Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Seasons in the Sun

This is going to have to be fast today. It’s 54 delicious degrees outside right now and with the cooler temperature we’ve got a whole list of things to do today. I’m planning to paint the living room and Beaven wants to pour some concrete to build a dam for our pond. Well, actually, if the truth be known, he doesn’t want to do anything. It was more my idea than his. But this is the perfect time to do it.

We are abuzz with projects in our now bone-dry pond. We haven’t had to mow since May until I noticed the only grass we have growing is in the bottom of the pond where the last hints of moisture lay and grass has sprouted up. So I drove the mower right down into the pond and made a quick trip around the edges where the grass now grows. I can’t do that everyday, now can I? However, weather like this comes with a high price tag.

The great state of Texas is on fire, folks. While the northeastern part of our country is flooded, the TV says 82% of Texas is in an extreme drought. The other 18% is merely drier than a witch’s tit. Our governor has pleaded with us to avoid any activity that could cause a fire. And he’s not just talking about throwing your cigarette butt out the car window. He’s talking about mowing.

I know this for a fact. I once started a fire in our field while mowing. This is possible any number of ways. The tall dry grass contacting the red-hot exhaust can ignite the grass. Or you can run over a rock and make sparks fly amidst dry tinder. Even sunlight on a shard of glass lying atop the grass can start a fire. You don’t always need a stupid human to start a wildfire. Sometime Mother Nature can do it herself.

There are fires all around us. We live about an hour from the most popular camp in our presbytery. All the Presbyterian churches use Gilmont for retreats. If you’re Presbyterian in the Dallas area, the chances are that you’ve been to this camp. The cedar cabins are old and weathered. They also have a brand new conference center of cedar and pine. The whole camp is just one big woodpile nestled in a forest of thick pines.

When the camp manager’s wife posted on facebook that the wind had shifted and a wildfire was headed for Gilmont, I figured it was all hands on deck. I threw a couple of shovels and a chain saw in the car and took off.

It’s been a while since I got a speeding ticket on my way home from a defensive driving class to dismiss a speeding ticket. I’m proud to say that my habits have changed dramatically since my conversation with God. (Me: God! Why do I keep getting speeding tickets? God: Because I want you to slow down.)

Then I realized that not only were all the state troopers waiting on the side of the interstate roads for Labor Day speeders, any remnants were probably at the fires. Plus (and this is the best part): if a cop stopped me and ask “Where’s the fire, lady?” I would have a good answer for him. So I cranked it up to 80 almost as an obligation.

But by the time I got to the camp the wind had shifted again and there was not a wiff of fire or smoke. And the camp was deserted. So I drove around a bit to double-check then came back home. Slowly, this time.

Yesterday, however, we drove to Tyler and were quickly surrounded by thick fogs of smoke in the low-lying areas. There are about four major fires in our area and even more smaller ones. As I write these words, I can smell smoke from my front porch.

We need rain, God. My pond isn’t the only one that has dried up. All the wildlife that depends on these drinking holes has disappeared. Even the mosquitoes and chiggers have disappeared. I haven’t heard a frog in weeks. All the regular night sounds that I find so relaxing have been replaced by the anxious howls of coyotes answered by equally anxious family dogs. Even with a German Shepherd on guard our neighbors have lost a couple of chickens. The fish died when the pond dried up and the raccoons who leave their tracks by the edge of our pond have had to move on down the road. And I worry where they will find water.

I’ve had enough of this summer from hell. We’ve passed Labor Day for crying out loud; it’s time to change the seasons.

Our family is in the midst of planning the family vacation of our lives. Elizabeth, courtesy of an extremely rich and generous boss, has paid for us all to go on a Disney themed cruise for five days next summer. We leave on June 29, 2012. And we have set out to plan the guts out of this vacation. No one can get sick or require surgery or have jury duty that week. In anticipation, we are counting down the days with a paper chain we made over Labor Day. It is just an awesome sight to see it draped over the walls of Elizabeth’s office at her house. It runs the perimeter of the room and then some.

Each link is a day we must live, enjoy or regret, remember or try to forget.

As of today we have 296 days until we leave. That’s a long time. We’ve got a Thanksgiving and Christmas to go. Easter, Mothers Day and Fathers Day. Snow days and birthdays. Each of us will be a year older by the time we leave. And there will be even more milestones we can’t even anticipate.

Beaven often tells me “Don’t wish your life away.” I read all the time about living “in the moment.” That is going to be much easier for Beaven and I than our grandkids and I suspect we may all be sick of the paper chain of days before our plane takes off. It’s common knowledge that planning a vacation can be almost more fun than taking it. With a 300-day build up, moments of the actual week are bound to disappoint.

But I will be happy to just get out of this summer and into the next one. It can’t get any worse.

And just as I was about to hit "publish post" the scanner announced all "Quitman fire department please report for a possible structure fire."  This isn't the smoke I can smell from my front door, Quitman is too far.  It's in addition to that fire. Have I made my point?

1 comment:

VLB said...

Gosh, Jane - I pray that you guys stay safe! We are experiencing a downpour here in NOVA as I write this. I so wish I could send it your way!!