Hazy, With a Chance of Lung Irritation

August, 2018

I don’t want to think about the smoke.

I started this post a couple of weeks ago, when we were–literally–in the thick of it. Then, the smoke cleared, miraculously, just in time for a long-planned trip with my cousins to Vancouver Island in British Columbia and then by ourselves around the Olympic Peninsula. The smoke would’ve put a real crimp on all of that, but thankfully it blew out to sea.

Now fall has arrived. To my mind, it’s not supposed to rain in September around here, but the weather pattern has other ideas and the rains are starting early. Time to stop worrying about watering my garden or outdoor plants. Time to take advantage of the softer earth for planting tulip bulbs and yanking out blackberry plants. Time to start worrying about the things we need to get done, such as putting down gravel where I park my electric car, before the world around us turns to mud.

And just like that, I’m thinking about rain and winter. Now that it’s over, I really, really don’t want to think about the smoke and the week or so I spent hardly leaving the house, with windows closed and Bill’s home-made air filter (actually an air filter for a heating system taped to a box fan) slowly turning brown as it pulled particles out of our indoor air.

Last year, the smoke forced me to cancel a planned backpacking trip, and a trip to a voice workshop in the Oregon woods. This year the timing worked out better but the smoke, while it happened, was just as bad. What’s frightening is: This is the new normal. Just like the harder rainfalls in winter where constant but light drizzle used to be the norm. This is watching climate change happen, as I did back in Woodstock, where winters got less snowy until we barely needed to plow, and summers got more rainy until the complex watering system we’d put in place for my vegetable garden went unused season after season. I thought the Pacific Northwest would be a great place to sit through climate change–plenty of water, mild winters, mild summers. And it is. But I didn’t plan for the smoke.

Things could be much worse for us of course. Our friends and family members in Southern California keep posting pictures of outdoor thermometers reaching well past 110 degrees. Back in the East, Hurricane Florence is slamming into North Carolina–two of Bill’s nieces who live there have fled home to New York. Compared to that, it seems churlish to complain about a week or two of smoke, upsetting as it is.

But it does make you wonder. What happens next?

Image: The view from our deck. The world beyond our backyard has pretty much vanished.

Like this post? Sign up here to get new posts by email.