True Reform?

I just did a Google search to see when fire season is in California. What I learned from this website is that it is easier to say when fire season isn’t. The answer to that is May. The rest of the year is pretty much the danger zone. That’s rather sobering.

Fire seasons have gotten longer and longer and and have become progressively more devastating over the years, due to global warming. With increasing droughts, increasing heat, and increasing winds, we’ve got a recipe going on that makes for a heaping helping of flame and destruction. Not good.

And fighting fires isn’t for sissies. Anyone who does so is putting his or her life at risk. It’s a heroic sacrifice.

Sadly, there seem to be fewer and fewer heroes in this world. Because of this, we’ve had to rely on a population that already tends to be stuck with the dirty jobs: inmates. But according to this article, there are fewer inmates to draw upon because there has been a reduction in low-level offenders being housed in the prisons. And now, due to the pandemic, a lot of prisoners have been released early, reducing the pool of potential firefighters even further.

So Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California, recently signed California bill AB2147. Basically, it gives some prison firefighters the opportunity to have their records expunged after they’ve served their sentences. This means, for the first time, they’ll be able to apply for any of 200 jobs that require a state license, including, of course, firefighters. And they’ll certainly be able to say they have experience.

This bill won’t apply to people who commit murder, kidnapping, rape, arson or any felony that’s punishable by life imprisonment or death. That makes sense to me. But I have mixed emotions about this entire endeavor.

On the one hand, it seems as though, for the first time, someone has created a pathway to actual reform for prisoners. We all know that once you’re convicted, it’s nearly impossible to get a decent job. In my opinion, that leaves no other opportunity for survival than crime. Now there will be opportunities. I think this is fantastic.

On the other hand, let’s face it. California isn’t doing this out of the goodness of its heart. They’re desperate for firefighters. And their desperation is only bound to get worse. So, plain and simple, they need these guys to want to put their lives at risk. And they’ll do it. And many will die in the attempt.

But I honesty don’t see any other options. I just hope they don’t start arresting more people for petty b.s., simply to feed them into that firefighting meat grinder. That would be really bad.

Bad, but conceivable. So, yeah, I’m worried that this bill could backfire. (Sorry. Had to.)

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This Feels Like the End of the World

The west coast is on fire. Fortunately, none of those fires are very close to Seattle. Yet. But all that west coast smoke got blown into the Pacific Ocean, hit an induction current, and headed right to Puget Sound like a freight train from hell. We now have some of the worst air quality on the planet. Poor Oregon has it even worse. I’m struggling to breathe.

The day before yesterday, when I got home from work, I was coughing, my heart was pounding, and I had a headache. Air matters. I kept having to fight down a panic attack when I felt as though I wasn’t getting enough.

My inner child was freaking out. “You’re gonna DIE!!!” “Help me!” I was on the verge of tears for most of the day. This feels like the end of the world.

Yesterday I brought a respirator to work. A respirator. And we thought masks were bad. I would never have predicted that I’d be relying on a respirator. This is not the world I had planned to live in. The smoke has blocked out the sun. It’s a perpetual twilight.

But with time to think, I was able to compare my situation to others. Not being able to breathe is terrifying. I thought of my late boyfriend, Chuck, who had to fight for every breath he took. When he was having a really bad asthma attack, he’d want me to put my hand on his heart and talk calmly to him, so he wouldn’t freak out. “You’re breathing. You’re breathing…” I can still hear myself saying it. I learned to say it even before I was fully awake. Now I get it. I get it, and I’m heartbroken at the thought of it.

I also feel even worse about George Floyd. Lying there in the street, being choked to death by a cop. He was looking at the crowd, who were desperately trying to talk the cop out of this, but the crowd, for good reason, was too afraid to physically intervene. How frightened and alone he must have felt as he died.

I feel for those in industrialized China who have lived with this air quality every single day for years. It’s a travesty.

I’m outraged for those prisoners in Guantanamo. Many are still there, and some have been waterboarded more than 80 times. What animals are we to do that? It has long been proven that torturing doesn’t yield valuable information.

I weep for all the people who have died of COVID-19, each one struggling for breath as they went. And they had no loved ones by their side to put their hands on their hearts and talk calmly to them. So much of this has been unnecessary.

Winter is coming and the fires will die down, but we’ll still have to deal with this pandemic. In the best of times, I struggle with depression during these Pacific Northwest winters. The isolation. Not seeing the sun for weeks on end. The raw, wet, unrelenting rain. Now add a heaping helping of COVID-19 on top of that, and I fail to see how any of us will make it to spring with our sanity intact.

Please, God, do not visit an earthquake upon us right now. I can’t take another thing. Stop 2020. I want to get off.

Stay safe everyone. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Vote.

Me, just trying to breathe. 9/12/20

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How Do You Live with Yourself?

A friend of mine recently shared a link to an article entitled, “Black woman attacked by men wielding lighter fluid, racial slurs”, and I was horrified by it. Four men, with a squirt bottle of lighter fluid, doused this girl’s face and neck and then set her alight. I mean, they lit this girl, this total stranger, on fire.

Here’s what I really can’t comprehend about hate crimes, especially ones this horrific: how do you live your life after doing these things? Seriously. You are now a person who has set someone on fire. This is now an indisputable fact about you. There’s no getting away from that.

What’s next? Do you go to McDonalds and order yourself a happy meal? Do you go home and binge watch Game of Thrones? Do you look in the mirror while flossing your teeth? Are you going to put, “I permanently disfigured someone” on your resume? Where do you go from there?

I get it. Alcohol was involved. I get it. This was a radical right hate group. I get it, these were 4 white boys in that stupid zone between age 15 and 25. But at the end of the day, and for the rest of their lives, they’re 4 guys who just set someone ablaze. She will have to live with those undeserved scars, whereas the self-inflicted stains on those horrible boys’ very souls will be detectible by them alone.

Is it really possible to find your way through life without a moral compass? Is it possible for 4 guys, completely devoid of guilt or shame, to have found each other, and the result of that relationship was this scheme? Do you really fill up a squirt bottle with lighter fluid while thinking, “Yeah, this is a very good idea!”

How does that work? Animals. May they never experience a single good second for the rest of their miserable existence. If there is a hell, they’ll be burning there someday.

And after I wrote this, a guy intentionally mowed down two protesters in the interstate here in Seattle. And so it goes. On and on…

Zippo-Slim-1968-Lit

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Forever Changed by George Floyd

I’m alone at work on my drawbridge. It’s 8:30 in the morning and the sky outside is so dark grey that it feels like the sun had gone down. Lightning and thunder crash all around me. The sideways rain disorients me. It’s as if gravity no longer exists.

I came to expect this kind of weather every day Florida, but I can count the number of times I’ve seen lightning in the Pacific Northwest on one hand, even though I’ve been here for nearly 6 years.

It feels like my nerves are on the surface of my skin. Even a slight breeze feels agitating. The atmosphere is highly charged. And this fucking pandemic doesn’t help. I’m so over it. I’m so done.

Masochist that I am, I decide to read the news. It seems like the whole world is on fire due to what happened to George Floyd. I already know it’s about police brutality and injustice, and I’ve been righteously indignant for days now. But for some reason I feel the need to actually see the video. I feel like I should bear witness.

Don’t watch it, unless you’re okay with being fundamentally changed. But watch it, because we all need to be fundamentally changed. Either way, it’s disturbing.

Floyd is lying on the ground with three cops on top of him. One has his knee on his neck. His full body weight is pressing down on him. Three on one, with a man who is already handcuffed, for a confrontation that was never violent in the first place. A fourth cop is standing over the action, protecting the other cops from the crowd.

The cop with his knee on Floyd’s neck is willfully choking him. He’s gasping for air. Calling for his mother. Begging them to stop. The crowd is telling them to stop. Saying this isn’t right. Saying blood is coming out of his nose. Saying there’s nothing in academy training that teaches you to do this… strangle someone on the street.

I watch for more than four minutes as he gasps for air. Four minutes is a long time. Stare at the clock for four minutes. Do it for George Floyd. You’ll see. Four minutes is the average length of a drawbridge opening.

This is very triggering for me. I used to live with someone who had to fight for every single breath he took. I know how terrifying it was for him. I know how helpless I felt. I feel helpless now.

The man is subdued, for God’s sake. Why won’t they stop? This isn’t necessary. There’s no need for this.

In my loved one’s case it was a health situation. There was nothing, really, for me to fight against. In Floyd’s case, if I had been on the scene, I’d want to wade in there and kick that cop in the head until he was dead. Anything, to let this guy breathe. Anything. Why isn’t the crowd doing that?

Because the “protecting” cop/thug has a gun and mace and a night stick, as do the other three. They are not listening to reason. They would not tolerate physical intervention.

Why won’t neck cop get up? Because the crowd is taunting him, calling him names? Is it a point of pride, not to listen to the crowd? Is he showing them who’s boss? Is this man’s life worth proving the point that you’re the alpha here? Why won’t he stop? My God! Stop! I hit the desk with my fist.

I’m crying as I watch. No, I wouldn’t kick the cop until he was dead. That’s not really in me, even at my most desperate. I would have been on my knees. Begging. Trying to appeal to their humanity.

But there is no humanity in them. You can tell. They’ve lost it. They are animals. They are in predator mode. They are very quiet. Very focused. They’ll have their kill. Because they can.

And just like that, about 4 minutes in, you see Floyd’s life leave his body. He’s clearly, obviously dead. The man is dead. I’ve never seen someone’s life disappear before, up close and personal. I’ve never seen that exact second. He goes from being a man to being dead, just like that. He’s gone.

My God, I have just witnessed a murder. I’ve never seen a murder before. And this defiant man gets paid to protect and serve us. He is a murderer in a uniform.

The murderer stays on Floyd’s neck for at least another three minutes. Why? To make sure he’s truly dead? To make sure he’s past the point of return?

I cry as the rain beats against my window. I watch as they pick George Floyd’s body up like a piece of meat, dump it on a gurney, and roll it away. Like he’s nothing. Like he never was anything.

It feels like everyone in a position of power is insane. And that’s terrifying. What do you do when you feel helpless to stop a power structure that’s gone mad?

I understand why the world is on fire right now. I get it. We are past the point of a plea for reason. The people in power have absolutely no desire to do the right thing. Peaceful protest doesn’t cut it. I don’t think burning and looting shops is the answer, either. Those business people didn’t do this to Floyd.

But we all prop up the system that allowed this to happen to Floyd, and that system has made it clear that it has no ears. It won’t listen. And fire, man… fire removes the old, twisted growth. Fire makes way for the new. Fire allows us to start over. But the best fire in this instance is metaphorical. Literal fire would muddy the message. No. we need the slow burn of peaceful yet demanding protests by reasonable people who are trying to make people in authority be reasonable as well. We need to turn up the heat and increase the pressure for justice to finally be born in this country.

Destruction and violence shouldn’t be necessary. I don’t condone it. But we do have to start over. We can’t continue to pay people who think that they’re then allowed free reign to stand on people’s necks. It’s not right. It never has been.

A sailboat requests an opening, and I come back to the here and now. Why would anyone be out in this weather? Why risk it?

As I’m about to raise the bridge, I hear a dog barking, frantically. I delay the opening and look for this dog. Probably longer than I should. Definitely longer than I normally would.

I don’t want to kill this dog. I’m desperate not to kill him. But I can’t find him anywhere, even though I hear him. That’s really strange. Why can’t I see him? I think I’m in shock.

Traffic is backing up. Finally, I’m forced to do the opening and hope for the best. My stomach is in knots. The sailboat floats casually though as if nothing is happening. That’s privilege for you.

I close the bridge. The lights turn green. All is go. I watch an unmasked jogger with a prancing, barking labradoodle puppy on a leash cross over. I’m feeling irritated.

And then, holy jumping Jesus, I’m encased in a ball of white light. I’m covered in gooseflesh. I step numbly back from the electric operating console. That lightning strike was so fast and so close that I didn’t even hear the thunder.

And now I’m watching the launch of the first crewed, private rocket as SpaceX delivers astronauts to the International Space Station. What a contrast. So much ingenuity in space, so little here on the ground.

Everything is different, now.

But I’m still breathing. George Floyd, a fellow human being, is not. May he rest in the kind of peace that none of us who are living in this hellish status quo should enjoy.

_______________________________________________

After an emotionally and exhausting day which included the writing of this post, I got in my car to commute home in a downpour. Less than hour later, that very interstate was shut down by rioters, and Seattle, too, began to burn.

Please know that I make a distinction between protesters and rioters. We had a peaceful and lawful protest in Seattle for four hours. Then all holy hell broke loose. People were hurt. businesses were destroyed. Just like the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, people were doing criminal things, taking advantage of an already tragic situation, just because they could. This did not strengthen the message. It added to the thuggery. It demonstrated even more of what needs to change in this world.

Stay safe, everyone.

George-Floyd-Minneapolis-police-onyx-truth-620x400

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A Voluminous Tragedy

I’m heartbroken right now, because I just read an article about a 77,000 volume library in Porterville, California that has burned to the ground. Libraries are sacred things to me. They house knowledge, which is, in my opinion, the most valuable thing a human being can possess. They allow us to explore our universe. They make children dream and wonder. They feed our curiosity.

The only downside to collecting so much information under one magical roof is that when books burn, they tend not to stop. And that is, indeed, what happened in Porterville. But the more I learn about this fire, the sadder I become, because this was a tragedy on a whole host of levels.

First of all, the library, having been built in 1953, did not have sprinklers, so even though the fire department was only a block away, the firefighters were unable to combat this blaze. In fact, two of them died in it. Captain Raymond Figeroa was only 35 years old, and Firefighter Patrick Jones was only 25. Even worse, Jones’ body was not found until 24 hours later, so his loved ones had to suffer through a “missing” status before the truth came out. My heart goes out to both their families and all their coworkers.

I think firefighters are among the best of us. It’s been my experience that a firefighter’s primary motivation is to save lives and help the community, and they often put their own lives on the line to do so. Two men, so young and of such high quality, were taken from the world, and that is a loss to every single one of us.

But it gets worse. It seems the fire started in the children’s section, and just after the blaze started, two 13 year old boys were seen fleeing the scene. They’ve been apprehended. They will be charged with arson, manslaughter, and conspiracy.

If they did this, do they feel any remorse? If so, they’ll carry that burden for their entire lives. If not, they are animals. Either way, their lives will never be the same. Their potential, too, burned in that blaze. It saddens me that they were not taught to respect books, libraries, human lives, or their communities.

To recap, this one event has produced a long list of tragedies:

  • The fire itself.

  • The destruction of the library.

  • The inadequate fire protection system.

  • The death of two young firefighters.

  • The grief of the loved ones they left behind.

  • The fact that it was most likely arson.

  • The alleged arsonists are two 13 year old boys.

  • They face arson, manslaughter and conspiracy charges.

  • Their lives are effectively ruined by their own idiotic actions.

  • The community is left without a library, and is emotionally distraught.

Sometimes I just feel like weeping for the world.

Library-fire

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Tragedy Bias

When Notre-Dame Cathedral burned, it seemed like the whole world cried. And rightly so. That beautiful, historic building held a special place in our hearts. Especially if you’ve had the opportunity to visit it in Paris, as I have.

Another beautiful, historic complex of buildings burned to the ground on October 31st (still October 30th here in the US). It was first built in 1429, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And yet this tragedy barely caused a blip on anyone’s radar. I wouldn’t have even heard about it if a friend hadn’t told me. (Thanks, Mor!)

I’m talking about Shuri Castle in Okinawa. Shurijo was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom between 1429 and 1879. It was almost completely destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, but it was lovingly restored in 1992. Now 5 major buildings, comprising about 4,200 square meters, have been gutted by this blaze, which took 11 hours to put out.

Here is Wikipedia’s descriptions of the buildings that are now in ruins:

  • Bandokoro – located south of the Una, and paired with the Nanden, originally the main reception area, currently housing a museum. The two were built between 1621 and 1627.

  • Hokuden – the “North Hall”, located north of the Una, originally an judicial and administrative center where Sapposhi (Chinese envoys) were also received, currently housing a museum and gift-shop. Originally called the Nishi-no-udun or Giseiden, it was built around 1506–1521.

  • Nanden – the “South Hall”, formerly an entertainment area for Satsuma envoys, currently an exhibition space.

  • Seiden – the “Main Hall”, also called the State Palace, was situated to the east of the Una, but facing west towards China, and contains the throne room and royal living and ceremonial areas. The western facade includes two 4.1 meter high Dai-Ryu Chu (Great Dragon Pillars), crafted of sandstone from Yonaguni Island, and symbols of the king. The left dragon is called Ungyou, and the right is Agyou, and these motifs are replicated throughout the building including the roof. Other decorative elements include botan (peony flowers), shishi (golden dragons), and zuiun (clouds). The Shichagui (first floor) was where the king personally conducted affairs of state and ceremonies. The Usasuka was the lower area in front of where the king sat, with the Hira-usasuka (side-areas) flanking either side. The second floor included the Ufugui, the area for the queen and her attendants, and the Usasuku, the upper main throne room of the king. Behind it are the Osenmikocha, chambers where the king would pray daily. According to historical records, the Seiden was burned down and rebuilt four times (most recently in 1992), and was also used as the prayer hall for a Shinto shrine between 1923-1945.

This is heartbreaking. But I’m also struggling with a little bit of frustration, because it barely caused a ripple in the news cycle. Why is that?

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of the place. Obviously that doesn’t help. Okinawa is rather out of the way for your average tourist. And we Americans have an annoying tendency to overlook things that do not pertain to white culture.

We shortchange ourselves by having such a Eurocentric worldview. There are so many amazing places that, as UNESCO correctly points out, are part of our world heritage. When we lose one of these places, we are all the worse for it.

It’s as though non-white tragedies are somehow less significant than white ones are. I’ve written about this before. When the factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 1,000 underpaid workers instantly, the story disappeared in days. If 1,000 Americans or Northern Europeans died like that, we’d be discussing it for months.

There’s something very wrong when so much history and beauty can collapse into a pile of ash, and so many people can be crushed in a factory, and no one even blinks. We can’t even be bothered to look up from our smart phones and have a moment of silence. Am I the only one who thinks this is the greatest tragedy of all?

Shuri Castle Burning

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Destroyed Libraries

Every once in a while, I think of the Library of Alexandria and I feel like weeping. By ancient world standards, this was the grandest library of its time. At its height, 100 scholars worked therein, and it may have housed up to 400,000 scrolls.

The thing about the loss of this library is that no one knows for certain what caused it. Was it a fire started by Julius Caesar, or was it some combination of a fire, looting, and just a long steady decline? Nor can we know for sure what irreplaceable scrolls were lost. What knowledge, what history… how much more advanced would we now be if we still had this information? This amazing library definitely existed, and now it doesn’t. That breaks my heart in two.

If that isn’t tragic enough, you can go to Wikipedia’s list of destroyed libraries, and you’ll see that Alexandria is just a tiny drop in a horrific bucket. Libraries have been destroyed, either accidentally or intentionally, for centuries.

Of course, earthquakes, floods, and fires happen. And when a fire breaks out amongst books, there’s plenty of fuel. What doesn’t burn is often ruined by smoke and water damage. These things can’t be helped.

But what I really can’t stand is when a library is destroyed by the actions of humans. Wars, looting, religious fervor, hate crimes, and ignorance abound. Nothing pisses off a radical like the existence of knowledge. The Nazis loved burning books. So does ISIS.

One library was destroyed because if it contradicted the religion in question, it was heresy, and if it agreed with that religion, it was redundant. So it was put to the torch without even being examined.

It amazes me that so few Americans really know about the War of 1812. In that one, the British Troops destroyed the entire Library of Congress in Washington DC.

But the one that shocked me the most was one I hadn’t heard about until doing research for this post. It was the Libraries of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It happened in 2013, and insanely enough, it was done by the Canadian government, under prime minister Stephen Harper. This one is too outrageous to paraphrase. Here’s what Wikipedia had to say:

“Digitization effort to reduce the nine original libraries to seven and save $C443,000 annual cost. Only 5–6% of the material was digitized, and that scientific records and research created at a taxpayer cost of tens of millions of dollars was dumped, burned, and given away. Particularly noted are baseline data important to ecological research, and data from 19th century exploration.”

Come on, seriously? This is disgusting. I don’t know if I am more emotionally impacted because it is so nearby in both time and location, but why on earth don’t we know better by now? Why are we so afraid of knowledge? Why?

My only hope for the future is that as more documents are digitized, they’ll be much harder to destroy.

Incendie_Alexandrie_by_Hermann_Goll_1876
Incendie Alexandrie by Hermann Goll, 1876

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Impermanence

When I was 19 years old, I was in love for the first time, in Paris for the first time, and seeing the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral for the first time. It doesn’t get much better than that. It was one of the high points of my life.

It didn’t take long to figure out that the love wasn’t going to last, but, as they say, I’d always have Paris. Some things you just assume will last forever. Some things, you think, will be as permanent as Mount Everest.

Watching Notre Dame burn broke my heart. That spire crashing down felt like it went right through me. Yes, they’ll rebuild, but it will never again be “my” Notre Dame. That’s gone.

We tend to forget that the things made by man are very impermanent. If a stretch of interstate highway was abandoned for 10 years, it would be so reclaimed by weeds and trees that it would be unrecognizable. Whole cities have disappeared with the passage of time. Buildings and bridges collapse. Towns burn. Tumbleweeds roll down what used to be main streets. Waters rise, winds blow, sand dunes encroach.

Most of us try not to think about it. It is hard, living in that state of awareness. Impermanence is scary. It reminds us of our own mortality. If Notre Dame can burn after having stood for about 800 years, then my fragile little body is toast.

But in many ways, that impermanence is actually a gift. While Notre Dame propped up my 19 year old’s sense of beauty and romance, I went on to have many other amazing experiences, and I’m sure that more are in the offing. Knowing that all these things are merely blips on the radar of the universe makes me appreciate them even more. What I am experiencing right here, right now, will be gone in a moment.

What a gift that I got to collect these memories, if even for just a cosmic second, even if they aren’t made of mountains, and will someday be reduced to dust.

Don’t forget to appreciate the now, dear reader. In the overall scheme of things, it’s really all that we have.

Notre Dame

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My Summer of Water and Smoke

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.

Mount Rainier
The tip of Mount Rainier.

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Glacier National Park, Montana

I’ve been wanting to see Glacier National Park for many years. As the glaciers are rapidly disappearing, I feel as though time is of the essence, so I planned a trip for this August. (Climate change waits for no blogger.)

Just my luck, a few weeks before our visit, the park caught fire. The western portion of the park is STILL closed, as of this writing. I can’t even begin to tell you how profoundly disappointing that was.

And yet, even greatly reduced in size, even smoky, Glacier National Park caused me to fall in love with it. When we woke up on day two, after the rain had poured down all night and the temperature had dropped to 35 degrees and all the mountain peaks were covered in snow, it was even more stunning. I’m so glad we went.

It didn’t occur to me that there would be so many gigantic, gorgeous lakes. (Duh. Glaciers do melt and carve the landscape.) And on many of them, you can take boat trips. There’s also horseback riding and rafting in the park.

None of which we did, because we had three dogs with us. While dogs are allowed in the national parks, they are not allowed on any of the trails, and technically they’re not supposed to be left unattended. They were quite comfortable in their cozy dog beds in the SUV, because heaven knows it wasn’t hot, but we didn’t think it was a good idea to leave them for more than 10 or 15 minutes. So we did a short hike to the beautiful Baring Falls, and then visited every overlook and visitor center that we came across. (I was once told by a park ranger that 99% of all visitors never get farther than the overlooks, so hey, we were still ahead of the game by taking that one, gorgeous hike.)

We also didn’t go to the portion of the park that extends into Canada, again, because of the dogs. We hadn’t gotten the right paperwork for them. But we got so close to the border that my phone assumed I was roaming. That counts for something!

It seems like I’m always in a fantastic mood whenever I cross the continental divide. I’d do it again and again if I could. I’d also love to get a closer look at the buffalo I saw on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which borders the park. I wasn’t expecting such a huge herd. There were at least a hundred, which is even more than I saw at Yellowstone. I was so glad to discover they were there. I could imagine a time when they covered the entire prairie.

I was left with a tantalizing taste of this awe-inspiring park. I hope to go back again someday. When I do, I won’t bring the dogs, and I’ll focus on the Western side and Canada, and I’ll take that boat trip and go horseback riding. Something to look forward to.

So do I suggest a visit to Glacier National Park? Heck yes! Again and again! In the meantime, you can help preserve this valuable natural resource by donating to the Glacier National Park Conservancy at glacier.org.

Here are some pictures we took, to whet your appetite.

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