Smoke to the west. No black ominous billows, just a brownish tinged haze mixed with dingy white puffy clouds rising into the clear blue summer sky. A brushfire most likely, or maybe grass. Winds are particularly light at 5 mph. No cause for alarm, fire fighters will have the blaze extinguished in short order.
This is the fourth fire this week within sight of my house. The others were put out in less than a day causing no major damage, rather remarkable considering the high wind area and extremely dry conditions. This is all typical for the arid climate of the central Oregon high desert, but this year has been fairly mild with relatively few fires. The surrounding landscape is only slightly marred with the grayish black sooty remains of sparse vegetation.
And now, the September air is turning cooler reminding us that the fall rains will be returning soon, marking an end of the fire season, a.k.a. summer. The good news is that we’ve all survived with our personal property mostly intact. The bad news is winter is on its way, which means snow – and lots of it. The frozen white crystals will cover the ground, blanket the sagebrush and juniper trees and decorate the distant mountain ranges, creating a picturesque scene of majestic grandeur.
Admittedly, the snow is pretty but snow brings its own set of problems - the cold, the slick roads and resulting wrecks, the roof cave-ins, and avalanches, which can potentially destroy entire areas in an instant. Yet, despite its foreboding and destructive nature, snow is a necessary evil. It provides the high desert with a vital water supply for the coming summer months in a region prone to draught. Aside from the usual benefits of drinking, cooking and cleaning, we’re gonna need the water – to put out the fires!