—David McCloskey, © Sept 8, 2020
BC is burning, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, N California too….
Wildfire’s become a constant refrain of life here….
Our forests are truly “fireforests”–but its become far more intense:
more fires, wider spread, drier conditions, more dieback due to drought
and insect infestations, larger conflagrations, increasingly catastrophic
making its own “fireweather,” and incinerating organic humus and
glassifying sandy soils, repelling rain…. All intensified by climate change–
its magnitude, frequency, duration, intensity–and human encroachment of wildlands….
Hazardous smoke spreading widely into urban areas, making
it hard to breathe, dangerous to the vulnerable among us….
This seasonal is from a wider meditation on the great formative
Energies of Cascadia–Tectonics & Earth-Forces: Volcanos, Earthquakes,
Tsunamis, etc., Winds & Storms, Wildfire, Ice, Floods, Flora, Drought, etc.
Here a combination of Wind and Fire in the easterly FireWind blasting
downslope thru Western Oregon over Labor Day in 2020…. Eerily echoed
in the massive unprecedented heatdome and catastrophic fire in Lytton,
B.C. June 2021.
A timely meditation for late summer in Cascadia any year, but
increasingly so as the pulse of Climate Change quickens….
Fiery Tongue Billowing Out to Sea, satellite image from Earth Winds (nullschool.net)
Fiery Tongue Billowing Out to Sea, satellite image from Earth Winds (nullschool.net) the following day, 9/9/20 @ 8:30 pm; I’m from here, and never in my life have witnessed an easterly Fire Wind blowing out to sea, for there’s almost always a persistent westerly blowing off the N Pacific inland….
Riding the FireWind
Sounds like raining but this is dry
warm hot breath as the evening wears on—
I hear it sifting down all around—
soft slow susurrus of falling ash—
impossibly thin feathery flakes
striking an alder leaf here and
the lake’s still surface over there…
dancing through the miasma—
as ghosts of mountain forests suddenly materialize
far away here at the coast, de-etherialize—
as if this heat is drawing some essence
out of the murk the way
cold dry air sublimates snow…
In the dark of candlelight at first
its hard to tell the swarm of insects
from ash falling—then see the ash
flakes swirling randomly in all directions
while insects zoom to the light…
As if a volcano had erupted again,
but this time it’s not that sharp-edged
blown glassy-froth rock that cuts and
grinds everything down, but organic—
chunks of wood, long pleated fibers,
green needles, corky bark—something
Covering everything in a gritty crust
this ash is fine grained, not like
whispy embers from a hearth fire…
Look close & you see
brown slivers & tree shards
mixed in with gritty sand as if
the whole tree & sandy soil
vaporized—when sap boiled over &
the whole tree suddenly exploded—
lifted bodily high up sucked into the sky
carried away in a towering pyroculumuli
roiling down valley continued immolating
flying thru the air caught in the inferno of
flaming ghost trees riding the
FireWind out of the East
far to the west I followed its burning tongue
billowing far out over the open ocean…
Gray-brown shards & grit of the once living–
all that’s left of a whole forest & community–
wafted high into the clouds
even over the ocean you can still
see chunks of wood dislodged,
disgorged thrown to the far winds…
“The FIRE this time!”—
How our world comes apart…
—David McCloskey, © Sept 8, 2020
Smoke Shrouded Devil's Elbow SP, photo by David McCloskey
Smoke Shrouded Devil’s Elbow SP, near Florence, Oregon Coast–this is one of the most beloved places on the wild Oregon Coast–on the bluff to the right (out of sight here) stands the iconic lighthouse and wonderful classic lightkeeper’s white house….
Smoke Spreading Eastward Over US--satellite image 9/14/20 from NOAA
Burnt Aftermath, Blue River, photo by David McCloskey
May 2021–9 months after FireStorm, when they finally allowed people to visit… even after all this time overfilled log trucks roared by every minute or two all day long, week after week, in excessive “salvage logging….” The whole landscape was twice violated–once by firestorm, and then scraped bare by logging…. many times they didn’t even leave snags–bare scraped rocky ridges…. guaranteeing slope failures and massive long-term erosion….
A Final Footnote
There are many heroic and tragic stories of those affected by the fire, but perhaps none more poignant than that of the eminent Nature writer, Barry Lopez, battling cancer, who lost his cabin at Finn Rock and many years of writings and notes–some not yet published–all consumed in the flames…Tasting those ashes in his mouth, he passed beyond soon after… some say he died of a broken heart….