Tag Archives: forest fires

Mountain Air – smoke and writing

GJ in the Tuolumne River

I returned this week from a solitary trip to the mountains, where I stayed in a cabin off the grid for four nights. I could easily write a book about my five days of journeying and lodging, probably a philosophical novel. Or would it be a how-to treatise with packing lists and suggested activities and prayers?

I’m always saying, “I could write a book about ____.” And it just occurred to me that I am always writing, as I endlessly analyze events as to their significance, and organize my thoughts, composing and reworking the lines in my mind. If I have a pencil or keyboard handy and hands free I might scribble down some of it, often in a notebook or in the margin of the book I’m reading. But the process has begun long before that.

It wouldn’t be a lie exactly, when people ask me what I do, to say, “I write.” Because I’m a process-oriented type, I can’t see a book ever resulting from my work, but no pressure — no one is clamoring for a discussion of the things in my pocket or the interrelatedness of the last ten books I read.

I thought I might do some sort of scribbling during my getaway, but I didn’t make much visible progress on my “books.” Many things that are fascinating to my self-centered self consumed my hours and my thoughts, and I do want to reflect on some of that here, hopefully without rambling on and on.

Evening with brown haze in north

Today I just want to mention one sad thing about my experience: Smoke. The brown cinders from that horrid Rim Fire, the largest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada, had drifted south and made the air murky around Our Lake. One day was so bad that my eyes and throat and head hurt from the pollution. But I didn’t have to come home early, because it cleared up a little by the next morning.

Another bad air day

I can’t imagine what the landscape will look like, the next time we visit our beloved Yosemite and drive through the scorched forests. One thing I know: On August 25th the fire destroyed the Berkeley City Camp Tuolumne where my sisters and I as children vacationed with our grandparents.

It has been many decades since I did water ballet in that swimming hole in the Tuolumne River, or even visited the camp, and it won’t change my life that it is wiped out. But what a heartache for the people who spent dozens of formative summers in the context of that special place, and those for whom the rustic cabin life in an idyllic setting was a very recent tradition and expectation. I’m very thankful it was only smoke that invaded our family’s lake and village.

Camp Tuolumne in the old days