Idaho burning

So much ash in the air. It settles on the black of my bike seat, finds its way through my screen and covers my sheets with grit. My eyes sting, I wake up congested every morning. I sleep in because the red haze seems like dawn. The Northwest is burning.

The rain doesn’t help because it comes briefly, with lightning. The fire is more powerful than the water, and more fires spring up after a storm. The last time it rained, I was at a concert in a field, and for ten minutes the crowd held its hands to the sky and danced, writhing in ecstasy together, pagans praying to an ancient god as the lightning lit the clouds. I left the concert barely damp, already drying in the heat of 11 pm.

The next night in the same field, I saw a man who looked like Viggo Mortensen’s character from The Road. He had his hood pulled up over his head, and he glanced at me keenly as he passed. He looked hungry, haunted, in a hurry. I wondered if the actor had bought a ticket to the festival, or if I was seeing things. I wondered if the trees would smother under the ash, start to fall over like in the movie. Around midnight, I heard that my parents had been told to evacuate, that our farm was in danger of incineration. They hadn’t: they’d loaded up two cars and stayed put to see what happened. The winds shifted, and the farm was saved.

A friend of mine got a similar call, and in a matter of a few hours had cleared his family’s cabin of trees, running full-tilt to create a firebreak. The cabin was also spared, but now it has no shade.

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