No escape


08.30.14  My friend, Mary, asked what our escape plan would be if the fires reached us.  We told her we’d go out in the boat and just park in the middle of the lake.  In actuality, we have spent very little time thinking about forest fire reaching the property, but we were very nervous and jittery last night, knowing towns just an hour west and an hour east of us had been evacuated.  There was white ash falling on cars in our town.  A big cold front was headed our way with winds so strong there were power outages in Seattle, ferry service was suspended, and, once again, Interstate 90 was closed west of Spokane because of blinding dust storms.

I dropped Valerie and the three grandkids off at the airport in the afternoon.  After a week here at the smoky lake, she texted that it was wonderful to see blue sky up there as they headed home to California.  Unlike we adults, the kids never complained about the smoke and spent long afternoons jumping off the dock, kayaking, and the usual lakeside fun.  When they learned we could not have campfires, little Eamon brought out one of the battery-operated lanterns, and we all sat around it on the dock, telling ghost stories.  There were no sunsets with the smoke-filled skies obscuring the sun, but we stayed down there until we got cold or the talk turned to black bears now eating dropped fruit around the valley.  Eamon and I would lie in the hammock in the afternoons, with a clear view of the sailboat weathervane, and I taught him how to read the directionals.  He particularly liked E, since that was the first letter in his name, but I told him an east wind bode poorly for us, bringing hot winds down through the woods to the lake front.  We decided we wanted winds from S, but no matter how many times he reported the direction, there was little movement of the arrow–only the still, stagnant, smoke-clogged, brown air, draped over us, for the entire week.

It’s too early to hear what happened with the fires last night.  It smells like smoke, but I can see across the lake this morning and there were a few raindrops.  A second cold front, with the slim possibility of some rain, is due in here this afternoon, with more wind to stoke the fires.  At best, the forecast says the smoke will be “ventilated” by the cold front and be more patchy.  “An historic wildfire season” is this morning’s headline in the local newspaper.  The momentary escape from smoke is wonderful, but there is such uneasiness as we slog towards the close of this hot, dry summer.  In the night, listening to the waves and the winds, I found myself thinking of Billy Collin’s poem, The Willies:

“Public restrooms give me the willies.”
-Ad for a disinfectant

There is no known cure for them,
unlike the heebie-jeebies
or the shakes

which Russian vodka and a hot bath
will smooth out.

The drifties can be licked,
though the vapors often spell trouble.

The whips-and-jangles
go away in time. So do the fantods.
And good company will put the blues
to flight

and do much to relieve the flips,
the quivers and the screamies.

But the willies are another matter.

Anything can give them to you:
electric chairs, raw meat, manta rays,
public restrooms, a footprint,
and every case of the willies
is a bad one.

Some days flow with them, ride them out,
but this is useless advice
once you are in their grip.

There is no way to get on top
of the willies. Valium
is ineffective. Hospitals
are not the answer.

Keeping still
and emitting thin, evenly spaced
waves of irony
may help

but don’t expect miracles:
the willies are the willies.

1 thought on “No escape

  1. Mary

    Once again….the prose is so beautiful. I especially love thinking of you and Eamon in the hammock watching and learning about the weathervane I so love. Smoke doesn’t deter precious time with precious loved ones.


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