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I'll never look the same at mopping

Never have the words “mopping up” held such poetic assurance.

Previously associated with the overdue kitchen floor, regional fires are in mop-up mode now. We are left with a tragedy of historic proportions along with a hope for revival. The grief we share might have been far more horrific had more lives been lost. We’re making plans, sifting through ash and rebuilding homes and lives. With autumn’s arrival, we’ve turned the last corner on a horrendous year with unexpected joy written into the script, and now, a little rain to give ease and break the 99-day dry stretch.

Sometime in the night I woke to the aroma, the petrabio (my word), of blessed rainfall landing on scorched earth — a tantalizing prelude to a hoped-for rainy season. I’d been fooled before by the sprinkler system wetting things down. This was the real deal. I overslept the event, thereby missing the chance to dance in one more answer to prayer.

KDRV meteorologist Matt Hoffman forecasts hellish temperatures returning to the 90s next week. He even smiled and seemed upbeat when he said it. How can this be? At least the devilish smoke has cleared.

We thought the virus had us in a choke-hold, then came smoke — a malevolent cloud. Not only could we not frolic, we couldn’t breathe with any sense of security. Two years ago, the summer of flame surrounding us on all sides didn’t see the air quality degenerate to the level of these neighborhood visitations. Has it really been almost three weeks? With my one saved N95 mask, I made dashes to supply birds and little critters with water and seed. Call me a bleeding heart, that’s fine, but how devastating it must be on small things who have no choice but to fly through and live within such pollution 24/7.

I also had Front Yard Chicken, alias FYC (she’s now FYC-BYC since she’s added the backyard to her territory), chicken-sitting duty for my neighbors during the onslaught. I saw her pecking through particulates as if it was no big deal. Oh, yes, she got her mealworms. I got my eggs.

Today I’m finally going for a haircut, as long as I can see my way to the shop, that is. It’s been longer than the sieges we’ve been under, since I was overdue from the start. I had to run up to Coastal Farm & Ranch for a curry comb and hedge trimmer meanwhile. I just hope this new gal doesn’t confuse me with Cousin Itt, say it’s too early for Halloween, and refuse service. She doesn’t know me, and with a mask to boot ...

I’m sensing the winds of change — good breezes that blow out the stench and bad news, and leave the lessons. I had my carpets and windows cleaned and changed the blackened furnace filter filled with proof of how filthy the indoor air had become.

My hair is lighter thanks to Mandy at De & Co. I’ve hauled out the autumn decorations and hung the scarecrows that my grandmother and I sewed many years ago in the delight of one another’s company. I will select a pumpkin, or three, and carve out a toothless gob. I like hearing each year how much my friend Lynn loves candy corn and will only start munching it October 1st (she made an exception this year). Baking time is here, and I have some new flours to try on old recipes. I cherish this season most of all.

For the first time in a while, I returned to the old walk. I breathed cooler, cleaner air and saw how acorns had begun their rain. Time and trouble away from the course had stolen some gusto. I cut it short, but time, while robbing us of some things, allows for improvement with effort. There is still grace.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Find “Trips & Tangents,” a collection of favorite SOJ columns, on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Email her at pcdover@hotmail.com.