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Posts Tagged ‘fire’

Driving home from a friend’s house late the weekend before, I had to stop to get photos of a toasted cheddar moon and blazing red telluric Mars just above it. Little did I know that, courtesy of the fires raging in Washington, Oregon, and California, we soon wouldn’t be able to see the sky for a week or more.

The smoke began to funnel northward through the I5 corridor late in the week. At first it looked like fog. Then, on Saturday, September 12th, 2020, we woke up on an alien planet. It looked like Mars outside– yellow, hazy, dark, and foreboding.

This is the Edmonds ferry dock at Brackett’s Landing. The whole world looked like pea soup. You could barely see the ferry that had just left.

The ferry loomed like a ghost ship and was then sucked into a void. Normally you see an opposite shore. Today, there was nothing, just the edge of the world.

I zoomed in as the ferry plowed westward, but at best it seemed like an apparition in a sandstorm.

These photos have not been edited at all. This is how the beach actually looked that Saturday. You can see scuba divers coming in. I found it odd that people were still out diving, but does hazardous air quality affect visibility in the water enough for them to care?

Even the plants’ colors seemed off. Everything was saturated in this weird, otherworldly glow, like we had survived some nuclear horror and were slowly crawling out of our shelters afterwards.

As I snapped the photo of the famous orca, I mused how it appeared to be swimming in pollution. Then it hit me– how similar this is to the disgusting pollution our resident orcas live in. This is what we do to their world. This is a constant for them. Because we so callously pollute the water, each local orca could be considered a floating superfund site.

We used to rejoice when their babies were born. Now we just pray they survive the lack of traditional food sources and the industrial waste. They often don’t, and humanity goes on complaining about lack of entertainment during COVID, or rioting, or obsessing over the latest cosmetics, ignoring their cries.

I have stood here many times, but I’d never seen it look so foreign.

All day, no matter where I went in two counties, I noted an absence of birds. Far fewer birds than normal braved the rancid, tar-filled air. This crow and his seagull buddy foraged along the beach in tandem with few others in sight.

Yep. It was definitely Smoke Time.

Arriving at the north end of Lake Washington, this panorama seemed straight out of a sci fi movie. We were supposed to have temperatures nearing 80 degrees with near full sun, but last time I’d checked the temperature it was 58.

Walking out on the dock felt like walking out to the edge of a flat earth. You usually see land on all sides. Seattle, however, had disappeared. The middle of this scene had simply vanished. There was smoke, and then there was nothing.

Gazing down into the lake’s milfoil mass, I imagined one of those menacing merpeople from Harry Potter reaching up and grabbing me. No thanks.

These logs, although fixed, appeared to be swimming away from the yawing nothingness in the middle of the lake.

A gaggle of geese bobbed around like nothing was happening, the lighting exactly like the filters used to portray Mexico City in the movies. Ever notice that, that Mexico City always shows up in hazy brown or sepia tones on the big screen?

These old pilings looked like a pathway into another place or time.

Zooming in, no birds roosted here today. None flew through the air either. Aside from traffic noise, there was an eerie stillness.

One rebel Canada goose floated leisurely through the soup apart from the others.

As I was chatting with a local, we looked up and said, “what’s that?” It was the first time we’d seen the sun in a couple of days. It was a grapefruit-hued pinhole in the sky, barely piercing the blanketed glop of destruction.

The sun’s reflection in the water was just as bizarre.

At times there was a blush or rose color playing upon the undulating mocha of the lake.

While forecasters had originally said the smoke would start moving out earlier this week, that didn’t happen. The Seattle area was enveloped in a dense yellow fog again this morning… except it wasn’t fog. By afternoon we saw a bit of sunlight, prompting me to go to Juanita Beach in Kirkland to see what I could see.

Sure enough, there was the sun, sparkling down upon the latte-like lake. Yet it seemed to be a sun from John Carter, Pelelandra, or Tatooine.

The ducks were happy enough. But there were still no birds in the air.

It seemed like dusk, not afternoon.

Beyond the boardwalk there was just a fisherman and faux fog. No Seattle. No 520 bridge. Just empty space, because the west is on fire and we continue to pray for rain when there otherwise would have been summer through the end of September.

Smoke veils the air like souls in drifting suspension, declining the war’s insistence everyone move on.

Jayne Anne Phillips

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Oso 2016 21

On March 22nd, 2014, a landslide killed 43 people in Snohomish County, Washington. Nearly as many homes were destroyed as a section of hillside fell away. You might remember the following posts from that time, Help Oso Mudslide Victims, Oso Aid, and Oso’s Geological Hazards.

It’s been more than two years since this horrific disaster during which the local community demonstrated a powerful loyalty to their neighbors. The cries of Oso Strong and 530 Strong rang for months as they worked alongside rescue and recovery crews. The Oso Community Chapel, among many other entities, rallied to aid survivors and to help everyone involved process the loss.

It was time to pay my respects. I’d been within a few miles of the slide the week after it happened. There have been plenty of pictures of it. But I needed to see it for myself.

The drive from the town of Arlington seemed to take forever. Approaching the site were numerous red-lettered signs warning people not to park on the shoulders or make any u-turns for two miles. 530 is a two lane, rural highway with freeway speeds. But I was unsure where it was legal to stop so drove up to this spot first and turned around.

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Driving back west, I saw a turnout on what used to be Steelhead Drive. It was clearly a memorial for the victims, so noting the absence of no parking signs at this particular point, I stopped for a couple of minutes. This is what I saw.

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That used to be a neighborhood. This was a somber sight.

The site is secured by a gate that contains messages of remembrance and hope. I did not get a clear shot of it but someone did a beautiful job of making these wooden signs.

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People left mementos. Again, the picture is fuzzy, but the sign in the center of these lovingly placed items says, “believe.”

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This is still Steelhead Drive.

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The magnitude of this sorrow made for a heavy atmosphere.

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There are several rows of decorated young trees to the right of the gate. I’m assuming there’s one for each person who lost their life but I didn’t count.

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Across the road another American flag flies proudly.

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A couple of more shots while leaving the site. This is such a severe scar on a beautiful area.

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Another symbol of unity and pride.

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Stopping by the Oso Community Chapel on the way back, I was delighted by its cheery newer paint job.

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Signs of community pride are literally everywhere, including on the church’s bulletin board.

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The fire department looks quiet now. This was a hive of activity in the Spring of 2014, with vehicles spilling out of the parking lot as well as up and down the highway.

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There are still yellow ribbons, flowers, and wreaths for miles, in people’s yards, around road signs, and here outside the fire department.

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Statements of strength aren’t difficult to find along this stretch.

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This sign captured what I felt best. These people and the first responders and volunteers involved were a formidable force. They mobilized quickly and what they accomplished was flat out heroic. But many are still fighting their way back psychologically, financially, and otherwise. The photos I show here are the sanitized, time-tempered version of the muddy hell that they were working in for so long.

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Please keep the Highway 530 community in your hearts as they continue to heal. And thank you to the many people who gave so generously of their time and talents to help this community. I know that some of you are among them.

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If you make one mistake in this life, let it be loving too much. –Jim Hayford

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

 

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