The forests are burning. It’s the longest drought in Washington State history. For the past few weeks, the sky has been reminiscent of Beijing, China. I know because I was there in 2012, just after the Summer Olympics, and both sun and moon were red in a sky full of pollution. Here at home, it’s smoke, the signal of poorly “managed” forests which are desperate to catch fire and regenerate, but the heat is more than these trees can handle, and so, the forests are burning to the ground.
The Jack Creek Fire is closest to Leafhopper Farm, a fire started by lighting in the Central Cascades. Lighting is responsible for most of these fires, but a few were human induced by careless people with no idea of the consequences. It’s a hard lesson for all. I’ve never seen anything like this, and people who have been here for 30 years are saying the same thing. A family member shared with me his experience of Mt. St. Helen’s eruption, and the ash that fell around Washington State. Well, it’s happening now, but there is no volcano, simply the forests burning away acre by acre, tree by tree, and we’ll be feeling this for decades to come.
Today my throat began to burn, and eyes water from time to time. Maybe I should put on a mask. The “officials” say to stay inside, no luck for farmers, or people without air conditioning. We have no filter on our air from outside. There is a strong smell of smoke in the house, and ash on the surfaces of everything, inside and out. The light is orange all day long. Our only relief is cooler temperatures because the UV can’t penetrate the smoke so easily, so we’re in the 80s instead of 90s. I am truly grateful the fire is not here.
When I look up into the sky, it’s disconcerting to see what looks like an overcast cover of nice clouds, but that’s not water vapor, it’s the acrid smoke from our beloved mountains as they purge overgrown fuel in a drought stricken rain-forest. I wonder, will we ever see blue sky again? Did you ever think a rain-forest could burn? Yes, in 2017, yes, and we’re paying dearly. While people brace for another hurricane in The Atlantic, Washingtonian residents wonder if we’ll ever feel rain again. There are whispers of relief by the weekend, but not in time to save our forests.
My limited camera cannot capture the full visual of smoke inundating the farm, but it’s noticeable, so noticeable in fact, that visibility is reduced in 1,000ft. My back field looks “foggy” from the house. You cannot see the mountains, you cannot see the hills, nothing but a brown haze all around. When the moon rises, she’s full and red, blood red, like a sand storm; it reminds me of Oklahoma in late summer, when the red dust kicks up at dusk.
Will this be our future? Ash and smoke? The loss of our forests? What will our beautiful Cascades look like this winter? We’re no longer The Evergreen State, but perhaps the Everablaze State. Leafhopper Farm will continue to steward the trees here, and give gratitude to Weiss Creek, which continues to flow, without rain, or fire, under the blood red moon and orange sun. Are these the Red Skies we were warned about? No, but the message is clear, change, ever present change, and we adapt to live.
This parting shot is my hope for the land. In 2015, we had record breaking drought, and a lot of Washington was on fire then. The flames took a place I loved very dearly, a place I knew well. In the picture above you can see the recovering ground to the left, and what it looked like after the blaze on the right. If you zoom in, you can see the tall standing dead trees, black pillars that bare witness to a fire that destroyed all the forest for several hundred square miles. It was brown, black, and ash for the Fall and Winter. But come Spring, things began to return, and now, two years in, the green is back, trees are returning, and the land is alive again. I have to remember the earth’s resilience, I have to remind myself that this is part of a large, living cycle. Mother Nature knows no limit, life will find a way.