I originally wrote this August 2015. But here we are again in the thick of the smoke.
Outside early this morning on my run, the air was thick with smoke. All across the western United States wildfires are blazing. Specifically where I live in southeastern Washington state, fires are burning and spreading, devouring acres, towns and lives. In my town the air has been hazy for well over two weeks. But this morning was the first time I felt like I was breathing it into my lungs. I watched the ash fall.
I thought about the smoke while I was running. How I can see it in the air all around me, it hides the familiar landscape from view. How it distorts and blurs the horizon. I thought about how wildfires are just that, wild. Unchecked. Uncontrolled. Unconfined. Destructive. How it is not the fire that is a bad thing, it’s the fact that it is unbridled.
I thought about how we look out at the horizon of life lately and see billowing smoke. Reports surfacing about the evil underbelly of Planned Parenthood. Political mud throwing season. Scandals at every turn. All of this is in the air that we are breathing in as a culture and some of us are not even aware of the smoke. It’s been slowing smoldering for so long, we don’t realize we are gagging. It has become the normal, tolerated, air quality.
I thought about how we are called to be lights (Matthew 5:13-16). Flames. Controlled. Illuminating. Burning.
I thought about how the brave men and women who, across the nation fighting to contain and stop the wildfires, set their own fire to stop the raging reckless wildfires. A line literally burned into the earth that says enough is enough. A line that says to the unchecked damaging wildfire, you simply can not burn here, we already set this on fire with our controlled flames. You can’t keep devastating our land.
I thought about all of that while my feet pounded the pavement and pandora sang in my earbuds.
It is all burning.
And one day, it really is gonna burn once and for all.
So here we are again, engulfed by the smoke. Breathing it in, choking on it, having it burn our eyes. A fire rages in Oregon along the Columbia River Gorge, set by reckless teens who were messing about with fireworks. Their stupidity has ramifications for thousands and thousands of people, not to mention the land itself. The stupidity of some affecting the whole. Sound shockingly familiar?
I can’t imagine that I would become used to this air quality. That I would find the haze, the thickness of it, the way it blocks the sun and sky to become a normal sight. But given enough time, it would. We’d forget what the sky was supposed to look like. Or foggily remember the good old days of blue sky and clouds – clear air.
My oldest says, “Mom! Why is the light red?” And there it is on our floor, sunlight streamed and filtered through ash and smoke coming in through the slats in the blinds – fire red. Parts of our nation are on fire. Parts of are nation are under water. Parts of our nation are looking at maps and forecasts, bracing for impact. All of us ready, wanting, longing for brighter days. Relief. Better still, for rescue.
It is all burning.
And one day, it really is going to burn once and for all.