Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Santa Fe burning

I arrived in Santa Fe yesterday. I had read about the fires, but like the tornadoes in Oklahoma, they were abstractions. The tornadoes were horrible; the fires were horrible. But horrible is an abstract emotion. It doesn't bite to the bone. That is when we say "terrible" instead of "horrible."

I could see the smoke before I got halfway from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.

There are two fires burning, in the Jemez Mountains to the west of Santa Fe and the Pecos to the east. They don't threaten the city itself, apparently, and so people go about their lives, though the pall of smoke is ever-present.

It was the sunset last night that really brought home the fires for me. I watched the sun go down for over an hour with a mixture of fascination, horror, and melancholy. It was terribly beautiful.

I am staying at a B&B and my hosts were patient with me when I asked where I could go to watch the sunset. I could see the melancholy in their eyes. The fascination, if they ever felt it, had faded with time. "The fire in the Jemez [to the west] does make for beautiful sunsets," one of them said sadly.

The smoke drifted ceaselessly upwards, as it has done for too many days. It rose into a wide pall that stretched across the entire sky, gradually darkening until it was impossible to distinguish the smoke from the on-coming night.

Tornadoes, fire, drought.... What will we dream in this on-coming night?

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