The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Oregon Fires

The winds have shifted.

And today the smoke from the fires in the western hills and valleys has turned back towards us here in the high country. The clear blue of this morning was gone by 3pm, replaced by an ever deepening yellow pall.

And now, under what should be the brilliant desert starlit sky, not one speck of discernible celestial bodies. Instead, the ashen tears of the heart of Oregon drift onto my upturned glasses for some time before I realize why I can‘t see.

To old Oregonians, these tiny towns that have burned the past few days mean far more than their products, or reputation. Few have ever lived in these places, but we have passed through them on our way anywhere worth going since we were old enough to read the signs on the road – the ones we‘ve always joked about not blinking lest we miss. Towns of only a few souls have been indelibly carved on our childhood memories of camp, of retreats and hikes to the mountains, or to the coast. For those of us also from rural towns, these were sisters to us. Their names have bound our memories to a way of life that crosses the distinctions between logging, farming, conservation, and harvest, living in a unique and practical connection with nature.

And now, they‘ve burned. Detroit, Blue River, Vida, Phoenix, and Talent. Otis. Gates. Tiny places all. But our places. The places visitors to our state don‘t know.

We knew them. We knew these places as part of us, and it hurts. It hurts to think we‘ve lost them. It hurts even more to think, so close to home, of our family‘s pain and loss – those who‘s lives and livelihoods are gone.

And here, by the Back Gate, its ash falls on my upturned glasses, and on all of Oregon. The night is quiet and still, receiving the haze like a somber funeral procession. Everything seems close, like loved ones who‘ve set their differences aside to come together.

The battle is nowhere near over. Even tonight, firefighters race to lay down firebreaks, to try and guide the fires into dead-ends, or back on itself to starve. Unbelievably, law enforcement is not just enforcing evacuation orders but stopping looters. Relief workers are feeding and housing evacuees. Families all over the state are opening their homes and pantries to their own whether they know them or not.

We are Oregonians. We know natural disasters, we know how to heal. We know how to plant, and how to grow back. We know when to pray, and when to act in practical terms. We will do all of those things in their time.

But as we fight tonight, and in the morning, and again the next day and the next until the threat is extinguished, it will be with a heavy heart.


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One Response to “Oregon Fires”

  1. Shelly says:

    Thank you for this writing. I am one that lived in a small rural area, drove down dirt roads between fields of garlic on one side and mint on the other. I worked on a mint distill and carried the strong scent home on my clothing. Slept in the oat fields with the heads of the oats rattling above me on sunny days. I drove through small towns near the rivers to collect agate and carnelian as they glimmers in the sun. When my children were little we would play “champion rock finders” and look for kildeer nests among the river bed. Oregonians are strong people, and come together to help one another. That tradition is not lost and I pray for Oregon . AGAIN, thank you for your writing. Made me cry and I needed.that.

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