The Air Itself

Mount Spokane is back there somewhere (08/15/2021).

What kind of place was this, where children couldn’t go outside, where the air itself could kill you…?

Timothy Egan, in Ken Burns’s documentary The Dust Bowl

Mount Spokane is 27 miles away. On clear days, I get two nice views of it on my constitutional. On smoky days I can see no farther than the line of trees two miles away.

The smoke in Spokane has not been as bad as it was last year, when we had several consecutive days of air labeled “Hazardous.” The needle seemed pinned to the top of the scale.

This year’s smoke arrived earlier, though, and in some locations, conditions have been far worse than last year.

Newspapers this month ran stories about the toll this takes on the hotshot crews. Long shifts, punctuated by time off that is too short to be of much use. Grabbing a little sleep in the smoke. Unimaginable physical and mental fatigue. The pay is less than $14/hour.

And there is a lot of summer left.

At least we don’t have dust storms to worry about. [Should I have said that out loud?]

We require the lad to do a certain amount of outdoor physical activity each day, but he has used our agreement’s unhealthy air clause to good advantage. I’ve used it, too, to postpone lawnmowing.

Checking the air quality reports has become part of the morning routine. 

Spokane hasn’t hit “Hazardous” (301+) yet this year.

When it’s bad enough, I take my two-mile walk in the network of skyways downtown. My consecutive-days streak is intact, at about 1900 (stupid June 9, 2016).

Some days the smoke-filtered sunlight is an unnerving orange-y red. Sunrises and sunsets are interesting and weird.

John G. White, a photographer and writer whose work I like very much, described these Western smokesets in a blog post earlier this month.

Inspired by his wordplay, and feeling clever, I imagined I had invented the word Smokane.

But I later checked, and found that a local marijuana dispensary goes by that name.

Air quality has been much better the last few days. Fingers crossed.

An hour and a half past sunrise (08/05/2021)

One thought on “The Air Itself

  1. Finally catching up on your blog.

    We had a red sun and white skies for a few days in Michigan this summer. They told us that it was from the wildfires out West.

    It looked like a nuclear winter.

    Clean air and clean water. Seems like such a small thing to ask.

    We are yearning to breathe free(ly).

    So was George Floyd.

    And so were/are the millions of Covid victims.


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