Controlled Burn

distant fire south of Taos

Kit Carson National Forest just across the road

This is what it’s all about, New Mexico, my God! The space, the sky, the air! On fire, too, just like they planned it.

A lightning strike up in McGaffey Canyon lit up some Ponderosa pines, and the Forest Service decided to let seven hundred acres burn to open up some space. This is actually kind of interesting because I used to hike up there, and I can see how a fire might do the place some good. It’s a narrow wooded canyon with a small stream running down the middle, and you’re shaded almost all the way. Not idyllically, though. It’s kind of rough and scraggly until you get into the taller pine trees and the forest has more room to breathe. There used to be a few marshy places and the most extraordinary plants, things you just don’t see around here. This happens at higher altitudes where it’s wetter. There were flowers, deciduous trees, a little grass, wild strawberries. I swear to God I found a paw-paw tree. Something from the woods back East, so maybe I imagined it. That time is all a blur these days. I stopped hiking up there when it got too weird to park next to the trailhead. You know. Piles of trash, odd folk sleeping overnight, will my truck be whole when I get back, and so on. Also all of this is quasi-legal. Nothing marked, an ambiguous gate that stops no one but makes you wonder. Just a little spooky and unsettling.

Anyway, it’s burning now, and that’ll show it. The higher reaches of the canyon should be much nicer soon. I assume that’s where they’re burning. It had a dated, locked-in feeling to it, like the ecosystem had no gumption, as if the world were waiting for a beautiful catastrophe that missed its flight.

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