The Wedge of the San Rafael

The Wedge of the San Rafael
Someone has to live here, in the middle of desert beauty. Might as well be the Kellys.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fire, fire, burning bright

First, the good news: my website is up and gorgeous, which means I didn't do it. Check out Cedar Fort created it, and they let me list other books, too. Daughter of Fortune and Here's To the Ladies also link to Amazon, etc. This blog is also on the new website, which appeals to the lazy in me. I write it here, and it shows up there. Magic. (I never said I was computer savvy.)

Several more of my early Signet/Penguin-Putnam regencies are now listed there, too, and available as ebooks. You're also welcome to leave any comments.

Yep, Daughter of Fortune is out now as paperback and ebook. It was my first novel, and it taught me a lot about the bidness. In The Double Cross, book #1 in my Spanish Brand historical mystery series, I "revisit" the scene of the action in DOF, but one hundred years later. Note to prospective authors: always write about places you love to visit, because then every visit you make is tax deductible. (I am savvy about that.)

Right now, the place not to visit is central Utah. Scary times here. We're now just a canyon away from the Seely Fire, and an hour through several canyons from the big Sanpete County fire. That's if we were inclined to drive to Sanpete County, which we can't do anyway, because all the roads from here to there are closed. There's been a mandatory evacuation of Scofield, so my mind and heart is on that little cemetery so full of "my" guys. Of course, there's no grass to burn in the cemetery, just sand and rocks. You can't get to Clear Creek either, that lovely little community with restored Finnish-style houses to the south of Scofield. Big sigh.

Ash is in the air, the sun went down red last night, the winds are starting to pick up, and the sky to the west, north and east are full of angry-looking, brownish smoke. All this reminds me of Nancy Caesar, MD, a neonatologist at Cox Medical Centers in Springfield, Missouri. I used to be a medical writer/PR person there. Nancy told me once that with all our modern science and cool gadgets, parents just naturally expect a perfect outcome when their child is born. As Nancy put it, we have lost touch with the idea that sometimes things can go terribly wrong.

So it is with fire here and floods in Florida, and other disasters. Sometimes our modernity lulls us into thinking that we're in charge. Guess what? We're not. Fires burn. I remember heated debates on this in the National Park Service, with rangers who want to accomodate tourists who expect a perfect visit in a national park, but who are also aware that fires are necessary. When fires burn, visitors want fires put out immediately. I understand this. What some people don't get is that fire is nature's way of tidying up. When things aren't allowed to burn and the dry and rotten wood piles up, it will burn at some point. It's hard to balance public use of land with the proper stewardship of that land.

The trouble with this, of course, is that we have moved ever closer and closer to forests as population expands, and people have more leisure time for cabins in remote areas, etc. We love our woods. Homes march up hillsides and into deeply wooded areas, often in defiance of the order of things.

We're never in charge, and this will never change. I have a healthy respect for fire. Let me recommend two excellent books on the subject: Young Men and Fire, by the marvelous Norman MacLean, and The Big Burn, by Timothy Eagen. MacLean was given a posthumous award from National Book Critics for his 1992 story of the 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana, where 12 smokejumpers perished. In his beautiful, elegiac prose, his subject is death - facing his own mortality - and the science and nature of fire. Magnificent book.

The Big Burn tells two stories: the August-September 1910 monster fire that roared through eastern Washington, through Idaho and into Montana, and the coming-of-age of the newly minted U.S. Forest Service. I used both books when I wrote Borrowed Light. My Wyoming monster range fire also took place in 1910. Julia discovers the terror of fire sucking all the oxygen out of the air, and the overwhelming urge to run in front of a fire, which cannot be outrun.

(Both books are available for cheap as used books on Amazon.)

I can't tell you how often in the last day or two I've thought of what Mr. Otto tells Julia (I paraphrase): "Watch the ridge. Watch the ridge. If the wind changes, watch the ridge. If you hear something that sounds like a freight train, run for the river and don't look back."

We're watching the ridge.

1 comment:

  1. My heart's with you I was in the Canberra bushfire of 2003, when after the firestorm my part of Canberra was at risk from the same fire for weeks afterwards.

    I hope you have an escape plan sorted, and have prepped your house.