November 11, 2016
The morning sun gave light in brilliant bands of red, offset by cloud cover gray, the sort of brilliant sunrise once attributed to air pollution. The air still smelled of yesterday’s smoke, a thick haze of particles. I could smell the smoke in my apartment, in my workplace, and anywhere I went outside. I was frightened.
I had heard about how the fire at Gatlinburg had invaded the city and burned a thousand buildings, but that did not frighten me. Neither did the tales of all the timber burned at Cohutta wilderness in North Georgia.
Health alerts from local agencies warned those with heart disease, asthma, and other conditions aggravated by poor air quality to stay indoors, run air conditioning not at all. I have heart disease, asthma, and other conditions aggravated by poor air quality. I was afraid I would breathe smoke until I gurgled my last breath through congested bronchial tubes, unlike the pleasant sensation as my exhalations once gurgled from the hose of a regulator as I observed shocking neon green and blue fish at coral reefs near the Florida Keys.
This dry October caped the hottest summer on record, with the driest October in 140 years, according to official figures. A man from California said that this is no drought, not like it is out west, with his state and several others dividing the water from the Colorado River. That river becomes a dry stream bed by the time it reaches the Sea of Cortez.
This year, our relative abundance of water is paltry. The parched leaves and twigs of forests became a tinder box prepared for any spark. The land may lose its hair at any turn.
Mountains blaze in Georgia and East Tennessee. Gatlinburg suffered the worst but is not alone. Campfires are strictly prohibited. Lightning struck at Cohutta Wilderness. The area remains closed until further notice. Fires rage on Fox Mountain and Signal Mountain, on Lookout Mountain, and at Cleveland, Tennessee. More fires blaze in North Carolina.
Meanwhile, there is good news from out West. Conservation groups bought some water rights and left a little water in the Colorado. Water reached the Sea of Cortez and recharged marshes and estuaries.
Here in Tennessee, we hope for rain that the green earth may be restored.