Tuesday, December 18, 2012

cold fires

The wind in Patagonia is legendary. If you're not careful, it can actually pick you up off your feet. You can see it rushing across the lakes, pushing a sheet of water in front of it. When you can see this, it is at least a 50 knot wind coming. You have to wait in the partial shelter of twisted trees before you can make a break for it, digging your trekking poles into the thin soil, moving as fast as possible. A fire in this kind of wind is almost unstoppable.

A wall of wind and water (and wood-fired hot tub) in Patagonia
There is almost no lightning in southern Patagonia. Unlike many places, these forests are not fire-dependent. People start the fires here. Careless campers, unwilling to pay the $7 per night fee, burrow into the trees and have illegal campfires. Hikers unwisely burn toilet paper. One spark released into the face of this kind of wind causes a storm of fire that can run for miles.

Fire danger sign
The rangers try to enforce the rules, but there are few of them, and their salaries are only about $100 a month. There are no helicopters, no vast armies of professional firefighters standing by, waiting to be deployed. They do what they can.

Don't do fire! I look a little crazed due to the wind.
Rodrigo stops in the burned forest. "At least this was a cold fire," he says. He means that the wind pushed the fire through the trees fast; it didn't sterilize the soil, didn't kill everything.  This forest was never supposed to burn. The trees lean over from the weight of the constant wind; they are used to fighting, but not against fire. Still, here and there patches of green are springing up in the black soil. The forest will come back, but it will take a long time.

Monument to a careless trekker
We keep walking. The wind blows through the burned forest. How strange it is to think that the very wind that burned this forest also helped save some of it.

There are cold fires in all of our lives. We are all damaged in our own and unique ways by the firestorms that others start, unintentionally or on purpose. The scars are there, but not everything is destroyed. We can recover from the fire and we can stand against the wind. As strong as it can be, we are stronger.

1 comment:

  1. How interesting that your blog and Mary's last one both talk about the strength within to cope with pain, loss, and heartbreak. You are an amazing woman, Lynn, and I'm glad you had a chance to trek in SA. Feliz Navidad, querida nieta!


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