Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where there's smoke . . .


There's fire? Well, somewhere, but not here. The closest is near the little town of Washington. But there're fires all over N California, more than 840 of them started by one lightning storm last weekend. The previous record was 73.

On Saturday, some friends and I had gone to Downieville for their Gold Rush Day; costumes, shootouts (picture 2 terrified little kids in a twin stroller, 10 ft away from a victim), stagecoach rides, food and crafts. And an appearance at the little local theater (in which the original Mark Twain had spoken) by "Mark Twain", the celebrated lecturer. We went especially to hear a friend who was providing the live music for Mark Twain's performance.

During Mr Twain's talk, the lights went out. When they came back on a minute later, and Mr.Twain was reclining in a chair, instead of standing behind his lectern, we thought it was part of the show. Then the lights went out again, and stayed out, while we heard repeated thunder outside. So there was Mark Twain, lecturing in the dark, in a little old theater, in a thunderstorm.

Very Old West. But unfortunately, no rain. So there are lightning fires all over, many still burning. And smoke everywhere, for days now.

Looking at the hills and trees receeding into the smoky distance, it made me wonder just how smoky the Italian Renaissance was. I think I remember that that was when painters discovered "atmospheric color", in which the more distant landscape elements are, the lighter and bluer they are. And I think the answer might be, not this smoky, but more than nowadays, judging by the backgrounds to some of the pictures.

I had opened some windows last night, to cool the house off, and because there was less smoke. Then about 3:00 AM it got more smoky again, and I went around closing windows. (Well, not the ones that require climbing a ladder to take the screens out, not in the dark without my glasses on.) And the moon was as copper-colored as it was last summer during its eclipse. And the sun rising this morning was flame-colored.

Another thunderstorm due this Saturday.

Update: the final total of fires for that storm was somewhere around 1200!

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