Smoke Gets in … Everything :-(

As a kid, one great pleasure of summer was sitting by a campfire: whether at sleep-away camp or a family camping trip; whether at a National Park campfire program (yes, some actually happened by real, live campfires when Mom took us out camping in the way-back-when…) or the local county park, you could pretty much always count on toasted marshmallows and that magical feeling fire inspires among most boys when it’s under control and after dark .

That was then. This is now. Now is, to be frank, a year which reminds of me of Queen Elizabeth’s declaration that 1992 was an “Annus Horribilis.” Heck, for me 1992 went pretty well because I recall getting tears in my eyes when Ohio’s electoral map went blue and I realized for the first time in my life there’d be an inhabitant of the white house who wouldn’t just hate and judge me for how I was born. (There were fewer letters in the acronym and far less widespread acceptance of us folks on the rainbow spectrum, back then.) But 2020? Definitely annus horribilis territory.

This week’s pile-upon A-H stressor in my home region of northern California? Unusually early wildfires caused by extremely unusual thunder and lighting on Sunday and again Monday last week, which were in turn caused by unusually early and extreme high heat. Sonoma County currently has two active wildfires which have caused a new wave of evacuation orders. This was not an annual occurrence, even just six years ago when I settled here. Yet still we have folks (one of them the current occupant of that house on Pennsylvania Avenue) intent upon denying evidence and steering us ever further into global-warming catastrophe.

It does all get a bit much at times, doesn’t it? There’s been more smoke in the air and bits of ash falling through the air than I myself have experienced, but that’s because I was back east for the worst of the 2017 fires near here. For those who haven’t lived through regional wildfires like this, when you hear smoke in the air don’t think about those summer campfires with a clear column of wood-smoke rising and leaving your clothes with that distinct smell. Think a very heavy misty presence of something that certainly smells fairly smokey but, here 20 or more miles from the current fire line nearest me, not as strong or obvious as those long-ago pleasant campfire smells. It’s heavy, bad for the lungs, oppressive to the spirit, and very visible in the sky – as witness these photos whose names all tell you when they were taken, between Tuesday and yesterday.

The first wildfires near me were sparked by lighting some time on Monday, but it was Tuesday evening that I first watched the sunset out my windows and realized the heavy horizon and dark sun meant more fire smoke. Now each day I check when I wake up, whether the smoke layer seems worse or better than the day before. In the mornings the air is usually much clearer – higher moisture in the air must bind the smoke and keep it closer to the ground or something like that. Yesterday evening was a pleasantly clear surprise, and this morning seemed fine enough that I chose to bike over to Sebastopol to grab a late-morning bite with friends…but then the smoke moved in fast, the air got thicker and yuckier, and biking back wasn’t quite so pleasant. And weather forecasters say there may be more lightning in the coming hours, possibly sparking yet more fires. Annus horribilis, anyone?

I hope to start posting more regularly, perhaps even daily if I get really organized. I’ve taken lots of prettier photos of nice things one can see on and around the bike trails, streets and parks of my home region which I’ve been gladly exploring by foot, bike and even occasionally car for the … seven weeks since I got home.

4 responses

  1. diane rachiele

    Hello there –

    Lovely to hear from you – sorry about the unconfined fires including the extra-orange one in the White House – not much to report but things are inching along …

    Looking forward to those future posts and pictures … will write more as news emerges!

    Cheers, Bello!!!


    Sent from my iPhone

    August 23, 2020 at 18:43

  2. Maria Hosmer-Briggs

    Not sure… does this indicate that you’re, for now, safe?

    Cheers! Maria

    Sent from my tablet. Sorry for any strange textual autocorrect aberrations!

    August 23, 2020 at 18:44

  3. Hi Paul, I certainly remember all those great national park campfires. They were wonderful! Do you remember singing around the campfire way back then? A lot of fun!

    August 24, 2020 at 14:08

  4. Sam Craig

    Hi Paul, stay safe and I really hope I can see you some time in September.

    August 24, 2020 at 16:21

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