“TO BUILD A FIRE”

That was a favorite short story in my schooldays, for this person who (apart from Hem) is not that fond of short stories.  In this run of gelid days, learning to make fire as did the Apaches, with Tom Brown, Tracker, who had been taught by his friend’s grandfather, Stalking Wolf, of the Oklahoma Apaches, comes sharply back to memory.

It took me any number of days to achieve this in 1983.  Every break we had from day and night tracking lectures and practices, I went off in a corner and worked with that stout stick and the woodblock into which it had to fit so perfectly.

I thought no one knew I was doing this.  I thought everyone else had already made fire.  I was not going home from Tracker School without having achieved this major skill.  Boy Scouts of ten years of age had managed it in less than a half hour…  I was then in my forties, being not at all handy with that heavy, unwieldy, essential Buck knife.

When the spark finally glowed, there was a great cheer.  Tom and all his Trackers had been standing behind me in a circle, one with a strong hand and arm coming to my aid to keep the key elements in contact in the last crucial seconds.  I admit tears…

O, yes.  After that, many people went off into corners to continue learning to make fire…

 

TO BUILD A FIRE

[for Tom Brown, Tracker,

Tracker School,  Summer 1983]

craft

with your big Buck knife

a stout stick

then work the pale woodblock

removing anything extra

 

pare

a smooth deep cone

which must exactly match

the stick’s new girth

 

kneel

upon needles and pine duff

— a hand-sized clutch

of some plant’s inner softness

near at hand

 

roll

the smoothed pine

between determined hands

faster, faster!

pay no attention

to your trembling knees

 

watch

for first white smoke

but do not stop

 

press on

until

the block glows red

 

quickly!

surround

your fiery gem

with plant fluff

careful

not to breathe too hard

 

make a whistle of your mouth

using will and skill

exhale the long breaths

waiting all these years

only for this fire

 

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

August 28/September 3,2004

 

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Remembering Columbia River Gorge

Helicopter over flaming Rowena area of Columbia River Gorge

Helicopter over flaming Rowena area of Columbia River Gorge

Various news services have made it clear that the glorious Columbia River Gorge was assailed by wildfires this past week.  My dear friend, poet Penelope Schott, of Portland, reports the fires are mostly over.  She drives past the hills that were scorched a number of times each week, to and from her writer’s retreat in Dufur, the wheat country beyond the Gorge.

Charred Rowena Area of Columbia River Gorge

Charred Rowena Area of Columbia River Gorge

We know that rainlessness is the norm in Oregon in summer.  But there is a difference between lack of rain and deep extended drought.

The latter, as everyone knows, but few wish to discuss, let alone change, is caused by climate change.  Which is caused by insistence upon using fossil fuels instead of renewable energy.

This summer, before the fires, Penelope and Eric had me visit in both (beautiful, conscious!) Portland and remote, sweet Dufur.  Here, mostly without words, are pictures of the Rowena part of the Gorge, near the Dalles, before fire had its way with that spectacular region.

Watch with me.  Care with me.

Beautiful Columbia Gorge   before fires Summer 2014

Beautiful Columbia Gorge before fires Summer 2014

This was taken from an overlook which could well be the charred scene above.

Curvilinear Route from Portland to Dufur, from overlook at Rowena in Columbia Gorge

Curvilinear Route from Portland to Dufur, from overlook at Rowena in Columbia Gorge

 

Gorge Wildflowers and Ancient Rocks from Glacial Times -- These wildflowers will return

Gorge Wildflowers and Ancient Rocks from Glacial Times — These wildflowers will return

Stalwart Chicory of the Borge

Stalwart Chicory of the Gorge

Three Thrilled Cyclists, Having Achieved Columbia Gorge Rowena Lookout

Three Thrilled Cyclists, Having Achieved Columbia Gorge Rowena Lookout

Penelope and Lily's Favorite Gorge Stop -- a wildflower meadow like a Cluny tapestry... millefiori

Penelope’s and Lily’s Favorite Gorge Stop — a wildflower meadow like a Cluny tapestry… millefiori

May Bounty, Columbia Gorge, Rowena Lookout

May Bounty, Columbia Gorge, Rowena Lookout

Quintessential Parking Lot, Rowena Lookout, Columbia Gorge -- nestled in snowcapped mountains not showing in this scene

Quintessential Parking Lot, Rowena Lookout, Columbia Gorge — nestled in snowcapped mountains not showing in this scene

Gifts of Glacier and Meltwater, Rowena Lookout

Gifts of Glacier and Meltwater, Rowena Lookout

When Columbia Gorge was Evergreen Heaven

When Columbia Gorge was Evergreen Heaven

Road Not Yet Taken, from Rowena Lookout Toward Dufur from Portland Oregon

Road Not Yet Taken, from Rowena Lookout Toward Dufur from Portland Oregon

Oregon Lupine Columbia River Gorge Rowena Lookout

Columbia Gorge from Rowena Lookout, High Desert Country, where Dufur Awaits, across Columbia

Columbia Gorge from Rowena Lookout, High Desert Country, where Dufur Awaits, across Columbia

April Showers brought...

April Showers brought…

HERE’S WISHING CHERISHED ROWENA A SPEEDY RECOVERY.

Here’s wishing increased awareness of the outcomes of catastrophic climate change.

Preserve all open space in your region.

Live a sustainable life.