I stood on a hotel balcony with my father when I was eleven and watched a mountain in Washington state burn. We were on our way to Canada for summer vacation. I’d never seen anything like it. The air acrid, a line of vehicles winding down a dirt road as people evacuated their homes. What would you even take as you fled? I could only think of my dog. A dog and a girl running from a burning neighborhood.
Last night, the air was so dense with smoke that the sun showed red. It hurt to breathe. I kept each intake shallow. Surface breathing. Hurried the dogs in and out of the yard when I got home. And then news of three firefighters killed in a lovely little town north of us.
Our deer are starving. Our farmlands burning. It’s different when you’re not a tourist. When this is your home burning. When you’ve spent half your life on military bases, and finally have a home of your own, and then listen day after day to sirens wailing.
People keep talking about the apocalypse. The end times. The sky black. The sun red. Our lungs aching. The smell of fire is oppressive. My lizard brain feels cornered by it. I pace. I worry. Every day I look for rain in the sky. Those clouds, there, could they bring rain? Where? Where is the rain?
My beautiful state. And all of our neighbors. Fires up and down the coast. Every map lit up.
I dream of snow. I dream of snow piles and rain gullies. Of the river raging through. I dream of cooler temperatures. And firefighters at ease. Of deer eating summer fruit from the trees. Moose and bear soaking in rivers and lakes instead of some fucking swimming pool.
My homeland. My homeland is burning.