As I write this, I am so sleep deprived that I question my own coherency. But these moments can be a fruitful source of artistic inspiration for me. For example, today, driving to work in a total mental fog, it suddenly dawned on me that my summer has been entirely shaped by water and smoke.
I planned my vacation assuming that British Columbia would once again be on fire, and it would once again send its smoke down to choke Seattle like some toxic gag gift. Boy, was I ever right about that. By the time we flew out of Sea-Tac airport, the sky was already turning brown, and I was having trouble breathing. (Thanks, Canada.)
As we flew past Mount Rainier, the tallest thing in the state of Washington at 14,410 feet, we would not have been wrong to assume that it would loom over the landscape. But it was so socked in with smoke that instead it looked like a tiny island floating on a putrid brown sea. We were lucky to be leaving Seattle, because the air quality here that week was worse than that of Beijing. (Incidentally, poor Beijing! I’d hate to be the world’s poster child for air pollution.)
Arriving in the Sonoran Desert, we spent the week highly focused on what a valuable commodity water is. The very air around you seems to suck moisture out of your body like a vampire. And then a monsoon would appear, like magic, and transform everything, from the landscape to the flora to the temperature. Water, man. What a miracle.
The value of water was also brought home to us by visiting Biosphere 2, which was originally created to determine how we might manage to survive on another planet. The importance of moisture to sustain life could not have been more emphasized. And then we went to Kartchner Caverns, an unbelievably gorgeous cave full of amazing formations that were created over thousands of years by the movement of water.
From there, we went to Glacier National Park, which happened to be on fire, so half the park was closed off from us, and smoke was in the air. And then it wasn’t, due to a torrential, icy downpour which left the mountains covered in snow. And of course, every single feature of this stunning landscape was carved out by the movement of glaciers, which are composed of frozen water.
Water and smoke: the elements of my summer. I wonder what my autumn will be composed of. Surreal.
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