Sunrise on the drive back. Summer officially starts with the sweet pitch scent of forests burning, filling me with nostalgia. The sun and moon tinged with umber. Direct heat dampened by haze. With smoke in the lungs, every action is slower and harder.
Pine trees are soaked with sap, a reaction to the parasites on pine beetles. Red, dead woods, tinder dry. Forest fire fighters say the beetle killed trees explode.
As a kid, I heard a story about a cowboy riding through an extinguished burn. He wanted to take a piss, and tried tying his horse to a charred tree but the horse wouldn’t let him, pulling back, swiveling left and right. He got frustrated and kicked the blackened tree. The bark broke away, revealing orange embers inside.
Fires can burn underground for weeks, chasing root systems with just enough oxygen to stay alive. We live in the forest. A careless cigarette, smouldering camp fire, dry lightning, a fire bug. The smallest spark turns catastrophic. Fires suddenly shift, ride the wind, jump highways and valleys. Single homes survive while the neighbors fireplace is the only structure left. It’s random and chaotic.
That first whiff of smoke brings back memories of being a teenager. Hiding in friends basements til sunset then taking off on our skateboards, swimming at midnight, staying up til dawn, owning the streets. The Pixies, The Decendants,The Ramones. The languid heat of August, deep in our bones.