El Salto in Evening Light

El Salto near Taos, NM

Mountains, mountains, mountains. Thank God.

With just a little smoke! That’s coming in from the west (left) and barely visible in this shot, but later it would completely obscure the view. I don’t even know which forest was burning. Take your pick in the Southwest this summer.

The truth is that fire is natural to these places. Lightning sets it off like crazy when the woods are dry. Eventually the forest grows back, sometimes with different species of trees and animals. It may take many years, but the Earth is very patient. Every microbe, insect, lizard, bird, ungulate, carnivore and plant has a role to play in the living web of life, amen. That all makes perfect sense. So why are forest fires such a big deal? Because we are in the woods.

You never hear a deer complain. They just run the hell away or die. We’re the rocks in the stream. The ones with no respect. Why do you suppose that is? What the hell are we doing here? Who or what are we? Take your time, this stuff takes millennia.

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John Hamilton Farr lives in Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. with his classical pianist wife. “Possibly the only place I can get away with this,” he says. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore (Bush’s Brain) put it in a review of John’s first book, Buffalo Lights is the work of a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” John is the author of BUFFALO LIGHTS, TAOS SOUL, ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, and THE HELEN CHRONICLES. He has been publishing online since 1996 (Zoo Zone, Farr Site, MacFaust, GRACK!, FarrFeed) and blogs regularly here at JHFARR.COM. See also → John’s Twitter profile, Amazon Author Page, video channel at YouTube, and website photos at SmugMug. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page.  

  • Carmel Glover June 17, 2013, 8:53 PM

    No, the animals don’t complain, but they suffer—sometimes horribly. Often there’s nowhere to run to. Whenever there are bushfires here I remember the beautifully illustrated but heartbreaking book “The Death of a Wombat”. The wombat in question slowly burned to death when its fur caught fire (wombats have very thick fur).

    • JHF June 17, 2013, 9:12 PM

      Yes, of course they do. I just wonder about us.

      • Carmel Glover June 17, 2013, 9:41 PM

        Indeed … people so often live in places where they are especially vulnerable. We have a choice. (eg, those who build their houses right next to the sea, or rivers prone to flooding).

        I realise, too, that you are being metaphorical. I’m going to think about that a lot.

  • christian ienni June 18, 2013, 12:37 AM

    love the exponential scaling in the picture: the mountains utterly dwarf the smattering of human civilization in the valley, and the sky utterly dwarfs the mountains! and of course it keeps going from there… people really do have such a hard time comprehending just how big the universe really is, and how our entire biosphere is nothing more than a thin layer of slime mold covering a pebble on the edge of a stream. we are so utterly insignificant and transitory, which makes all this stuff here so utterly precious. it takes millennia, but simultaneously it’s all gone in the blink of an eye.
    so enjoy the hell out of it while you’re still here to do so! 🙂

  • Ken Webb June 18, 2013, 8:46 AM

    Funny how the human mind works – in particular, the things you end up mourning the loss of. As a kid I lived a block or so away from a drive-in movie theatre. The owner ran out of money before completion, and the thing was always half derelict. I remember watching “A Christmas Carol” distorted scarily and weirdly by the sewed-together billowing and flapping bedsheets hung from the brick structure which passed for a screen. There were never more than a dozen cars parked in the lot on any given night, but the posts with their speakers marched by the hundreds in row after row back to a scrap of woods with a creek running through it – a good place for stashing cigarettes and escaping from parental oversight. Remember Audie Murphy – the much-decorated war hero and B-movie star of the 50’s? His father – from whom he had been long estranged – worked as a handyman around the place. The son’s crappy movies were featured prominently.

    Anyhow, this rather unlovely and unremarkable postage stamp of land eventually became a shopping centre with the usual banks, retail franchises and oil driller HQ’s, displacing the derelict movie speakers, et. al. It didn’t seem like much of a loss at the time. But, looked back on over half a century, it all seems as sad to me as if the Grand Canyon itself had been filled with concrete.

    We humans are somehow wired to detect loss almost everywhere. We are all essentially melancholics. Probably it’s because only we have guilty consciences and only we know that it’s all going to end soon enough for our own petty selves – states of mind that we project on the world at large, which just goes chugging along regardless of what any of us feels, thinks or suffers.

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