We are not experiencing as much smoke from Canadian forest fires as much of the rest of the east coast of the U.S. has been. Still, there were moments yesterday when I looked away from my computer screen wondering if I had lost track of time because it had gotten dark. Or maybe a storm was coming?
Yes, a storm is coming, but it won't be an easy thunderstorm, the summer kind that blows up quickly and only lasts an hour.
Nothing like apocalyptic pictures from New York City and DC to bring out my apocalyptic side. For years (decades?), I've been saying that future generations will wonder why we focused on such minor matters as abortion and other attempts to legislate bodies (like with the current arguments over the bodies of trans people, both minors and adults), when such a huge horror was bearing down on us. How could we not notice?
My non-apocalyptic friends might say, "What horror?" Even being in the midst of a global pandemic might not have seemed like such a horror if we happened to be lucky. Those who have never had to evacuate don't understand how eerie it is to be facing a storm that doesn't care about all that you have built up and restored, of the wealth stored in your modest house.
Perhaps I am not writing a blog post, but a poem. Some of it will make its way into a poem, to be sure. But poet Dave Bonta has already written what seems to be a perfect forest fire poem. I started playing with lines that visualize the planet as wanting to reshape its body in various ways, but I'm not sure I can pull it off.
The planet excising parts of itself as a cancer--fairly standard imagery now. The planet practicing plastic surgery has a nice alliteration. The planet as feeling trapped in a wrong body and excising the parts that don't fit--forest fire as corrective surgery--perhaps this imagery is too transgressive?
But maybe we want transgressive imagery. Maybe in an era of apocalypse, transgressive imagery is what we need to shake us out of our complacency.
Living in the most southeastern part of Florida, cleaning up flood after flood after hurricane after flood, I always wondered how people could be complacent. Now that I live in the mountains, where climate risk is much lower (not true of all mountains, I know, but true of mine), I understand complacency. Yesterday, it took me a few hours to wonder if the haze outside might be more dangerous than I thought. I looked up a different chart from a different government agency, one that measures fire risk to lung health. Our particulate levels weren't particularly good, but for those of us without breathing issues, it was fair.
I looked up my old address in DC. This morning, the code is purple. I am glad I am not there. My air quality here in the NC mountains is green.
A new apocalypse, a new metric to be learned, new charts to follow, new numbers rising and falling. But don't turn your back to the ocean, which is always rising, and faster than we've been told.