My friend Lisa Childress from Charleston, Illinois, read my blog about the smoke and asked if they had evacuated people around here.
I told her they evacuated people closer to the swamp where houses were burning, but we're about 45 miles from the swamp. 45 miles away we're getting smoke and ash but people are surprisingly living with this. Adults sit on their porches or talk to neighbors across fences, kids run around in masks shooting water guns at each other, people drive around with their windows open. Some friends of ours whose house backs onto the swamp are having a Memorial Day barbecue tomorrow.
And this morning, when we went to Sam’s Club looking to buy another air purifier, the first person Linda and I saw in the parking lot was pushing a cart and smoking a cigarette. We looked at each and shrugged.
But the birds seem heavier, especially the cardinals. Usually, the ones in the back yard tend to sit high in the crepe myrtle trees when they aren't flitting around, but now they sit low, close to the ground. When we put on our face masks and went out this morning, there was a cardinal perched on one of the white Adirondack chairs by the pool, two other cardinals were on the deck, a fourth was standing on the ground.
That cardinal didn't move when we passed it to get to the garage. It just stood there, maybe waiting for the smoke to clear so it could breathe. I thought about the way birds work, their hearts beating at a 1000 beats a minute when they are flying. I thought about the way their lungs would have to work to breathe fast enough and hard enough to get that heart beat up so that they could fly away through the smoke and the ash here.