People were already out of work due to COVID-19. Without revenue coming in, they were going through their savings, cutting corners where they could, selling things as necessary, going to friends or the governments for help.

Then the fires struck. In a day, everything except that which they had when they fled was gone.

Time to rebuild, but where are they going to go? The costs of housing and living is discussed, politics, and the chance for employment. Gazing across the American landscape, from the fires on the west coast to the hurricanes in the southeast and the cost of living and politics everywhere, options seem bleak.

A Year of Change

That smell of wet, burnt wood from a large fire bristles in my memories.

1971. I was fourteen. Dad had just returned from an overseas military assignment and took me in, a refugee from an unhappy time with Mom and her husband then. We lived in Dayton, Ohio, first in an apartment, and then in Wright-Patterson AFB base housing, in a place called Page Manor. We lived there from the beginning of July to the end of August. Then, an opportunity came up. He retired from the military to start a new chapter to his life.

He and I moved to West Virginia and he began his new job. Housing was limited so Dad bought a mobile home. A space was found for it in a trailer park. School started. A month later, the trailer burned up. Days were spent trying to recover what we could from the trailer. I carried a smoky odor around my clothes for months.

Dad’s co-worker let us crash at their place, but it was crowded, and the co-worker had a young wife and a new baby. Goaded by her disenchantment to be rid of us — nothing personal, and I understand it — we found a new place to live within a month.

Coincidentally, that was the same time that I met the girl who would become the woman who would become my wife. We married in 1975, less than four years after meeting. We’ve been together since then, although we’ve had separations and struggles. Amazing to think that I’ve known her since 1971 and have been married to her since 1975. It seems like a lot longer… Bet it seems even longer to her.

It’s all sharp in the head, strong in the memories, that period, a time of destruction, change, and beginning. I can’t say that I don’t look back; I’m always looking back, then turning around and looking forward, re-establishing where I’m at, and moving on.

Or trying to.

Saturday’s Theme Music

Oh, the cats.

Well, first, oh, the smoke.

Yesterday’s sun was a pale red imitation of its usual glory, keeping temperatures down, but, man, that smoke. Health experts are saying that Oregon’s smoke has gone off the chart and is the worse in the world in some places.

Because of all this, we were keeping the cats in. Tucker was good about it. After showing interest in leaving, he shrugged, swished his tail, washed his chest, curled up, and went to sleep. Boo was erratic, insisting on trying to leave before finally settling by my feet.

But young Papi…oh, boy. The ginger wonder insisted every few hours through the night, “I must leeeaaavvveee.” I finally gave in to him at eight thirty this morning. Then I had to mask up, go out and call him back.*

Which brings me to today’s music. It came to me as I walked around calling the boy. Here’s The Proclaimers with “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” from 1983.

*(And now, the ginger glory is sitting here, staring at me and mewing, “I must leeeaaavvveee…”)

Sirens of Fear

9:30, sirens erupted. First thought: speeders. More sirens. Second thought: ambulance. Or firetrucks. Both. More sirens. Worries…something big is happening. A shooting? Not been a shooting in our town in the eleven years of my residency time…which means nothing.

Some places are so acclimated to wailing sirens that people exhibit minimal reactions. We react, and wonder.┬áDidn’t help that I’d just been reading a post about mass shootings in America. The cycle between mass shootings is down to about 64 days. How long has it been since Orlando?

Sirens go on, so I worry about fire. Wildfires are our constant threat, unless it’s soaking wet in the winter. Friends are already out there battling blazes up north in Oregon and down in SoCal.

We’re a four mile walk from one end of town to the other. Our television and radio news is provided by the big city down the Interstate. The paper is local but doesn’t always report what prompted sirens. Sometimes all that we get are the police log entries and then depend upon the grapevine for explanations. The grapevine’s not dependable.

We went down to the Saturday Growers’ Market for produce. Nothing out there was burning. No bodies, no crashes, no smoke on the horizon, all good. Probably not for someone, and not for everyone. I can wish them the best, but sometimes that response seems so frail, empty and shallow.

Something was behind all those sirens.


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