Monday, April 9, 2012

downtime

In the summer we hang out at Spotted Bear, waiting for the helicopter to return. We do this a lot, and we are pretty good at it. Occasionally I get into an energetic mood and force everyone to do lunges across the airstrip. Other times, we elevate bothering the fuel truck driver into a form of art. We compare food and look at maps. Sometimes a member of the public appears and we nominate J. to go talk to them. He cheerfully agrees, and from our perches near the chase truck we can hear him earnestly, if possibly inaccurately, describing the fire activity in the wilderness.

Even though we spend a lot of time here, there is always something new to discover. We spy on planes, critiquing their landing technique on the backcountry airstrip. One of my co-workers, despite coming here for years, claimed not to have known until this August that there was an outhouse here. Sometimes a dense cloud of mosquitoes will strategically appear when we have no vehicle, forcing us to sprint down the airstrip. Occasionally people spraying weeds come by. Anxious for company, we disregard the noxious cloud surrounding them. Somebody new to talk to!

If we are lucky, we can see the smoke columns twenty, forty miles away, deep in the wilderness. We watch them climb and grow against the blue sky, and speculate on what the fire is doing. We say we want to be there, and we do, kind of: it's in our blood, the smoke and the flames. But this is good too, waiting here for the sound of the helicopter coming back, this green grass, these people, summer all around us.

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