a state on fire

We walked through the burn scar, happy to see new life peeking through the soil, green in a landscape of ash grey, while breathing the smoke from a new fire raging to the south.  Seeing the remnants of a dead fire while breathing the proof of a live one.  It was eerie and sad.  I took video while we walked, to capture the moment as best as I could.  Though, that only really gets the image of it.  Not the smell.  Not the desolation.  Not the death in the air.

Still, there was life at our feet.  Tiny flowers and little green shoots sprouted along the trail.  And in the haze we could see other such life pushing through the ash.  It was encouraging to see that.  Despite the destruction, all was not lost.  Despite the raging inferno that had scarred the terrain a year earlier (nearly to the day), life was returning and, in some cases, had never left. 

Little did we know then what our day had in store. 

From one fire to another, we travelled homeward, the smoke constant and the charred hillsides popping up again and again.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this.

When I conceived the idea for the post on our drive home (we had been backpacking near Shaver Lake), it seemed to mean something.  All this damage.  All these fires.  I came home and looked up the names of each of them.  There were nine active and old fires that we either drove through, walked through, or saw the smoke from.  And if we saw the smoke it meant we were breathing it.  But now a month later when I’m finally get around to writing this?  That number would be thirteen instead of nine.  Four more fires started along the same corridor in the last four weeks.  One per week.  But, what does it mean?

Well, I don’t know.

Maybe it is enough to have been there and to share these words now and raise the question:  What does it mean?

Maybe these words are nothing more than a diary entry of sorts.  I went.  I saw.  There was devastation.  There was beauty.  And somehow that is right.  That is life.

Maybe this is nothing more than my mind trying to reconcile the memories from my youth when I was fascinated by fire while at the same time calculating the cost currently.  The forests that have burned now will not have grown back to what they were in my lifetime, nor in my children’s lifetime.  Anything that is lost now they will never get to experience.  These forests take too long to grow back.  They can’t just be instantly replaced like so much else in our lives.

Maybe it’s all of the above.

I don’t know.

because they do


Dead tress litter the high country, those rare places where the earth attempts to reach the sky. In some places the dead outnumber those left behind to carry on stretching for the heavens. The wormy carvings, the evidence of their doom, are etched across their bare trunks. Drought and a beetle, two things these giants long stood strong against, finally broke through their defenses and feasted heavily on the ancient lodgepoles. The once green forests are graying and thinning like an old man. The forests of the high country are old.
They are still beautiful of course, even if the dead give them a haunting quality that speaks to the one debt we all owe. Or, perhaps they are even more beautiful because of the ghosts standing in their midst. Even these ancient towering spires pay the price of life but they stand tall and meet their fate stoically. They have no choice to do otherwise, of course. Of course. But there is still something honorable there.
Or maybe my judgement is skewed by the thin air and the staggering beauty that surrounds me when I stand in such places. It is always a struggle to get there, to catch these glimpses, to then pause and take it all in. Here are trees that grew from a seed in the harshest of climates for hundreds of years. They struggled and succeeded and grew. I struggled and succeeded in reaching them… and I too will grow.
My journey is different from theirs, yes, but that is inconsequential as long as I continue to reach for the sky, reach for my potential, reach for the highest highs and stand strong against all that work against me.
You should do the same.
We all should.
For we are all like the forests of the high county.
Even as our age and experiences show through.
Because they do.

Truth and Fiction 6


Should I just break down and call this Truth and Fiction month?  Probably not…  I’m fairly sure this is the last of these completely misnamed posts.  I’ve reached the end of the photos I’ll be sharing from my recent trip into the mountains.  I’ve been having fun writing and sharing pictures though so I’ll see about digging up some other ones to keep scheduling these posts out for a bit.  Okay, yes, that was me mostly rambling.  That’s the way it goes sometimes.  Anyway…

The Truth:

The six pinecones were arranged from largest to smallest on a flat rock in the middle of the camp.  The odds against the placement having occurred naturally were larger than I cared to even contemplate.  The simplest explanation was likely the correct one, someone who had camped there before us left them.  The who and when and why will forever remain mysteries.

We left them too.  While we ended up needing the rock as part of our dinner prep, we carefully transferred the cones to another location and kept them in the same order.  Thus, we added to the unknowns of their existence for future travelers to attempt to unravel should they wish.

I was far more curious about who would find them next and what they would make of the six arranged pinecones than I was about how it was we had come across them in the first place.


The Fiction:

The message was left where those who would know its meaning would be sure to see it.  That was, unless the markers were moved accidentally, or purposefully, in the interim.  The possibility of sabotage, remote at best, was a real concern.  However, once the message had been left and we vacated the area the success of our mission was out of our hands anyway.

The days that followed were full of guilt and worry.  Had we done enough to secure the message?  Had it gotten through?  Was there more we could have done, or could still be doing, to further our cause?  The answers to these thoughts were always just more questions.

It had all seemed so straightforward when we discussed the plan ahead of time.  We just had to get to the rendezvous point and leave the message we’d been given to pass along.  But, no amount of talking could have prepared us for the actual task of forging across the land to make it to the designated spot in time.  Also, nowhere in the discussion regarding the message had weather been discussed.  Wind and rain were common enough and the slightest shift in our placements would confuse the intended directions.

We had done our part though.  It wasn’t our place to question the rest.  That truth did little to ease my troubled mind.


And so it was that here, at the end of this series, I finally delivered one complete truth and one complete fiction.  Though, perhaps the pinecones were a message for someone…  If they were, what do you think they said?