Friday, August 28, 2015

Autumn in the Air

Tonight our cottonwood trees hold up the moon like a silver offering bowl in an indigo sky. I can feel autumn now, see it in the fat white clouds that coast across our skies of late, in the shadows that reach lengthening fingers across the earth. Our Jeffrey pine is casting its long needles on the lawn, the rabbit brush is blooming and in the high country, I've seen willow bushes turning yellow and aspen turning brown. It's not a good autumn. It's Nature throwing in the towel on a fourth year of drought and saying, "That's it, I'm done, let's get ready for winter."

The prayer of the West now is for a change of weather and the miracle of rain. Rain for the parched earth and stressed plants and trees, rain for the dry stream beds and shrinking lakes. Rain for the wildfires that burn and burn and burn beyond the ability of humans to do much more than fight defensive battles. I'm never in a hurry for summer to end, for my flowers to wither and the trees to go naked and lean. But I think I'm ready for a change. For weather that means something beyond the shrinking of the ability of our fields and woods and hills to support growing things.

This fall, this winter, let there be rain. Let there be snow in the high country and drifts on the passes and I'll shovel my driveway without complaint. Let it be so. Please. But until then, I'll pray for the days to pass slowly so I have time to count each blessing that comes.


Friday, August 21, 2015

On Wildfires

They fled like shadows on this great day, this terrible morning of red skies and choking ash, she leading her young ones in bounding strides through the forests that were their home. These beautiful daughters, clean of leg and clear of eye, they matched her pace as if they shared the same mind. But she knew they could not hold it much longer. At the edge of a dry stream bed, she stopped. No water here to halt the red Beast that followed.

Their breathing heaved in the cage of their ribs and other shadows moved nearby: a young Wolf and his brother. Yet they spared each other but a glance, the grey ash falling in terrible silence. On this day of fear and fire, the boundaries between predator and prey were breaking, crumbling before the greater need to flee and stay alive.

"Come!" she hissed and they flew on. At last she came to a place she knew and dropped their pace to a light-footed walk. Her daughters crowded close, fearful and wary, but stayed close at her side. Finally she halted and looked keenly about. All was as she knew it would be.

"Here," she whispered. "We shall bide here."

Lightly, carefully they crept from the forest's edge and into open space. Water waited just yonder, there where the Gentle Ones jostled nervously. She led her daughters through the sharp scent of their wool and fear and kept watch while they drank. When done, she led them to a nearby place of quiet and shelter.

"Let us rest," she said, and bent her legs to lay down.

"But, mother," the first daughter said, "what is this place?"

The second daughter sniffed the air, tense and trembling, for even through the smoke, they could smell all the things that nature taught them to fear: metal and fuel, dogs and mankind.

"It is a safe place, my daughters," she said, and looked upon them in vast lovingkindness. "Come and rest with me. All shall be well."

"But, mother!" whispered the second daughter. "I am afraid!"

"Fear not," she said, and settled herself more comfortably amidst the fragrance of hay and horses. "Watch, my children, and learn."

And they looked, her beautiful daughters, they looked and they saw. Out there where brown smoke smothered the sun and ashes fell like bitter snow, Men labored in ways incomprehensible to their young minds. But where they worked, the Beast did not come. Where they worked, smoke rolled in huge and ghostly plumes but never thence the flames.

"Today," she said, "they fight for us. They fight for all of us."

So she and her daughters rested in this place and it was good.

~ * ~

This is for my friend, Tea Yamamoto, and her Pete and brother Cam, and for all who flee or fight the red Beast throughout the West. May all in harm's way be kept safe. Godspeed to those brave firefighters who pay the ultimate price.