The Effects of Wildfire Smoke

I'm trying to stay cheerful, but it isn't easy with all the smoke in the air outside and reruns on TV inside. I'm listening to loud music on iTunes in my earbuds, the perfect foil for a television show that would draw me in, draw me in, draw me in until I got lost in it.

I love my stories, but TV leaves me with a different feeling than audiotapes or books. And they're both different than hearing stories live or telling them.

I'm also tired. I think Seth, the old cat, has been quietly waking us all up because every morning this week, all of us has gotten up at the same wee hour.

Damn cat.

Damn smoke.

Damn TV.

I afraid I'm going to succumb to the siren call. I will sink into my recliner. I will be led. Someone will tell me a story. I could doze.

Any story I could tell now would be rife with wildfire, smoke lying from one end of the country to the other, smoke that holds people indoors, smoke that changes sunlight to an eerie orange glow, smoke and dry air that impels some of the grandmother trees near my trails to drop green cones as if letting go of all their hopes, smoke that fatigues everyone without them quite understanding why. I know we have to fight it, but I can't quite remember how.

Lyrics from Shinedown scream into my ear. I listen. "I created the sound of madness, wrote the book on pain. Somehow, I'm still here to explain that the darkest hour never comes in the night. You can sleep with a gun. When you going to wake up and fight? When you going to wake up and fight? When you going to wake up and fight? For yourself?"

The lyrics scream, but have to be set to flood my ears for me to hear them, have to repeat, repeat, and repeat the same message until I hear them, until I wake up.

Shinedown helps me turn a corner, the same way I did yesterday when I knew I had to change my attitude so I could encourage young children to learn. The smoke gets to them too. They're going to be the ones who solve this problem we bequeathed them. The least I can do is give them the foundations to find answers, math, science, and words that string together in a compelling way.

I'm going to make myself a mocha. I'm going to read a little more of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, more critical questions. I'm going to write poetry, quietly, and in another room. I'm going to water my plants and put clean water in the birdbaths on my deck. The birds have been lined up every day this week, for the gift of a cool bath.

I find solace in pouring new water into the bird baths, an ease from the drone of the TV, a shift from the strange light, a cleansing from the confusion of the smoke. I pour the water,

and look into the light it creates.

Thank you for listening, jules