My little dog curls his tongue in his open mouth as he trots along next to the curb on our usual walk. It is hot already though the morning is still young, and I feel a chill as I look at the yellow-white plume of smoke from the forest fire just a few miles north of us. The light is often deceptive against the mountains, making things look either much closer or much farther away than they really are. This morning the fire looks as if it is just on the other side of town, when in reality it is miles away.
Hot weather, close to 100 degrees, is predicted for later today. Wind, anathema to the work of the firefighters, is predicted to rush across the state, further drying the air and threatening to carry the fire across the barriers they have worked so hard to establish. It is not all bad news, though; the fire seems to be holding at 45% containment.
The newspaper this morning shows a picture of a 700-pound tranquillized and blindfolded young moose being carried in a stretcher to a waiting vehicle, where he will be transported and relocated away from the fire. He had swum across a local reservoir and ended up in town, much to the consternation of the people whose properties he traversed.
Supposedly there are at least two more moose that have sequestered themselves in small parks under the watchful eye of the local authorities. It is not only people whose lives are transmuted by a great fire. We humans seem to have considerably more difficulty being relocated, however.
A childhood friend visited me recently, inspiring me to look at some old artwork I’d painted years ago in a new way. She is also my “best audience,” to quote Stephen King from his book, On Writing, when it comes to my writing.
“You need to get this stuff framed,” she said. “You could have your own art show, today,” she said. “It’s amazing stuff, and I think I am pretty well qualified to say so.” She also nagged me to set up the blog I’ve been thinking about for months. Her enthusiasm is catching. Her high energy personality is one of the things I’ve liked from the beginning. We’ve been friends since the sixth grade.
I’ve been divorced close to four years now. I left my marriage just before what would have been our thirtieth wedding anniversary. I’ve felt emotionally like I imagine that burned out land behind the wildfire might feel; crisped, consumed, lifeless, almost totally barren of hope for any recovery.
I learned a few years ago, however, that there are seeds that only sprout when they have been through a fire. Nature has its own way, an orderly progression, as to how the mountains will be reforested, with or without the help of man. Perhaps, thanks to my friend, so do I. Pine bark beetles devastated millions of trees in the state, contributing unimaginable acres of tinder for the fires. My marriage had its own form of pine bark beetles, killing what had been good and strong and green until it finally consumed itself and fizzled out.
A couple of days ago my just-turned-twenty-one-year-old son came over to ask me for a favor, which I was happy to grant. He looked at the newly framed art on the wall and saw also that I had hung up a little sculpture my friend had brought me, just as she had suggested when we all sat at dinner one night. He stood in silence for a minute, inspecting a painting. “She really is your best friend,” he said.