Reprieve

There’s a light rain tonight. This after winds that gusted over twenty miles an hour. A short power surge that took out the lights and computer and then came back almost as quickly. Overnight, it was so smoky again from the wild fires that are still burning, one just up the road a half dozen miles from here, that I slept with my windows closed, and even with the fan, it was stuffy and sweaty. When I woke this morning it was not much better. But throughout the day, the smoke cleared. The wind shifted, and I came home to clear skies and clean air. I took the opportunity to do all my laundry in preparation for a trip to California at the end of the week. It’s one of the advantages of life in the high desert: laundry dries in the time it takes the next load to wash.

It was a busy day in a busy week. At ten o’clock, I met with the Superintendent of Public Schools, at eleven thirty with a parent of one of the new students coming to the school where I work. He’s does “nature based human development,” and we had an inspirational and exciting conversation about how he might interact with the students to help them heal from the trauma of these ongoing and seemingly endless fires, smoke, unstable power. After that a working lunch with my iPhone catching up on emails. I’m trying to get an electrician to come and upgrade our wiring. There’s painting and cleaning to do. A parents’ meeting to prepare for. Walk to the post office, get the mail. Walk back to the office. Ratchet between two computers: one that has the whole institutional knowledge base on it and one that is able to connect to the wireless signal from the town library–even though it drops the connection for long moments at a time. Then to get finger printed for my background check. Then back to the office to draft a new teacher contract. Update the shifting enrollment numbers. Answer some more emails. Then shut the place down and go home.

So driving up the River Road toward home under dry, clear, smoke free skies put me in the mood to do laundry. I’ve just hung and stored it all in my room, the smell of clean cotton, that unmistakable smell of freshness, wafting from between the hangers and the stacks.

It was a long day and hard in its way. There is the constant reminder that I am not in control. I am watching the river move, and it will go where it wants. The wind will gust. The smoke will rest and then surge. Lightning may strike. The fire will consume what fuel it finds. I will sleep. I will wake. Tomorrow I’ll go out and do it all over again.

But in the mean time, I have been home. I have been loved. I have been fed and rested and heard. And there has been rain, and cool night air free from the smell of destruction. The night is full of song carried on the breeze through open windows.

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Wild Grace

This will be short. The fires burning to the south of us have taken out our power. I’m writing on my phone which, thanks to Volkswagen ingenuity, I can charge even when the car isn’t running.

Even without power, our biggest worry right now is how fast we can eat everything that’s thawing in the freezer. For rawtarians, that’s not a huge issue. But we are the lucky ones. Somehow, our slice of the Valley though surrounded by literal wild fires so far is safe.

We heard from a friend today that the fire is moving 50 miles per hour due to high winds that have come in with the new weather system that brought cooler slightly moister air this morning. That same sweet change has turbo charged the fire. The town of Pateros to our south has been completely evacuated and suffered heavy losses to property. On the fire map provided online, the town of Brewster appears engulfed. And the pale blue arrows showing the wind direction are the culprit.

We’re in a state of alert. All that can be done is to monitor the fire and try to protect “structures:” homes, barns, shops. There’s a chance that by Sunday, conditions will be such that response teams will be able to begin containment. There’s also a chance that the wind will shift and bring the flames to Twisp.

It’s a glaring example of the impersonality of nature. Last night at the meeting at the lovely old Twisp Community Center, the gym was packed to hear a thorough status report. Mingling garrulously in the crowd after the meeting was a man who was in a kind of ecstatic shock, like a drunk man at a church gathering. As he bounced from group to small group, he was met with such love and compassion. Embraced by men and women, young and old.

Later, when he checked out ahead of us at Hank’s, the local grocery store, the checker told us that he had lost his home. As had Hank, the store owner and his children. And yet, there we were buying beer and chips thanks to the enormous generators that keep Hank’s open for ice and water, food and gas.

This morning I had a dream about the fires. I was eating at some sort of gathering place when a crowd gathered around someone who had fainted. When the placed her on my table to revive her, it was my beloved Guru, Amma. I looked down at Her and thought “I should put my hand on Her brow.” And at that moment, She opened Her eyes and gazed at me, that familiar glance, both brief and deep, before turning away to look at the people on Her other side.

What does it mean? I don’t know. Something about the nature of Grace, there in the midst of chaos, and our tenderness toward each other.

Pray for our Valley if you’re the praying sort. Or do some kindness the next chance you get. Life is burning fast.