A friend of mine recently returned from Colorado. She said that the brilliant blue skies that are so typical of the state were clouded with smoke from California’s fires. I feel bad that we’re sharing our misfortune with out-of-state lungs, but I have to admit it’s a welcome relief to be able to breathe freely once again.
Dogs can be walked. Convertible tops can be put down. Bicycles can be ridden. They seem like such simple things—until they were taken away. It’s such a strange feeling not to be able to spent time out of doors. At one point, I was literally holding my breath while running from the car to the gym…the grocery store…the dry cleaners. Now, to look up and see blue…to be able to take a deep breath…feels like a gift.
I haven’t seen blue skies since we left town for a few days last week. Colors are downright eerie: a flat white sky…gray air. (Well, if air had a color, this air would be gray. It is, after all, almost tangible.) In the evening, when it would normally still be bright at this time of year, the suns glows an intense orange. The light becomes diffused by all the smoke and the air turns a frightening shade of reddish-amber, almost as if everything is on fire.
Last night, shortly after sunset, we ventured outside to try out our new garden bench. It was very quiet and still, with no sign of the deer that usually come out to graze in the back of our property. We looked at the immense trees silhouetted against the strange sky. Everything had an end-of-the-world feeling, and I actually felt a ripple of fear.
People are behaving strangely. Conversations begin and end with comments on the smoke. It’s as if a subtle shift has drifted in with the fumes and haze, and it makes me downright uncomfortable.
P.S. This is not my photo, but rather something I pulled off the Internet. I found it after I’d written my post, and it illustrates the mood perfectly.
It’s back. With a vengeance. After a one-day reprieve on Friday—when it was actually possible to spend time outdoors and breathe deeply—the smoke has returned. The sky is no longer blue, and even though the sun is shining, the light is diffused by all the gunk in the air.
At present, 1781 fires are burning in the state of California—1450 of them contained. 558,738 acres have been destroyed so far.
Even though we’re dealing with the side effects of all the smoke, our Northern California town is not threatened. Many residents, however, are walking around in hardware-store masks, apparently unaware that the CDC says these are designed to block larger particles like sawdust, and are useless for smoke. But I think there must be some satisfaction in thinking that you’re doing something—anything—to protect yourself.
This is the view from our back deck in mid-afternoon on July 6:
Don’t look now, but there’s actually a bit of blue sky spotted with puffy white clouds overhead. It’s the first shot of color we’ve seen in a week, and it’s a welcome hue. We can only hope that more clearing will take place over the next few days.
In the meantime, we’re off to San Francisco for some brief R&R…
Northern California is choked with smoke today. The Department of Forestry is calling the fires the Lightning Series—the result of bizarre thunderstorms that have been moving through the region for the past few days. Thirty-four fires have been reported in the area where I live.
On Saturday, I watched in amazement from my driveway as dense black clouds obscured the sunlight. The thunder was deafening, but only a few drops of rain fell. If I hadn’t seen them on the windshield of the car, I probably would have missed them completely. It was an eerie feeling—à la Ray Bradbury meets Stephen King meets Mephistopheles.
Today, the sky is an eerie yellow-white color. On most days, when I drive over a nearby bridge that crosses Highway 49, I can see all the way to the Sierra. This morning, I could barely see the freeway below.