It’s been a disorienting spring. Everything seems to be a month early. The North Cascades Highway opened the first week of April, which led to an early surge of tourism. Not that I mind, but I’m not used to seeing that many visitors in April and May. It’s a good harbinger for summer, now officially about three weeks off.
Also early was the onset of spring-like weather. The flora noticed and responded accordingly. Many people I talked to were cleaning up winter’s leftovers much sooner than usual. I’ve already had to mow my big yard three times, and it needs another haircut. Trails that are usually still inaccessible are welcoming boots and tires and hooves.
So I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that before May was on its way out, we already were experiencing floods and fast-moving mud after heavy rains. That feels early, too, but perhaps only because the same type of destruction didn’t hit us hard until late last summer, post-fire.
It feels like it’s too soon to be jumpy about every wisp of smoke or to flinch at every fire siren. But last year’s events have heightened our awareness — in some good ways — and we are now living a bit on the emotional edge. We’ve been warned that all the conditions are in place for another siege of disasters. Anytime that happens is too soon.
Tonight I watched from the porch of my West Chewuch cabin as dark clouds advanced down the valley, trailing streamers of heavy rain like jellyfish tentacles, and casting off lightning bolts in what seemed to be vulnerable, inhabited areas. My journalist’s instincts kicked in and I jumped in my truck to check it out. By the time I neared Twisp, most of the heavy-duty meteorological action had moved away. When I headed back to the cabin, I saw that a derelict finger of the storm had moved into my neighborhood. By the time I got back to the cabin, the rain, lightning and thunder were all around me.
Perhaps I was experiencing something (other than a newsie’s curiosity) I’ve noticed in the Methow since last summer — a broader awareness of and concern about what’s happening from one end of the valley to the other, not just in our personal bailiwicks. Sharing difficult experiences has created a community-wide bond that goes beyond wondering and now extends to caring and reacting.
If 2015 is determined to give us a head start on things, then maybe we can turn all of this earliness to our advantage, as we should. Who knows? Winter may decide to show up sooner than expected this year as well.
Cinder comes home
People around the world have been following the engaging story of Cinder, the young black bear that suffered debilitating burns in last summer’s fire. Cinder was rescued and has been in rehab since for her injuries. This week, she will be released back into the wild — which is altogether appropriate. Her caretakers have commented that Cinder hasn’t forgotten bear-like behavior, and she belongs in the woods.
Still, by naming her and following her recovery, we humans have made an emotional investment in Cinder’s well-being. We worry about how she’ll do out there, where she’ll have to forage to survive rather than living on what sounded like a pretty good bill of fare while in recovery.
At the same time, that’s the nature of Nature — no creature gets a break. However we may anthropomorphize Cinder, she’s still a bear living a bear’s life. But there’s no harm in wishing her luck.