Rendered Fat Content


Salvator Rosa: Philosophy (1641)
Inscription: "Keep silent or say something better than silence".

" … they remind us how blessed we remain once their curse has fled."

The late summer forest fire has become a defining event in the Great American West. If not by the end of August, then certainly by the end of September, an incident will light some woodland on fire and the resulting smoke will set about obscuring sun and sky. For days or weeks, no sunrises or sunsets grace the time. Horizons shrink. Even the foothills a short distance away disappear into thick haze. Latitude for action shrivels, too. Driving comes to seem dangerous, perspectives narrow. After perhaps weeks spent hibernating from extreme heat, the smoke seems to add insult to indignity. I ache then to free myself from this place of my liberation.

It's certainly Heavenly here, or as close to Heavenly as I've yet experienced here on Earth, yet even this Eden hosts its apples and serpents.
If it promises absolution, perhaps it does so because it also offers the possibility of damnation. The wildfires seem like simple misfortune, unavoidable disjunction, nature's curious renewal by means of destruction. It seems somehow less random than expected, though, and so I suspect some villain, some perpetrator, some cause other than some collision between cold fronts and resulting lightning. Global Warming most certainly contributes, since these fires seem to have become more common, almost obligatory and expected in more recent years, and beetle kills. Woe to those who survive to see their dystopian future, where prior good fortune seems destined to go up in ashes and smoke.

Keeping the faith becomes an imperative during forest fire season. One hunkers down even more intently, with even greater purpose and with expanding reason. One abides, complaining little, astounded often. This time seems supremely disorienting, an unwanted and unappreciated distraction. It heralds the ending of a favorite season by means of misdirection. Only the upcoming season holds the ability to actually put out these fires, which take to slopes nobody can climb and ride updrafts nobody can stand against. The fires will stop when snows smother them, not before. We pray that the winds will shift until then, when they might be contained but only rarely tamed. They will run rampant, the only way even the least of them have ever learned to run, mindlessly destructive.

And after, once the smoke clears, much remains the same. Most of every year's fires occur in high country, relatively inaccessible, largely unseen. Yet, having been smoked, having choked on once sweet breezes, I cannot help but remember. Each year this place and my place in it seems to grow a bit more tenuous. We have not conquered this continent, or anything, really. We inhabit at the grace of forces far beyond us, superior to the best of us combined, and they could take it from us at any time. Best, perhaps, to slip into the next season chastened by the departing one. Best, maybe, to remember how tenuously we live and to forgive even the wildfire's trespasses against us, against Heaven, for they remind us how bless
ed we remain once their curse has fled.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver