I would have been thrilled with a drive to the DMV after three weeks in solitary confinement because of a foot injury, of which everyone, especially me, is sick and tired by now. It was heartening to look forward to something besides lunch and "Jeopardy" reruns, even if it meant challenging the dense smoke laying siege to the valley.
My friend Lane Hall and I plowed through a swarming army of particulates as we delivered Hall’s artwork to Klamath Falls. Riding in a car again felt strange. Sept. 15 marks the opening of the annual juried art show and sale hosted by Favell Museum of Western Art and Native American Artifacts.
The drive east along Highway 140 during the autumn change is picturesque, but we couldn’t even see the summer-clad hills as a backdrop until we were upon them. But Van Morrison singing “Wild Night” and "Tupelo Honey” helped us forget everything but 1971.
Something good began happening as we mounted the Cascade Range. Every location had reported thick smoke of late, even in the high country, so we didn’t expect anything better. But by the time we reached the 5,000-plus-foot summit, the sky had reverted to its placid, blue self. There were actual clouds here and there. A simple wind shift made the difference, and it reminded me of the good old days.
So, naturally, we pulled into Lake of the Woods for lunch. The parking steward told us we were in luck because the morning had been quite smoky there as well. The North Pelican fire roared a mere seven miles off. But sitting on the deck by the water, we enjoyed the fresh air respite and a hamburger. So what if the playful wind blew my hair into my mouth?
I learned that the large group enjoying lunch and lively conversation near us were teachers from the Salem area. As I didn’t stare, but observed (there’s a difference to writers), I couldn’t help but appreciate the diversity — large, small, fit (coaches), and not so much, various nationalities and personalities. They shared a meal together and, hopefully, they teach our children to do the same. We drank a toast to them.
Klamath Falls saw a bit more smoke as we headed further east, but appeared brighter than what we’d left behind in Medford. After unloading the precious cargo, we enjoyed an incredibly moving photography exhibit at Favell, “By Her Hand: Native American Women, their Art, and the Photographs of Edward S. Curtis.”
More than 60 pieces from the Christopher G. Cardozo collection are traveling the country, and Favell Museum is the smallest venue to host such a prestigious display.
Missing good things helps renew my appreciation for them when they reappear, and for at least a short time, I’m grateful. I can almost say through gritted teeth that having my mobility compromised has been a good thing if it makes me appreciate the simple act of walking. And maybe it’s worth going without a clear sky day for a while just to remember what it’s like to breathe the clean air with which we are blessed most of the year.
For now we see darkly through a smokescreen. The foothills are there waiting, and blue skies are closer than they appear. As with fog in winter, it’s just a matter of elevation, wind shifts and perspective. Hang in there and enjoy your indoor spaces in the meantime, and I will try to do the same.
— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Email her at email@example.com.