Tuesday, March 20, 2012

still winter

We are opening up the helibase. It couldn't look less like fire season out here. Snow spits from a bleak winter sky. Clouds slouch sullenly over the peaks. The pilot/mechanic trailer sits abandoned in its off-season spot. The summer trails are hidden, covered in white.

It's cold inside the hangar. A mouse has moved in and shredded some paper towels. The vehicles wait, looking innocent, but we know from past experience that they will most likely refuse to start. The crew's gear hangs in their lockers just as they left it. At least one of them won't be back to reclaim it.

In the afternoon I run our river route. In the summer, we come here to sprint the hills. Then, it's hot and dry and the gravel crunches under our feet. Fishermen watch us curiously. Sometimes a lost soul, down on his luck, lives down here. Then, we are usually pressed for time, needing to return for a project, hopefully a fire. We run fast, toward the future.

Now, I run slowly, approaching the bridge, trying to stay in the icy ruts made by someone curious, driving down here for some unknown reason. It's quiet, the only sounds the wind in the trees and the water talking to itself as it rolls downriver. I pass the warehouse, the hotshot quonset hut, the empty seasonal quarters. The snow turns into rain.

In a few months, everything will be green out here. We will stir up dust and mosquitoes on the trails, running up Hamburger Hill and around Lion Lake. We will prop open doors and talk about how hot it is. The crew will noisily spill in and out of the buildings, ready for anything.

It's easy to wish time away, to look forward to something so much that you forget to be present. I want it to be summer, to hear the sound of the rotors and smell drift smoke. But there are times to enjoy right now. Being able to drift over to the hotshot building and visit, without needing to rush back. Making plans and keeping them. A silent run in the snow. This is enough for now.

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