Most of the West has been very dry and hot, and Oregon is no exception. Our Labor Day weekend saw hot weather, high winds coming down the Columbia Gorge, and forest fires. These all combined for a Monday afternoon and evening closed up in the house, watching orange skies and whipping trees, wondering what would happen next.
We were supposed to meet Auntie Katie and the Cousins at Laurelhurst Park for a picnic, but the winds were so strong we were afraid of being hit by falling branches, and the air tasted like the windy side of a campfire. We had to put it off until a better time.
Tuesday morning, I got out early to see what the night had brought. In our neighborhood, all the trees were still standing. There were lots of chestnuts (we call them cookers because they can conk you on the head!) down that weren’t there the day before. It must have been awful noisy when they were hitting the cars and trash cans.
In the park, the paths were strewn with leaves, needles and twigs shaken from the trees. A few branches were down, but the biggest was just a few inches in diameter and about six feet long. It was light enough for me to drag off the path so no one would trip over it.
The air had cleared up, as well. The winds had died down and the smoke had shifted.
But the fires are still burning places we know and love. Silverton, where we went to the Homer Davenport Festival, is being evacuated. The Santiam Highway by Sisters, where hundreds of artists make beautiful things, is ablaze. Medford, where dear friends’ families live, are going up in smoke, their livelihoods gone. Thousands of acres of ancient, beautiful forest are being destroyed by wind and fire and the humans dedicated to saving it seem powerless.
All this makes me very sad. The trees will grow back as they were, but not in my lifetime, or even yours. I will miss them.