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Fire and Rain

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Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again…

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JAMES TAYLOR ca. 1974

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Fire and Rain… OMG, I have loved this James Taylor song for so so many years…

… JT and this song in particular were midnight staples and saviours for my teenage angst – F & R was my favourite solo guitar song for coming down from a late night shift at McDonalds, or upon returning from a boozed-up-on-25-cents-a-glass draft beer night at Corktown Irish Pub in Hamilton.

The blues-without-the-blues-style song is James’ lament to a woman friend who died by suicide (Suzanne) and his personal struggles with heroin and fame. It’s a story of deepest darkness and anguish, a soothing salve.

At the time, I didn’t know or understand the genesis of the song’s underpinnings, but the wonderful thing about music done well is that lyrics only tell a part of the story. The melody, the key, the pacing of this song speak to profound sadness… words or no words.

I’m reflecting on the song today because right now, I’m sitting in Forest Fire Central aka British Columbia (BC). NO fire AND rain, just fire.

And yet. I love living in BC.

Even though I’ve lived in and visited many many wonderful, beautiful places in the world, there is no place I’d prefer to live than here.

Now, upon saying this, I also have to acknowledge in recent times that part-and-parcel of living on the west coast of Canada (actually the entire west coast of North America) – and more specifically, the Interior region of BC – is accepting dry, summer heat and forest fires as a routine part of this summer life.

As I look out my window, a heavy pall of acrid grey-white smoke lingers lazily over the valley hillsides. Each day, I listen to the overhead hum and buzz of water-bomber aircraft lugging off to pollinate the woods with huge gulps of fire-quenching water.

Four of the past 5 summers here have been filled with these huge, relentless fires from July through until late September when, finally, cooler temperatures and a modicum of rain mark the passing of the singe season.

You could say that the BC economy runs largely on trees… the ones we cut down and slice into sticks of wood to build houses… and the other ones we burn down each year that create billions of dollars of GDP in putting the fires out.

GDP is a great measure of our financial success except when it’s measured in tragedy for human and animal life. GDP should measure productivity, not destruction.

So, my mind runs off in winding tangents as I think about JT and his beautiful song…

… and this takes me into thinking about the lovely region in which I live…

… then veers further onward to fires and global warming that affects us all to greater and lesser degrees…

… and finally…

… it all lands heavily on how we are living amid a much greater degree of science denial than I ever dreamed possible 5 short years ago (a denial that covers much more than global warming, but I’ll restrict my thoughts to this today).

It takes a strange and perhaps demented mind like mine to segue from 1970’s James Taylor music all the way to climate change and its deniers.

I won’t dig too deep into a rant here other than to say that anyone willing to take an hour or two of downtime to review the broad and peer-reviewed research on climatic evolution should come to an inevitable conclusion.

………

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.  It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
– Mark Twain

………

This is not a mere cosmic routine cycle of climate change that occurs every 100, 250, 500 years. The floods, the hurricanes, the fires, and melting ice-caps are not just “nothing to look at here” routine stuff.

This is “us” caused and needs to be “us” cured. Soon.

The silver lining underlying this “whoa is us” scenario is that I have great faith in the ability of human ingenuity and technology to stem this tide.

Humanity (myself included) has a tendency to sweep bad news under the carpet until there are no options left other than to deal with it. Inevitability breeds action, eventually…

These days, when I play my guitar, I don’t suffer from that same teenage angst of years ago; now when I play Fire and Rain late at night, my angst is for the larger blue planet that we share, the same one we also share responsibility for its future and care.

My fervent hope is that, should I live long enough – and I’m working hard to be a participant in the Centenarian Olympics – the only sad Fire and Rain we’ll be afflicted with is in James Taylor’s sweet music…

Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again…

JAMES TAYLOR ca. 2021

WORLD ON FIRE!

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OK fire

Okanagan Valley fire this week…

FIRESTORM…

I’m a new age kind of primeval guy…

I love words and their power and usage… and … I love fire, although at times I fear its power and usage…

Fire can be fun, even flirty.

I play around with words like kindle, spark, burning, ignited, flicker, fuming, blaze, zeal, combustion, inferno, smouldered.

Every one of these words says FIRE.  But in your mind, each also kindles other thoughts, right?

Let me give you a small example of some presumed (cheesy Harlequin-style!) fiery narrative from the movie When Harry Met Sally.

The first time they met through a mutual friend, Sally didn’t have even a flicker of love for Harry. By contrast, as he spit grape seeds out the car window on a “friendly” road trip to New York, Harry looked over and thought to himself, “Sally is hot.” 

Ten years later when they met once again, they instantly felt a spark of sexual attraction, a kindling of desire for each other, but they tried to ignore the inner coals of ardour.

Beneath it all however, their true feelings kept smouldering.

Finally one night, in an unexpected development, their passions inflamed and blazed, and they made love. 

That was fun FIRE.

Sally Orgasm2.jpg

BURNING INFERNO!

Language fills me with delicious wonder in how we transform and manipulate certain words into other meanings that give depth and nuance to the joy of speech and writing. Wordplay in the novels we read, the movies we watch, brings us a kaleidoscope of delight.

But. Yes, there’s always a but.

Fire can be frightening.

Today, I’m looking over this computer screen and out my window at a not-too-distant wall of grey-white smoke.

A sooty curtain obliterates any view I typically have of the picturesque hillsides filled with Ponderosa Pines speckling the east side of Okanagan Lake.

Three nights ago, forks of jagged lightning dramatically crashed to ground minus any rainfall that may have quelled the youthfully energetic flames that erupted.

As the sun set, creamsicle-orange flames flicked the dark sky, reaching their fingers up to share their fiery heat with the moon and stars.

It was as startlingly beautiful as a Hawaiian sunset over the Pacific but much more ominous than romantic.

And now, when the sun arises each morning, the beautiful clear vistas we’ve enjoyed for the first month of summer have transformed into hazy greys and browns and oranges set against a noisy sky full of water bomber planes, aircraft bearing huge bellies of bright red retardant, helicopters with big buckets trailing beneath.

The heavens are abuzz as if a heavy, swarming mosquito infestation has suddenly hatched.

The perennial regularity of fire is the new normal in this dry interior valley; each summer season brings a host of rippling flames to one section or another of our tree-laden hills.

water-bomber.jpg

Fire is heavenly… fire is hell… we love fire… we hate fire.

I’ve played with fire my entire life… most psychiatrists would slot me into the pyromaniac category with little hesitation.

The best part of camping when I was a kid was the arrival of sunset in the trees, when I’d kindle little fires inside a stone circle next to our family tent-trailer, happily feasting on the heady scent of smoke, poking away at the mesmerizing glimmer of coals crackling and popping.

I loved receiving cheap cologne sets as a birthday gift, not only because it triggered a momentary sense of being grown up but… yes… the alcohol in the fragrant elixir made for fun little fires on the concrete floor in my garage… thinking back, I probably smelled of smoke until I was 13 years old. Bottle that, Calvin Klein or Armani!

Later on, in my first lab job in Yellowknife, while collecting blood samples, I looked forward to entering the hospital rooms of tiny elderly Inuit women who’d be snacking on wild red berries and who reeked of strong wood smoke. I’d breathe deeply of the musky scent they carried from their far north homes. So much sweeter than my birthday colognes!

Fire can create sadness and calamity.

A woman I work with when I’m bartending these days lost a child in a motel fire years back. Her baby snatched away in an instant. How could she ever again look at or think of fire without reliving a horror tragedy? Where does she find her smile thanks to fire?

Musically, I remember Stan Rogers, a treasured Canadian singer/songwriter (Northwest Passage , Barrett’s Privateers) with huge potential who perished at age 33 in an airplane fire on the tarmac in Cincinnati. Smoke-snuffed possibilities and promise.

FIRE. Beauty and the Beast.

Where would we be as humanity without fire.

The fire in her eyes. The fire in his belly.

Fire is enthusiasm, fire is lust, fire is fearsome, fire is strength.

You’re fired! Fire at will! 

It’s fire that feeds our hungry bellies and fire that feeds our vivid imaginations.

Yes… merely peering out my window this week at wind-fanned smoke and flames has struck a fire in my head with words and ideas that carry me along this journey from my past…  to my today… and give me inspiration for the future.

That is one powerful word.

FIRE.

Beauty-and-the-Beast Fire.jpg