I don’t know about where you are, but where I am we haven’t seen the sky in over a week.  Now, it is not unusual to go a week or twenty without seeing the sky in Seattle, but it’s usually because of cloud cover.  This time it’s not clouds keeping our city in a cloak of ho-hum; it’s smoke from forest fires.

Here’s tonight’s sunset from my deck, on a cloudless night.


It all feels rather post-apocalyptic.  It’s weird to go outside to grill and not hear the neighbor kids laughing in their back yard, not even hear the birds in the trees, and then you hear a siren in the distance and it sounds like the apocalypse.  You check the grill to make sure it’s not human forearms you’re grilling or something.

At dinner the other night, our friend’s little girl saw the sun through the clouds, a sick, pinkish looking thing, and said, “Look, Mommy!  The moon!”

It’s been hard to be so inside these past days.  I ran errands today around noon and was surprised to see other people also driving cars around, and not a bunch of rusty, old cars abandoned all along the streets.  Then I drove by a park.


And our public pool.


And our baseball field.


Notice anything missing?  Like, all the people?

Through it all, I can’t shake the feeling that I somehow made this happen.  All those years burning up gas, years of plastic-wrapped plastic toys that eventually ended up in the garbage, the times I didn’t recycle, the times I used paper towels instead of dryers, the times I turned on the fire instead of putting on a sweatshirt.  All the stuff I’ve thrown away and burned and added to this thing called global warming that has led to wildfires in Canada that has sent down smoke to our city.  Our green city, known for its crisp air, its cleansing rains.  What I wouldn’t give for a drizzle.  Why did we ever call rain dreary?

Leo walked from the car to the store yesterday and said, “My eyes can smell the smoke, Mom.”

Seattle’s air has become as unhealthy as Beijing’s air, which I find shocking.  I’m not shocked that Seattle’s air is that unhealthy but that there are people in the world who live in and breathe this air every day of their lives.  How ids that okay?  What is happening to our beautiful Earth?

Even though we can’t smell the smoke, there are miniscule pieces of ash in the air that can get into our lungs and our blood.  It’s easy to ignore until you realize your throat is sore and your eyes are stinging and your kids all have headaches.  It’s easy to ignore until you see a piece of ash float by like a sinister snowflake and you realize this piece of ash used to be part of something.  A magnificent tree in a forest, a house, a deer that didn’t know which way to run.  Then you realize that this gray haze we are living in is much more than a week of canceled soccer camps and closed pools.  It’s not a warning of a scary future to come; it’s a sign that today, right now, it’s happening.  And yes, we have something to do with it.  I’m not sure how much or exactly what, but I know that we are both the problem and the victims of the problem.

I wish there were something bigger I could do than switch to paper straws or try to buy local.  I wish I could go outside and yell at the smoky sky, “Okay!  I’m sorry!  I’ll be better!”  And like that, the sky would turn blue again and the world would go back to normal.

But then, we’re not supposed to go outside. 

So I’ll just sit here inside and shake my fist at…at something.  I will do a lot of helpful fist shaking and eventually, hopefully, maybe this smoke will go away.


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