It’s been cold when I wake up for the last several nights, and we’ve had a brief rain – so this idea of autumn is not a fluke. “Fire season” is almost over.
Like the mother in PARTLY CLOUDY, I used to hate the idea of a season for wildfires. Fire doesn’t seem like a natural part of the natural world – but it is. Fires, insects, and tree blights are part of a natural cycle of replenishment and growth in a forest. Lightning ignited wildfires used to simply burn, but now people go through a lot of effort to make sure that don’t … and without wildfires to scour the forest floor to thin out the deadfalls and competing vegetation, to encourage certain tree species seeds to fall and certain flowers to bloom, to break down and return certain nutrients to the soil, the forest isn’t as strong and healthy of an ecosystem as it needs to be.
Even knowing all of this, it’s hard not to hate the fires. The climate changes that create severe drought make them worse, and the fires are burning hotter and longer, creating a changed landscape and ecosystem as trees don’t have time to grow back before the next big blaze. On top of all the other changes we’re facing as a society, this comes with the additional trauma of people losing their homes. It isn’t within our natures not to fight for what is ours, and it’s going to take a lot to move past our ingrained responses to fire and loss. But every time this seems like a hopeless tangle, I remind myself that human beings are flexible and creative, and because we are also deeply stubborn creatures, we will figure out a way around this. We’ll relearn managing the forests and learn new ways of using water and our natural resources to everyone’s benefit. We will manage this. We don’t have any choice.
In the meantime, we welcome autumn – a chance to breathe and recover, and hopefully, to await the rain.