August has slipped into history and left behind a tragedy spread over the entire northwest, a tragedy that settled in valleys and consumed parched grassland and timber indiscriminately. At its peak there were over 140 fires burning from Alberta to California. Too, my location in western Montana, where there are also fires, but where most fires were further west, became a smoke magnet as days became eerie nights. The moon and sun were seldom seen and when they appeared they were blood red.
No state suffered more than Washington where three firefighters were killed recently and additional firefighters were brought in from other countries to aid in the battle.Yet, countless people lost their homes.
Over the past few days, and after a solid month of smoke, the weather patterns changed, winds shifted, and rain showers swept through the region. Last Sunday, mountains two to three miles distant and long unseen reappeared as hazy outlines. On Monday the sky cleared except for scattered clouds and for the first time since July the mountains were sharp in their definition, though a hint of smoke remained. Last night was continual drizzle and the next four days promise the strongest chance of rain since May.
Finally, I can open windows again.
For someone with a lung disease it was a scary month. Beyond burning eyes even in a sealed apartment, there was coughing up mucus via a scratchy throat. As August progressed my breathing became increasingly labored, partly because I was inhaling fumes 24 hours per day and partly because the smoke prevented exercising my lungs. If I don’t invigorate them regularly they begin to contract.
So, yes, rain was never a more welcome sight for an entire region, and not the least because rainfall in western Montana is a beautiful sight to behold.
Through it all I meditated and worked on projects so as to not dwell on my crumbling health and lurking cabin fever. I became cranky at times and fought off depression more than once, especially on the days when it was hot, the apartment was stuffy, and the air reeked. On the whole, though, I did well.
Though not as well as the courageous firefighters who battled smoke, flames, and exhaustion. They have my sincere gratitude.
The horrific fire season was fueled by summer temperatures running 10 to 15 degrees fahrenheit above normal and a virtual lack of moisture. Meanwhile, the more drastic drought in southern California continues, this last Spring saw widespread flooding in Texas, and the northeast has endured two savage winters in a row. It’s as if the most foul weather each region can produce has become the new norm.
Now, a new season awaits. Cooler temperatures whisper Autumn, and as the smoke dissipates I feel like a bear in Spring ready to escape my cave. I look outside where nature beckons and ponder a return to my walking patterns. I know it nears, for I can smell it mixed in with the rain.