Friday, July 15, 2005

The World On Fire

I awoke today to the smell of smoke.

At first: fear. I walked around the house, fearing a part of it was smoldering and was a danger to my wife and my dogs. No smoke alarms went off and the inside of the house was clear.

Next: curious. I looked outside to see very hazy air. A fire in the neighborhood? Not likely, this smelled like a campfire or a forest fire. Ahhh, a forest fire. We were safe. Well, maybe. Someday the Anchorage hillside will have a major fire which will be the biggest emergency we will face next to another 1964-proportion earthquake (9.2 if you ask Mr. Richter). The fact that no one had called me into work meant Anchorage was probably safe.

I had errands to do and driving alone in the car causes the irresistible urge to do one of two things: sing along to the stereo or talk on the cellphone. I know, I know, cellphone plus driving equals much increased chance of an accident. Still the urge was strong as was my curiosity about what exactly was on fire. I did what I criticize others for: I called the police to find the answer to a non-police question.

I cut myself a little slack since I’m, in effect, calling friends to see what they know. And Kara Sr. knew. What was on fire? The world.

Okay, not exactly the world but 16,000 acres of forest south of Anchorage. The winds were such that the smoke sits in the Anchorage bowl like an electric blanket completely covering an afternoon sleeper. Hot, hard to breathe through, and oppressive.

I have since heard it was a lightning strike that started the fire. No surprise. Last night we had some hellacious lightning and thunder in the Anchorage area. This particular fire started a week or more ago, but last night was a great reminder of real weather.

In the Lower 48, I hear tell, places get thunder than lightning all the time. Anchorage, not so much. I don’t know whether it’s that it doesn’t get all that hot here usually or that the proximity of the mountains to the ocean might play a role, but Anchorage doesn’t even get real rain.

It rains quite a bit but it’s usually what I refer to as “excuse me” rain, just tiny sprinkles. It can sprinkle all day every day for weeks but we usually don’t get Lower 48 rain, what I refer to as “chubby rain” (an homage to the movie Bowfinger, which if you haven’t seen you need to, for some many reasons including there’s a lovely scathing joke about Anne Heche, who dated Steve Martin for two years before she decided she was a lesbian for publicity reasons). “Chubby rain” comes in big drops and so hard that it bounces off of the ground when it hits.

Last night, just after we went to bed, I heard the first small rumble of thunder pass the house. I love thunder. Perhaps it’s a guy thing or perhaps it’s just an Eric thing but when I hear thunder and the clouds are huge and dark and ominous I want to run outside and scream “I am the god of thunder!” at the top of my lungs. Usually I refrain from doing it. Usually.

A couple minutes later a much larger crash of thunder came and startled my wife from deep sleep to sitting straight up in bed. Bailey, our medically complicated dog, hid her head in the closet with her hind end sticking back out into the bedroom. Sugar, our more aloof dog, jumped up onto our bed and immediately wanted to sit on my pillow and shake from fear. We managed to get her off of our heads and between us where we petted her until she eventually calmed down enough to jump off the bed and lay down on her blanket near the closet halfway in which Bailey now slept.

I love the way thunder crashes over you; the way you can hear it approaching and hear it washing past you. I’m a big fan of dramatic weather.

Next came the “chubby rain.” It rained like crazy last night; bouncing, ricocheting, splashing, pummeling rain. Ah, freshness.

Then to awake to the world on fire, or at least to the smell of the world on fire, was appropriate if not necessarily well received.

Nature has so much drama that I think I can resist from creating my own drama for a couple of days. If I can let all of my stress wash away with the “chubby rain” and drift past like the smoky haze then I believe I will achieve some calm which has eluded me the past few weeks.

I can fret and worry and obsess but I cannot stop the fire or the rain. There’s freedom in that knowledge.


john cowart said...

You'd love Florida, lightening capital of the world!

Anonymous said...

I to and a fan of Loud & Bright weather. When ever we get the storms here I run out with my camera, and hope against all hopes that I can get the shot of a bolt against the dark clouds. I have family down in the Lower 48, and they think that I am crazy (not that far from the truth), a storm came in, the thunder crashed, lightening flashed, and here I am with a digital recorder and camera running out with an umbrella into the Fat Rain weather. I think that being a storm chaser would be fun. Maybe that is what I will do when I grow up ... (My wife laughs every time I say that).