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Monday, July 11, 2011 |
( 7/11/2011 04:57:00 AM ) Bill S.
FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, LIGHTNING IN THE AIR: When I stepped outside the house Saturday morning, the first thing I noticed was the sound of thunder on the mountain. Mt. Graham was cloud covered, and you could see occasional lightning flashes, but from what I could tell at a distance there wasn’t any rain falling. The second thing I noticed was the smell of smoke, but I couldn’t see where it was coming from where I was standing in the yard. It wasn’t until later that I was able to see the billowing on the mountain five miles south of us off Swift Trails Road in the Marijilda Region. Mount Graham had its first summer wild fire of the year.
Went onto the Eastern Arizona Courier website and was told there that the cause of the fire was unknown, but from the all the lightning I’d seen earlier I’d wager that the cause was natural -- not, as our esteemed Senator McCain would probably have it, caused by Illegals hiding in the woods. At some level, the question of cause is rather moot, but as I considered the power of lightning, I thought about how our view of the universe is determined by the natural disasters we’ve seen or experienced.
I spent most of my life in the Midwest where the biggest, most common form of disaster that we know is the tornado. (Back in the late sixties, I remember experiencing one of Illinois’ infrequent earthquakes: it was the first year I was living in a high-rise dorm and I woke up feeling the building sway, not knowing what the heck was going on.) Tornadoes, as we all know from movies, can be pretty dangerous, but they never seem quite as scary as fire. Perhaps we should blame the Wizard of Oz for this. As a teen, I remember more than once standing on the front porch with my dad during a Tornado Warning, eagerly scanning the skies for the sight of a funnel cloud. It was more exciting than frightening at the time – but, then, I was a kid, what did I know?
As an adult, I’ve learned to be scared of more things: not necessarily the best aspect of maturity, but I supposed I’m not alone in this. Seeing that fire on the mountain at night – when you could actually see the flames within the trees – was one more source of anxiety in a life filled with plenty of everyday ones: financial worries, car troubles, job stress, the usual suspects. Watching the conflagration, indulging in worst case scenarios, I found myself thinking, “This is not a good time for this to be happening.” But then I realized: when is it a good time? There is no good time for natural disasters; that’s what makes ‘em disasters.
By Sunday afternoon, the fire appeared to be contained on the mountain: no full-blown incident like the recent Wallow fire in Arizona. Good news, but I still can’t stop thinking about the different ways we can take an event like this. Is it a reflection of the random, indifferent ways of nature? Or is there cause and effect that we’re not fully privy to? Is it a sign of a punitive supreme being? (Are we Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God?) Or is it meant to be a test or trial for us to endure?
Perhaps it’s just a fire and nothing more, but, then, I’ve let my mind meander into Big Questions with even less of a prompting. Looking at that night glow, at a distance so beautiful and yet so silently ominous, it’s hard not to want to make it mean more . . .
(An earlier draft of this piece was read as a part of the Desert Oasis Unitarian meeting Sunday.)
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