Monday, September 04, 2006


Oregon is burning. At every horizon there is an uncanny bloom of haze, whose color defies description. Yellowy-lilac. A blurred mass of noncolorfast cohorts of the Assyrian, coming down like the wolf on the fold. The sun arrives jaundiced at the ground.

I suppose a lot of you don't know the smell of forest fires. It's a pleasant enough smell, itself, while the fires are distant, if you don't know what it means.

I spent some time this morning poring over detailed maps of Portland, looking for the stitched lines of railroads. There were none nearby, which is what I thought. So I am perplexed. Last night was hot and we had the windows open. And, as often, I heard the sound of trains running over tracks, the hollow booms of containers landing on loading docks, the heavy vibration, where sound shades into sensation, of wheels hitting joins in steel rails. But there are no trains. The nearest is miles away, near the river.

A few weeks ago the house rocked slowly, like a ship. Yet another earthquake.

One of the hottest summers in memory. A week or two ago I was surprised to see a sight I associate with June: between the slabs of a sidewalk, ants boiling up, a mass of red-glinting brown. Spilling over. A late hatch.

In the indefinite haze thunderclouds imagine themselves, and vanish, as I remember them doing in Texas. They don't belong here. They're not Oregon clouds.

It's time to go dead slow, and watch carefully, holding our souls carefully in our cupped hands. This is no time to be clever.

No comments: