Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Smoking Swamps

I was feeling better despite my ears ringing until the swamp started burning about 2 months ago.

This sounds like the beginning of a great story, but it's not. The swamp's lost about 60,000 acres, and the animals in the okefenokee are going deep into the swamp. Toward the center where there is still some moisture, some dampness and humidity, and swampiness. Everything that hasn't been boiled or burned is moving toward that center, and fighting for any kind of space it can find. Imagine the bear and the alligator and the peregrine chipmunk all in the same place. Eyeball to eyeball, nostril to nostril. Eating from the same blade of grass, hoping as only dumb animals can hope for the delivering miracle around the corner.

And here I am 60 miles from the burning center of the fire. For a week the winds were from the east, and we woke in the mornings to the smell of the swamp burning, the tall georgia swamp pines burning, the high dry grass, and the low dry wire grass, all burning. And the smell of pre-fab homes and trailers in Astoria burning.

Clouds coming over Valdosta from the east, first they were a light yellow, and then got darker, pink, brown. Soon there was a haze outside the house, and we stood in the house and looked out the windows at it, and thought, well, we're okay, then after a day or two, it started coming into the house. And you start thinking how this secure old house with its insulation, and dry walls, and rehabbed ceilings and doors and windows is really porous. These old walls are like window screens.

And people start worrying about--what happens next. What if the winds are from the east tomorrow too. And they were. And people start wondering about what if the winds are from the east for two days, or a week, and they are.

Mercy, Jesus.

And the churches start filling up, and people stand on their back porches and talk to their neighbors about the end of the world, and what is it we're doing to the environment. And somebody mentions Cormac McCarthy's great new novel The Road, about a world where every living leaf and blade of grass has lost the will to live, and has turned to ash because of the chemicals the world is dumping on them. And everybody thinks that maybe it is too late, because we all know what the world has been doing to itself for 60 years at least, and that the jig of the world is up.

But it's getting better -- the swamp fire. At least, we think that.

But it will turn worse I reckon. It's the end of the rainy part of the year, and it hasn't rained here in 3 months, not really. So it will probably be burning in the swamps again. Much nearer in fact too. South Georgia is not agricultural. It's timber and logging. Really. You drive from Valdosta to the Atlantic and its 120 miles of forests that get logged. Same thing from here west and north and south.

All we can hope for is really biblical hurricanes that take the great flooding waters of the huge gulf of mexico and send those waters down upon our heads, for a hard and long time.

And those hurricanes?

They will wreck us like a semi rolling over a crate of eggs. Soft boiled, hard boiled, or uncooked.


Tim said...

I think that "Everything's Jake" was the name of a sitcom, but I could be wrong.

At least your ears had stopped ringing when the fire started (is that right?)

John Guzlowski said...

they never stop ringing. i'm just feeling better about the ringing.

Joe said...

The blog looks great, John. Someday I'll get you to tell how you did it. Sorry about the fire. It's not in the news much here, so I imagine it's burning itself out.

John Guzlowski said...

Joe, are you kidding? The fire's not in the news because the news is controlled by the anti-Georgia media!! So far the fire has eaten up about 200 sq miles of Georgia, and they say that it will be months before it stops. Maybe a year. The fire-fighters have created a 200 mile long perimeter around the fire. The fire will NOT pass that line. We're inside that line. I'm sweeping the ash off my back porch!

Stuart said...

Krickey! I hate to say it but what started out like a good novel just got better. I wanted to read more. In the words of the Governator, "I'll be back!"

It really is a tragedy that this happened. We've had fires here in California, and I too have wiped ash off my car in the mornings before going to work, but nothing like what you've been through. And the news coverage has been abysmal. So I assume Bush has done his fly-over and has pledged billions he doesn't have?

John Guzlowski said...

Bush? A fly over? Not likely. There is only ash in the pink/green sky.