Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down
© 2017 by Ilona Elliott
The disk of the sun is a burnished copper penny. It begins it’s final descent into the western horizon after assaulting us all day with scathing heat. The day light has had an odd quality to it, provided by a thick blanket of smoke coming from the nearly five thousand square kilometers burning in British Columbia this summer. It’s as if the light was trapped in a time warp–late afternoon on a clear October day, the golden hour– since 6 AM this morning. It all feels rather surreal, like the twilight zone episode–The Midnight Sun.
Cosmo and I head out for our evening walk around 7:30. The heat is oppressive. Before we get to the end of the driveway, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to go back. We generally turn right and walk north up the 1/2 mile stretch of road, but the blast of hot air blowing at us feels like a furnace, so we switch directions and head down the gravel road that starts just beyond our drive. There are alder trees, big leaf maple saplings, sizable cedars and firs lining the road, all coated with a thick gray crust kicked up by the traffic coming out of this end of the neighborhood. Not much, really, but enough to create billowing clouds of dust a couple of dozen times a day. Every drive by lays down another coat of sticky dust. It brings to mind the heavy ash that blanketed the Cascade forests after Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980. We camped in the area east of Mt. Rainier that fall, and the ash was everywhere. You breathed it, ate it, slept in it. After a couple of days, you felt flour encrusted, ready for the deep fat fryer. Even water couldn’t erase the mineral-ly build up on hair, skin, clothes, and nose whiskers.
Cosmo pokes around the road a little, but doesn’t seem particularly interested in dragging me down the steep and rocky lane like he usually does. We turn around and head home. When we crown the hill, the effect of the north wind, unlike any other day I recall, is of a giant, hot blow-dryer–right in our faces. Stifling, dry, stagnant wind.
What an unpleasant evening, so unlike our customarily enjoyable evening strolls. I think Cosmo agrees. As we walk towards the house, I make a mental note to drag a hose out and water the shrub bed furthest down the driveway. The plants are limp, lifeless, dull. The birds are silent. There aren’t even any deer coming out yet to feed. I’ve spent the day running in and out of the house, watering vegetables, flowers, shrubs and empty bird baths, a little at a time to keep from getting overheated myself. The garden projects that piled up all the cold-rainy Spring are piling up again due to the extreme heat. The optimism I felt for a few productive weeks earlier this summer is dwindling. I wonder if the work will ever get done.
The last thing I did in the garden today was put together a little fountain/bird bath and turn it on. I hope it helps them get through the heat. We could all use a little help getting through things lately. Let’s hope the heat subsides, the fire’s die down, and the smoke lifts soon.
On my way to bed, I make my routine stop at the window to peer at the sky. Even the moon looks agitated. A bright red face. The color of rage. It could be mistaken for the sun if the surrounding sky wasn’t so leaden. I close the curtain and climb into bed. The fan drones like a giant drowsy fly in the hallway. I close my eyes and think about our world, restless uneasy thoughts tugging at the corners of my mind. The weather forecast is for gradually moderating temperatures. It’s a hopeful thought that I try to hold on to as I breath, in and out, the ashes of a world on fire.