On the spine of the sleeping beast. She begins to roar.
From here I do not see the charred hillsides, once lush stands of spruce trees now no more than smoldering black sticks. But remember this: it has been a while since they were lush, has it not? They have been standing dead for years. We knew one day they would have to burn, what else could be their fate, and we chose to see the pretty things instead, the open view, the filtered sunlight, the silent trails lined with once live needles.
From here I do not see the balls of fire consuming those trees, swirling dragons of angry smoke into the grey and orange sky, unless I climb the hill and look over. It’s not easy. This is big country. Climbing that hill takes all afternoon. I should be doing something else, more productive, not thinking about this which I can’t get off my mind.
This is not the place for facts and figures. I can only tell you what I see, and that’s not much. The tops of clouds, changing color, shifting directions, watching the wind. This is a personal account.
There is an eerie silence when and where there should be old men fishing and young children laughing.
I’m trying to be quiet. Not to raise concerns. Stay out the way, out of trouble, a few less to worry about. We’ve heard a lot of, “if anyone could make it up there and get out if need be, you three would be the ones.” And still I know people worry. I’m sorry.
We are here. We are fine. For now. What more can I say? We were caught unprepared and look how prepared we are. This is our home and where we belong.
We are not leaving. Not yet. We’ve got the horse trailer packed with a change of clothes, sleeping bags and coffee in case we find ourselves living in there, and have been checking the horses’ shoes. Maybe we will have to leave some day. Driving down the road would be an easy option. Heading horseback up and over is another. We’ll manage if we have to. Only, I don’t want to.
Where will go? The three of us, our dog, two cats, eight horses, ten hens and a rooster. More untrained volunteers there to help? I know that isn’t really help. We’d be in the way.
Take a vacation? Oh, come on. We’re losing a minimum of what, $3000/week at this rate. I wake in the morning with a sick stomach and it only barely goes away during the day and how can it when all around us are the smoke and clouds that allude to the truth I am trying to escape. And cannot.
Some mornings you wake and you wonder if it’s a dream. A bad dream. But one you’ll finally wake up from and everything will be ok again. There will be guests arriving and we’ll be packing for the ditch, and the sky would be blue, air clear, and the trees would still be green.
What are we doing now? We moved down to the Little Cabin by the river, a one room log structure we dragged here over the snow by snowcat. An outhouse, a storage building that was an old portable sheep herders camp now with the axels removed, a lot of candles and one little solar panel – not for a light, but for a satellite dish for internet. We were planning on renting out the big house, remember, the one with indoor plumbing, private bedrooms and even a kitchen sink, to guests for the season. Only there are no guests, but that’s no reason for us to return. We’re not the sort to give up.
So I keep on writing, completing the manuscript, the boys trudge to work at the neighbor’s, and we wait until evening when we can look through the red tint of wine at the sickly yellow sky as it fades to black and then step out to see a few stars, maybe just one or two, maybe the whole Big Dipper, depending on the direction of the wind and which way the smoke has settled, and we see nothing else and take comfort in that void, and try to forget that just on the other side of that ridge, the trees are still burning.