us but the smoke travels faster. It catches the wind and settles in the valleys and takes our breath away with it. Burnt pine needles settle on our trampoline. Odd little things that hold their shape in the wind for miles then dissolve when you touch them. Falling ash gives the appearance of snow in the middle of a hot September day.
The last weeks I’ve opened the curtains on our big picture window overlooking the valley and I see nothing. Where the houses and mountains and trees used to be there is only smoke.
Daily “red flag warnings” mean that the more wind and humidities in the single digits will continue. Air quality advisories are checked as often as the weather. In my quest to do long training walks for the marathon, I get only “limit your outdoor exposure”.
The sun is stunningly beautiful and eerie. It’s a huge red ball in the sky that you can look directly at in the middle of the day. At night the sunsets are nothing short of extraordinary. My Science Guy would point out that “particulate matter makes a gorgeous sunset”. He’s a romantic that way.
It’s an eerie gold this morning that brings on a growing sense of Armageddon. Mother Nature is a being a bitch. I hear she’ll bring us rain in October. As news breaks of a new fire cresting the mountain and moving down into one of the valleys, I have to say I’m tired of it.
D1 says it never feels like summer until she smells smoke. I think it’s going to be summer clear into fall. The amazing brave firemen and women aren’t going to catch a break until the snow flies.
With any luck it’ll be a winter of feet rather than inches of snow. Enough to cool off any remaining sparks. As nighttime temps drop and humidity rises, we hope for a break.