The Element of Fire Is Invoked in the South . . . and West, North, and East

Smoke rises from the Chateau Fire in Teller County, Colorado.

M. and I were driving home from Pueblo on Monday, anxiously watching the horizon.

“This reminds me of those cartoons about cavemen where there are always some volcanoes erupting in the distance,” she said, indicating the mountains with a flick of her hand.

We had just passed through an area that burned on Friday-Sunday. To the north, two other forest fires were galloping through parts of Teller and Park counties.

To the south was the biggie, the Spring Fire, which currently has passed 79,000 acres in size (or 32,000 hectares).

And now a new smoke pillar was rising in the west.

An hour later, groceries unloaded, I had changed into wildland fire gear and was down at the station. This new fire was high on a mountain on national forest land, close enough to watch but nearly an hour away by truck. So we were just on standby in case in came off the mountain and towards town.

The chief and another firefighter went off in a brush truck to notify people in some subdivisions, in case they had missed the reverse-911 call. The rest of us snacked, drank water and sports drinks in the nearly 100° F. heat, and watched the air tankers pass overhead.

My mind was all over the place. Some Old Testament lines kept popping up: “This is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a pleasing aroma, a special gift presented to the LORD” (Exodus 29:18, if you care about these things).

Yeah, but which LORD? Sky gods are supposed to like sweet-smelling offerings.

Then I mentally wandered off into thinking of some kind of mad “sorcerer’s apprentice”  ritual in which the element of fire had been invoked in all four quarters and could no longer be dismissed. That was not very comforting either.

If only, as in this Danny Shanahan cartoon for The New Yorker, they could just be a backdrop.

1 thought on “The Element of Fire Is Invoked in the South . . . and West, North, and East

  1. The image you invoke of fire approaching from all the cardinal directions is sort of the inverse of a scene from the Navajo creation story, the Diné Bahané. Coyote had stolen a baby belonging to Water Monster, and the People saw walls of water coming at them from all four directions. They were able to plant a magic reed, which very quickly grew up through the sky, giving them access to this, their fifth world, which they call “The Glittering World,” because everything here is a dazzling illusion. They say it is far more dangerous than the four worlds before this one…

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