The only bloom that’s growing around here these days is the bloom of smoke rising from our land. It’s been a terribly tense spring and summer here in the Southwest, as the sun beats down and the wind sucks dry any semblance of moisture. Seems that if you trod too heavily or stare at a piece of parched grass or wood too hard, it will burst into flames. Dirt roads and river beds have turned to fine powder. What vegetation there is beside the roads is the brown death color of deepest winter, now turned pale with a fine layer of gritty dust. The plains are white with dead grass.
Neighbors two houses up from mine lost their home a few weeks ago to flames — a paint rag ignited in a garbage can beside the house, despite their handling and disposing of the rags properly. The foothills below my house ignited last month due to overheated car brakes. As I write this, ash is sifting from the sky. 10,000 acres of our beautiful Santa Fe National Forest near the Santa Fe Ski basin has been engulfed in flames. A new fire near Los Alamos started yesterday afternoon and has already consumed over 4,000 acres of forest. The colossal, erupting plume of smoke last evening was nothing short of biblical.
With the threat of fire so close to home, my thoughts are consumed by the parched land, my time spent working in trying to reduce the fuel load around the house: trimming branches, pulling dry weeds, moving firewood away. Doing what I can to create a “defensible space.”
Last week I drove up to Cimarron as I like to do each June, to spend a few days photographing the land in and around Philmont, the Ranch where I worked years ago, and which is the subject of so many of my traditional landscape paintings. But the land was so withered and dry, and the sky so barren of clouds, that I hardly brought out my camera at all.
The anxiety of fire seems to be everywhere.
Worry presses, as it has now for weeks.
I released some of that worry early this morning, as I dreamed of wrapping myself in cooling, quenching rain.
Below, a few details: