Apple blossoms along the side of the road

Apple blossoms along the side of the road

Life can change so quickly.  One minute you might be driving along backroads admiring the white and pink blossoming trees.  The next minute disaster might strike and the world changes forever.

Forest fire ravages land

Forest fire ravages land

Last Wednesday, May 20th, the trees and plants and wildflowers and animals and landscape near Pinery Lake and the Indian Cemetery (perhaps about ten miles from our house) caught fire in the sultry 93 degree afternoon with 20-30 mile per hour winds blowing hot and fierce from the southwest.  Low humidity reigned.  Every fire danger warning blasted “high alert” and “red flag warning”.

My daughter and I, lounging in her apartment in New York City, heard about the “Pinery Lake Fire, 2009” within minutes of my husband, who lounged at home.  (Well, he may have been planting the garden or accomplishing something more productive than lounging.)  We heard it echoed across the virtual Facebook world.  He received a phone call from locals.

Bone-trees of the forest lie across ashy land

Bone-trees of the forest lie across ashy land

A fire in nearby Ishpeming, which eventually burned 33 structures, commandeered much of the local fire-fighting force, so when the Pinery Lake fire started, our area was short-crewed.  It was so smoky when called in that the first fire-fighters couldn’t find the origin.  The spotting plane, which ordinarily would have nailed it, was hard at work in Ishpeming.  My husband said it took one to two hours for the fire fighters to zero in on the flames. 

The fire burned 685 acres before it was contained two days later.  The only structure the hungry fire devoured was a trailer/deer camp.  It roared through our Pinery Lake Ski Trail and burned hot across the Indian Cemetery, destroying several spirit-houses which cover the graves of ancestors from our local Ojibway (Anishnabe) tribe. 

Animal vertebrae in ash

Animal vertebrae in ash

Today I wandered into the edges of the burn, very cautiously.  There are warnings that unburned crowns of trees may collapse in the wind, and smoke still smolders in hot spots.  I wouldn’t recommend casual strolling in a fire-burned landscape. 

For one thing, the washing machine now churns in the basement attempting to remove the smell of the charcoal-ash aroma which permeates everything from the tennis shoes to the sweatshirt.  I had to submerge in the bathtub and scrub my hair.  For another thing, it’s dangerous.  (Yes, well, I only wandered a short way into the burn.) 

Dandelion and charred forest

Dandelion and charred forest

It’s eerie in the burned woods.  An echo or hollowness seems to exist, as if the sudden vacuum of emptiness doesn’t know what to do with itself.  Birds sing all around, probably from the areas where leaves still gleam green and wave in the breeze.  One wonders how the birds can still sing so sweetly in the midst of so much destruction.  Carcasses of tree stumps rise everywhere.  There’s a hush.  There’s sadness. 

Graveyard for tree stumps

Graveyard for tree stumps

I wandered in a little too far, perhaps, and suddenly witnessed smoke rising in the distance from a hot-spot on the ground.  Time to high-tail it out of there.  But before leaving, I noticed something  green and fuzzy emerging from the ashy soil:  New life.

And the forest shall rise again.

And the forest shall rise again.

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