Flaming Wind

Along the front range of Colorado we wait for snow. We have only wind, the demon that moved the fires swiftly and decisively from August to November 2020, through 625,356 acres of forests, which now stand only as charred splinters. Without the familiar snows of February and March――and sometimes April――the drought will continue, which means the fires will return in 2021. Yesterday, Groundhog’s Day, the sun blared and the outside temperature rose to 61°F. Today, the sun blared again with the same temperature, but the forecast tomorrow predicts cold. The two weather fronts have collided and now blow at 42 mph.

At times the Cameron Peak Fire raged forward on the back of 75 mph winds (Derecho), though during several days the wind surged at 116 mph. When the Mullen Fire (176,878 acres) roared down from Wyoming and merged with the Cameron Peak Fire (208,913 acres), Roosevelt National Forest along the Cache la Poudre River corridor could do nothing but burn to cinder. When the East Troublesome Fire (193,812 acres) jumped the Continental Divide and merged with both, Colorado recorded its worst fire season on record. For weeks on end in 2020, those of us who live in the front-range towns of Northern Colorado choked on the smoke that turned the sky black. There were days when headlights were necessary during daylight driving. Even now, after Groundhog’s Day, I am afraid to wash car; washing off the ash stuck night take away chunks of paint.
So now in the Centennial State we curse the wind and wait for snow, though if we get it the spring thaws will bring what would most assuredly cause massive flooding…
… and I live just a stone’s throw from the Cache la Poudre River.

Calfornia lost nearly 4.5 million acres in the 2020 Western United States Wildfire Season; Oregon lost more than one million; and Washington lost more than 700,000 acres. All three states recorded their worst fire seasons on record. All three states, like Colorado, are in danger of a fire season repeat.

The causes of the fires in the western United States are blamed on poor forest management and climate change.

Ignorance

The profoundness of ignorance becomes a devastating tsunami when we look around — to the front, to the sides, then over our shoulders — and realize without having to think about it we did not know. Ignorance pervades, because, after looking around, we do not recognize where we are and have no clear recollection of how we arrived. It is our own fault for always moving. We know that, we admit that (“back in the good old days”), then we “keep on truckin’.’

Yet along the Oregon coast, islands of rock, so steadfast in their defiance of the never-ending surge of a rough sea, have stood against the loneliness of midnight for more ages than man has memory. Still, we cannot sit still in one place for more than a passing thought. Each new idea that seeps into our collective consciousness, or that strikes us like a bolt from a heavy sky, sets us again in motion, embarks us once again upon our mortal pilgrimage toward unknown destinations we hope will ease our loneliness, or will be spectacular enough to ease our pain.

How long has it been since humanity stopped to hear the song of the trees? There was a time when the people of the land understood the language of the forests and of the brooks.

It was common — long ago — to walk through the forest and experience things that can never happen again, or to see things that will remain eternally hidden, and for which we cannot piece together a rough recollection. Some things about the forest could never happen, though we were there and saw it, because we stood motionless in awe and wonder.

But we no longer sit to breathe, we try to authenticate our existence only with movement — leaps and bounds — which we justify as progress. Still, we ain’t goin’ nowhere.