there was smoke in the distance behind me, a thin purple haze you might mistake for clouds if you hadn't heard the news alerts. another fire in this weekend of fire and wind, more evacuations, this one costing 4 homes, just a small one in the big scheme of national news, but so oh-not-small to the people who'd built those homes, so oh-not-small at all to the man unable to save even photos, his son on tv saying all gone, all gone.
they started thursday night, i think, maybe friday, i've lost count of the days and all my handwritten notes are at home and i am at work; the first day is unimportant now anyway. the tv said a fire here, a small one there, and i'd listened and paid not much attention - it's been a summer of heat and wind and grassfires and defensively watering trees and lawns in the face of no rain - but this wind was the edge of a hurricane and it came in and didn't stop. that delicious cool wind i stood in saturday night proved unrelenting. it blew dust and dirt past my open front door, huffed and puffed limbs from the trees, and by sunday afternoon the list of fires was a constant scrawl across the bottom of local tv stations. 2 dead. houses gone. by monday the area near austin had lost hundreds of homes.
but not here. we were surrounded by fires sprawled in all directions, but here it was only windy and dry and the skies were that perfect september blue, the temperatures in the wonderful high 80s. it felt not quite real if you ignored the smoke.
by tuesday morning we could no longer do that. i awoke to the smell of something burning and walked outside to find the streets swimming in smoke from those not-quite-so-distant-as-i'd-thought fires, held low to the ground by the cool night air, spreading out instead of up, and the news kept saying listing fires, more evacuation centers, showed people escaping with pets and pictures. the image of a horse in the bed of a pickup truck stays with me. safe.
we are still surrounded, but the fires are on the county edges, in the countrysides, far enough away to not give worry. the winds have died down, but the humidity is low and pine trees are perfect fuel for flames. this long hot dry dry summer continues.
katie stood in a sprinkle of rain sunday.
it will come.