Last week, Governor Kate Brown invoked the Conflagration Act because of all the forest fires burning in Oregon. This impressively named law means that state resources can be used to fight local fires, and it makes sense. A fire that starts in one county burns straight through to the next, and there is no time to gather local forces.
Portland isn’t in any danger, though we suffered a bit from the drifting smoke, as well as the heat and dry air that has helped the fires grow. Our sunshine was an apocalyptic orange and folks with lung problems stayed inside.
I have grown up with a complicated relationship with fire.
Going camping as a child, I learned to lay a fire in a stove or fire ring and nurture it until it caught. I learned to make sure it was out by pouring on water and stirring the ashes. I have loved being able to create heat and light. It is a very primal skill.
I enjoyed it when, one winter in Salinas, our electricity went out and we had to depend on our fireplace for heat, even using it to make tea.
On a more creative note, Hale Pele, our favorite Tiki Bar in Portland, uses fire and cinnamon to delightful effects in making cocktails.
And, of course, Hanukah candles warm our hearts in the dead of winter.
But fire has also given me some nasty burns when an old gas oven flared up, or when I fell over backwards into a bonfire.
Let’s say I love fire enough to run towards it, but am cautious enough to stop before I get too close. Not a bad lesson for most kinds of relationships. Closeness, but boundaries. Appreciation, but care.
Stay safe, stay happy.