Fire on the Mountain

On the train to Rostock, looking out at the hazy summer sky, the wide green fields that stretch on in gentle rolls, punctuated by twirling turbines. The green hits me- no longer the young varied green of spring, but already more mature, fuller, deeper, more sure of itself. I’m looking out the train window and picturing the huge column of smoke thousands and thousands of miles away, where a place I love is burning.

Here, white trees form an open-air tunnel for the train to speed through, and the tunnel opens onto fields edged with pine forest. My heart, how many aspens have turned to ash, how many ponderosas are nothing more than charred remains? They are fire-loving trees, the ponderosas, but they are no match for unchecked flames that lick their sides and engulf their crown, suffocating them and burning from the inside. Can you hear them crack and scream as they fall, as they crumble?

Continue reading

Shimmer

Things that aren’t secrets but that I haven’t found the right time to say:

My uncle Scott was someone I loved very dearly. He was 46 years old when he died. He died of blood cancer when I was in 8th grade and all of my peers knew. I went to a small Catholic middle school where every grade was one class of kids and the faculty heard all the gossip.

When Scott died I felt like I shouldn’t, or couldn’t grieve loudly. It tore my mother apart. He was the brother she was closest to, until he married that woman [aunt Gale]. Uncle Scott and Aunt Gale had met in undergrad through their acting program and went on to start a theater in Chicago, which they later shut down in order to move closer to Scott’s parents [Elizabeth and Worthington Smith, my grandparents.] He had always been the favorite child. As an only child, I can half understand that. The job of an only child is balancing between being the favorite and the least favorite.

Continue reading