The Smoke of Ought-Eight


Firefighting agencies say there are over 1,000 wildfires burning in California right now. About 800 of them started last Saturday and Sunday as dry thunderstorms swept over the northern two-thirds of the state. We’re a long way from any fires here. There’s a big one burning about 125 miles north of us, near Clear Lake, and two very large blazes in the mountains that rise up from the Big Sur coast–maybe 150 miles south-southwest of here. Still, the smoke is everywhere. Morning, noon, and evening, the sun shines with a filtered light, and the acrid smell of scorched brush hangs in the air. The picture above is out in front of our house at 7 a.m., after the sun had been up nearly two hours. I’ve been here long enough that I can spin graybeard yarns, but still it’s true: There’s been nothing quite like this here–this pall of smoke that just hangs here day after day–in the 30-some years I’ve lived here.

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