Saturday, a smoky haze rolled in. No one seemed to know where it came from. Alaska fires, fires at the boarder of Oregon and Washington, an apparent fire on U.S. Highway 97A between Chelan and Entiat? Even the smoke and weather forecasters seemed to be a bit befuddled by the haze. Thankfully, it cleared up on Sunday and the skies were clear. Yet, the onset and appearance of smoke creates a collective anxiety we all now harbor after so many smoky summers. It looks like this summer may prove to be an anomaly if the rain keeps coming as it did last night.
I had a visitor from California last week; a cousin I haven’t seen in over 20 years. She remarked at how her Washington trip had been a welcome sea of green after years of drought in the Bay Area has left Californians feeling parched, stressed and unnerved by the dry reservoirs, brown hills and low-running rivers. This constant reminder of climate change and scarcity had taken a toll on her psychology, so she made a great Pacific Northwest loop where the rivers were high, forests lush and grasses verdant. Boy, what a difference a year makes. Had she made the trip last year, we’d be engulfed in smoke and flame.
This week’s wildflower is the Sagebrush Mariposa Lily (calochortus macrocarpus). This beauty can be found in grasslands and shrub-steppe as the name implies, where sagebrush grows. It’s related to its white cousins the Sego and Cat’s Ear lily, but this one is pink to purple and stands on a tall stem often higher than its counterparts like the buckwheat and fleabane it often hangs out with.
It’s been popping up on every outing I embark upon lately, and I am not sure if it’s just usually too hot, smoky or snaky this time of year that I tend not to walk in its habitat or if it’s more abundant than usual with late rains and cooler temperatures. In any case, it holds it bloom for a while, so if you happen upon it, take a moment to look at its detail coloring; like all flowers, the closer you look, the more bewildered you will be.
Living with fire has been joined with living with COVID. The current surge of the Omicron variants was predicted by public health experts back in May, and wouldn’t you know it, they were right. I can’t go anywhere right now without talking to someone who recently recovered or had someone in the family contract it or attended a “super spreader” event. I recently reported our own infections to the Okanogan Public Health Department, and I received a phone call where I got to speak to the Public Health nurse. This was enlightening.
They predict for every one case, reported, 12 go unreported. I bet it might be even higher, because I don’t think it’s common knowledge that if you test positive, you should report it to the health department. Despite a note taped on the test kits instructing you how to do so, it felt unnecessary. So, I delayed our reporting, then my conscience told me to report it.
My late reporting is why they called me. But after my discussion with the nurse, I was glad. She asked me about my symptoms and shared what to expect in coming weeks, explained the difference between lingering symptoms and long COVID, and when to contact my doctor if symptoms return or don’t resolve. She also shared some more obscure symptoms to look for that I hadn’t heard of, like hair loss and troubles with balance.
If you test positive, you should report it so that they can more accurately report case counts and make predictions of the next surge and follow up on your health. Like fire season, it’s just part of living in a world with COVID.