It Was Night Time
I was driving home at 9:30 at night a few days ago, top down, wind in my hair and it happened. That familiar hush, of Sonoma County, in the night time, the damper to sound and traffic. The night sky was glowing the way it does when low clouds, or high fog, are hovering just overhead–compressed into a sound dampener. Total dejavous swept over me, obliterating that moment and smashing it into hundreds of moments where I’d been in an entirely different state. A different world really.
Here I am in Bohemia, and I am having a flashback to CowCountry.
In the high deserts of Central Oregon, the nights are crisp and clear. It sounds like an exaggeration to the rest of the country but trillions of stars stand out like bright sequins, the light from the stars so bright that the Cascade Mountains are backlit, a ragged, majestic silhouette of razor sharp peaks . None of that was happening here in Sonoma.
The night sky was glowing softly, alive and lit from within, like soft bioluminescence. There are no real mountains (sorry sonoma…truth hurts) but the air smelled familiar, taking me back to so many summer And fall nights growing up. In Sonoma–in the neighborhoods close to where I live–evening smells rotate with different times of the year; there’s fragrant jasmine nights, eucalyptus, rain, mown grass, sometimes apple blossoms and daffodils, fermenting (rotting fruit, usually grapes but at my house it could be figs) even wine can fill the air from various wineries…other nights the pungent smell of feedlots and ranch stuff can hang in the air (there are plenty of cows in Central Oregon but rare, unless you’re the rancher, to smell them on any given night)…and other times of year (in Sonoma) you can drive around and smell out which of your neighbors are pot farmers…
Tonight it just smelled like a late summer or fall night in Central Oregon, it smelled like a wood fire, a forest fire. No seriously. NorCal is on fire, Oregon is on fire, Washington, Idaho and Montana are all beating down fires…I don’t think fog is hanging over head, I think it might be smoke.
Rampant fires are taking homes, lives and property. When I was in school I took four years of Forestry. It’s an Oregon thing. I even took college credit courses in forestry fire-fighting, built firelines, did some backburning…cleared a lot of brush and understory… I wanted to grow up to be a superhero. A firefighting superhero, I got side tracked with boys, and life rearranged some of those one-time dreams, but I remember how rewarding it was and how much work it was and I remember during one course a fire we were following had several firefighters from Arizona die. I remember how serious it is. How devastating everything can be in the blink of an eye.So I’m driving home at nine o’clock at night, the top off the jeep, looking at the glowing night air and doing something I haven’t done in a while…thinking about families whose loved ones are out protecting others from fire, putting themselves between homes and fires…If I’m honest I found myself saying prayers. I don’t know what makes another person decide they are willing to risk their life for the welfare of strangers, but I am thankful for them, not just the ones fighting fires.