Saturday, October 31, 2015

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
            I love my Montana home, which, along with Washington, Idaho and our neighbors north and south, is burning. Love is, indeed, blind. If we have any sensibilities at all, our hearts are on fire. Our beautiful state is in flames. And The Platters said it all. When your heart’s on fire smoke gets in your eyes.      
            The air is full of ugly particulates. The horizon has disappeared. Our view is dull, our “Little Sky” hovers, brown and gritty. Looks like a blizzard could blow in any minute. But wait! Step outdoors. What a shock to feel summer heat. “Tears I cannot hide. Smoke gets in your eyes.” It is depressing.

            My weepy eyes are swollen almost shut with “carry-on-size” bags. My nose runs intermittently. My throat is dry and scratchy. I have sneezing marathons daily and I’m considering applying to the Guiness World Record Book. My sneezles will be famous. I peek at you sitting across the table. Sorry, but you look as miserable as me.

            Health gurus recommend we stay indoors with the air conditioner and air filter chugging full blast. Air conditioners suck all the moisture out of the air. So add double dry skin, the texture of rough-out saddle leather, to my list of physical woes. I could peel my face and make a handbag. Yes, indeedy, I am whining.

            Even more depressing, the smoky air has cooked my brain to a consistency between smoked salmon and elk jerky. One month, only one month of constant exposure to smoke, and my brain has withered and dried. One month and my brain is smoked.

            Never would I make fun of tragedy. Think of our firefighters, battling blazes all summer. The fires raging across the western states are real. Destruction is real. People are displaced, homes destroyed, animal habitat decimated. Entire regions of forest and grasslands destroyed.

            For those of us out of the path of destruction, we don’t know the short term/long term effects of breathing smoke day after day. It does my heart good to hear that strenuous activity such as football practices at area high schools are cancelled or curtailed. Despite the “fact” that we were invincible when we were young, we need to protect the health of our young people.

            The last few days I have been the guest of my high school buddy, Karen, at Floweree. You’ve seen the signpost just past Carter on the road to Great Falls and wondered what in the world was at the end of that gravel road. Now you know. Last house on the right.

            Generally when we get together, Karen and I are sharp, witty. Repartee bounces back and forth like a ping-pong ball on the table. Not this visit. Wit is noticeably lacking. Thought processes pour from our wizened brains like proverbial molasses in January. Our minds generally grind out what we want but slow and somewhat unsteadily.

            At times we stare at one another with fear. Is this the short course to dementia? Fear is real. Eventually our errant thought, hers or mine, lands with a plop and we sigh with relief.

            Which reminds me, we each handle our inability to suck in enough oxygen differently. Karen tends to take short, frequent breaths. I sigh. I sigh heavily and deeply; I sigh a lot.

            Then came the winds and a reprieve, relief, however short. Karen and I drove into Fort Benton for lunch at the Wake Cup Coffee House. On the way home the wind whistled through Karen’s not-quite-shut car door. Sounded like a Montana blizzard in January. My brain shifted into gear. “Funny how our physical senses are inter-connected. If we shut our eyes, Karen, listen to the wind, we could freeze to death.”

            On a daily basis I view most things from a tilted, quirky point of view. But I think I generally have a pretty good head on my shoulders. In my opinion. Until this past month, when the fires have smoked my brain. Dis-function, malfunction, non-function, scrambled smoked brain! While my love for Montana is blind and smoke gets in my eyes, smoke also makes me stupid. I’m flying to Seattle. Brains and eggs for breakfast?

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

September 3, 2015

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