Speaking of Burning Mountains…

Photo by Elisheva Sterling. license: cc-by-sa
Photo by Elisheva Sterling. license: cc-by-sa

So, here I am in the midst of writing stories about a world aflame, and what should happen in real life but the state I’m in is literally on fire. There are some 100 wildfires in the region right now. It looks from the map that 23 of them are currently considered “large fires”.

Driving from my mother’s house in Eastern Washington to my brother’s house 25ish miles away in Northern Idaho, the rolling wheat and lentil fields seemed to be hugged by a brown smog. Honestly, the color of the sky is terrifying. The air smells like mix between a campfire and burning dust in a heater that hasn’t been used since the previous winter. I’m not sure if the anxiety I’m feeling is because of the actual sensory experience or if it’s because of my wild imagination and all the various things my mind connects with skies that look like this.

Yes, I’ll fully admit, I’m terrified of the damage that we’ve done to the world and the fact that we’ve weakened the systems that provide us with a healthy environment so badly. These fires, or rather some of the factors that have led to so many and such vicious fires, are a result of our actions. The fires themselves are also potentially a cause of even more problems. All that carbon going back into the atmosphere all at once. The loss of all those trees to sequester the carbon that we’re pumping into the atmosphere. When I see those reddish brown skies I fear for a day when the air is always thick with things that are bad for our lungs, not just in one place but maybe everywhere.

I’m sort of surprised and grateful that I’m not having any breathing problems with all that smoke. Just a couple of weeks ago I ended up in the ER because of my asthma, but today I’m having no troubles at all. Do the gods protect us from breathing problems in the midst of such emergencies? Part of me says, “Of course not!” The other part of me thinks maybe sometimes they do.

Image by Elisheva Sterling. cc-by-sa. This is not dusk. It's a smoke-tinged sky.
Image by Elisheva Sterling. cc-by-sa.
This is not dusk. It’s a smoke-tinged sky.
Which gods are looking on this and thinking that this is a good thing? Which ones are looking at these fires and thinking that they should be stopped. Do the gods battle amongst themselves to decide whether we should all choke on smoke or be given a reprieve?

Most Pagans I know shy away from attributing bad things to any gods. They aren’t here to hurt us. They aren’t responsible for our ill fortunes. And I agree with that on one level. But on another… well, all of reality exists in layers. From one perspective the fires are simply set by lightning, wild sparks, a cigarette tossed carelessly to the ground, or a small plane that crashed. From another perspective, the hands of the gods or the hands of the Spirit Masters are directly involved.

Earlier this summer I was worried about the pine beetle infestation that my son and I saw in every forest we visited. It’s been really horrible this year, destroying a huge number of trees from California all the way up into Canada. There was one place in Oregon where it looked as if beetles had killed around half the trees. It was like a fire, leaving trees limbless and blackened. And now this.

Perhaps the fires will kill some of the beetles. Perhaps they will save more trees. I don’t know. I can only hope. And pray.

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