On the heels of the pandemic, another oppressive fire season engulfs the valley. Rolling evacuations as the flames march closer and the toxic airshed ruin the morale of just about everyone. Small chat is meaningless. When someone asks, “how are you?” everyone shares the same sentiment in response. But what is the word? Is there a word that encapsulates these emotions?
Hopeless, that the situation will change. Angry, that our summer has run amuck. Scared, that we might lose something valuable. Sad to see friends’ properties burn. Heartbroken for the habitat and places we love. Defeated, that we’re facing the despair and destruction again. Disappointed that the place we love is untouchable. No, I think the word is deflated. As the flames consume the oxygen it needs to burn, it’s as if the life and spirit of this place deflates with it.
There is only one thing on people’s mind right now, so coming up with topic unrelated to fire seem trite. But here goes nothing.
If you’ve been a reader of my column over the years, you may recall that I often showcase notable wildflowers that are in bloom. This year, one flower, goldenrod (solidago spp.) has been catching my attention. While I only got one hike into the high country in prior to the fires, I noticed goldenrod on my hike. Similarly, I’ve been noticing a lot of goldenrod in the lower valley this season. In fact, I have a patch of goldenrod in my garden that has been there since before we moved in (about 14 years). This year, for whatever reason, it took over, out-competing the nearby perennials like columbine and dianthus.
Goldenrod sits atop a tall dark green stock with long narrow leaves. The cascading a spike of bright yellow flowers are in the composite family along with thousands of other yellow-petal friends like sunflowers. However, goldenrod is composed of tiny yellow blossoms, clustered in pyramidal form, creating a delicate foamy texture. In mass, they create an airy yellow blanket of bright cheer.
They are common in previously burned areas, disturbed roadside, in moist and dry meadows, and by rivers and wetlands. Goldenrod can be found at mid to high elevations and there are more than 100 species across the world. The Methow is home to a handful of different species, depending on the elevation and site. Keep an eye out for this mid-summer bloomer, especially in previously burnt areas next to fireweed — there’s soon to be a lot more of that around!
And so there you have it, even a simple wildflower ramble brings us back to the fire. It’s only July and the fire season is young. Stay safe, stay cool, and stay vigilant, and for the love of Earth, pray for rain!