It’s been 18 years since wildfires raged through central Florida. Enough time for an embryo to gain the right to vote. Enough time for other disasters, natural and man-made, to hit the area harder than we would’ve thought they could. Enough time that local television stations don’t even wheel mention it on slow news days. But the heat of this summer, the oppressiveness of it, reminds me of my old footage.
In Orlando, back in July of ’98, you could see it coming from miles away. It looked like a ten thousand foot tall tidal wave of brown smoke, bearing down on Orlando like the wrath of God, or a reasonable facsimile. The state of Florida as a gigantic barbecue, 500,000 acres eaten by more than 2,000 fires.
The ash fell to the ground like snow. If you were from up north, I imagined that you had to suppress the urge to catch a flake on your tongue. It’s a light sprinkling, you’ll only see four or five flakes fall lightly to the ground for every few minutes you spend outside. And a few minutes is all you can spend before your lungs go bankrupt. Pokémon Go would have failed utterly in this market.
This was the type of heat that kills the best intentions – You just looked for escape. This year, it’s doing the same thing. We have to get past this heat, back to the action items and mission statements we added and revised after June 12, 2016.
In ’98, you could only see it coming, your nose was no help. It’s smelled like burning bushes for days, and I felt like Moses. At that point in my life, I felt like biblical characters pretty consistently, mostly Job with a little bit of Eve thrown in for good measure. The allure, the temptation of moving to different environs beckons like an apple.
My extra rib hurt as I strained to breath. The back of my throat burned as I see someone stopping to light up a cigarette. Why bother?
A change in the temperature of the south Pacific of only a few degrees turned Florida into a tinderbox. El Niño, they call it, as if giving it a simple and unassuming name will make the weather patterns it spawns around the world any less deadly. Tornadoes and drought killed people, animals, crops and forest around me. I, along with everyone else, felt the impact of The Boy.
I was stuck in the heat, thinking about the things I had to do, exercise, work, date, read, write, clean, organize, think, study. Now add to that guide, venerate, raise. Things that squeeze(d) the life out of me. At least back then, a literal cloud of smoke hung over my head as I juggled three jobs and school and the other stuff. Now, the cloud is figurative. The juggling includes more chainsaws.
The shade offered little relief then, and it offers little relief now. The ugly fog that clouded the way, the noonday sun could never burn away. I have to find my own way through, fight the urge to run. Find my pulse again.