In the night . . . in the dark . . . things are brewing

Monday, October 10, 2011
It always comes just when you've let your mind wander. Outside the dark windows, the wind howled. I could hear aspen leaves pinging against the window screen and the dock grinding against its moorings out in the roiling bay. Occasionally, a distant creak and crash came from somewhere deep in the forest. The power flickered once . . . twice . . . three times, then prevailed. I re-queued the DVD, pulled at my ball of yarn and started another row of knitting. Nothing bad was going to happen. Not tonight.

But the phone rang at a time all too late and the wrong day (Friday) for it to be a friendly "check-in." And just as I said "hello?", Andy's emergency pager went off. So while I took a message from our neighbor that a tree had tipped into a live electric line down the road and nothing could be done to extinguish the small fire until the electric company came (from 70+ miles away) to switch off the power and would Andy come and help turn on the wildland fire sprinkler systems around the bay, Andy was wriggling into his fire gear. And suddenly, I was switching my pajama bottoms for real pants, shoving my feet into tired sneakers and running down the gravel road, the flashlight throwing a jiggling white light out into the darkness in front of us.

I should have known that a morning that dawned red could only mean calamity. But the unease I felt rising to a reddish orange glow in the northern sky dissipated as the day wore on, even as the wind kicked up. It was a red-flag day for the fire danger and the local agencies had banned fires of any nature. Not even charcoal grills were allowed. Water levels were so low that our "floating" dock sat on the lake's bottom and the dying grass and leaves in the woods crackled underfoot.

I left the flashlight with Andy and returned to cabin after it became apparent that my biggest contribution to the firefighting effort would be to stay out of the way. To the moan of approaching sirens, I crouched beneath the porch, fiddling with our own sprinkler pump. When I filled bottles of water from the lake shore for the pump's reservoir, the wind blew so hard that it flipped the bottom of my flimsy button-up shirt up over my chest and twisted the shirt around me.

The smoking tree burnt a 10'x10' patch under the power line before the electricity was shut off and the fire department could extinguish it. By the time I walked over with a thermos of coffee for the quickly fading volunteer crew, it was nearly midnight. Under the flashing glow of red emergency vehicle lights, I watched the firefighters rolling hoses and packing away chainsaws.

The wind still buffeted the cabin when I finally rustled under the covers. But as I listened to the floor boards creak and Andy toss and turn next to me, I tried to lull myself back into that sense of security I'd had earlier in the evening.

Nothing bad was going to happen. Not tonight.


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  3. I loved the way you bring us into the setting with your sensory images. Love the circular ending as well. Nice job, enjoyable read.

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  5. My mood gets so changed by things like this- and then I have to turn on all of the lights and play happy TV to settle down. Embarrassing, but true.

  6. Ada, this is wonderful! I love your repetition, bringing the story full circle...nice job there. And I especially loved this part:

    "I should have known that a morning that dawned red could only mean calamity. But the unease I felt rising to a reddish orange glow in the northern sky dissipated as the day wore on, even as the wind kicked up."

    I've felt that same sense of foreboding. I HATE that feeling! I'm sorry the fire happened, but I'm glad it was no worse than it was.

    Thanks so much for linking up!!!

  7. Great story! I like that it's being told from a perspective other than that of someone directly involved in the fire fighting. Its an easy thing to tell about getting up in the night to fight a fire; you get up, you put it out, you go home. Your perspective here is unique and interesting, and you've brought it across well. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I am all about setting and you wrote it beautifully.

    This is beautifully told. terribly frightening, but beautifully told.

  9. Never a dull moment! I love this post, it's written beautifully. I felt like I was there but kinda glad I wasn't :) I would have just been in the way.

  10. I agree with all here (except the annoying "follow me" comments), you wrote this beautifully. The mood was set just right, and I was pulled into what was going to happen next. I'm glad everyone was ok. Great story telling.

  11. Oh you gave me chills with this! So glad the outcome was good. Scary...

  12. Wow... Captivating. BEAUTIFULLY Composed!

  13. Great piece of creative nonfiction with the visual images you painted. I especially liked: "the flashlight throwing a jiggling white light out into the darkness in front of us.

  14. Wonderful description of the night - and it hit close to home for me here in Central Texas. We're having red flag warnings and too many wildfires ourselves! Here's to all of us who need rain getting it soon!

  15. I agree - very vividly told -- I was right there with you, in the way and under the porch! And I'm glad there was a happy ending :)


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