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Break out the Benjamin Moore paint chips

Let’s see, will it be a blue floral cotton or a black KN95 sort of day?

One way or another, if I dare to leave the confines of my home to do anything but eat chocolate and fret over the cat population, a mask of some makeup is in the forecast. Now, I don’t love wearing the things, but I’m free from prideful constraints and happy to do it for the common good.

But why, just as the temperature cools down to a pleasant 80-something, must the infernal shroud prevent my enjoying the great outdoors?

I stretched way back into my collection of Southern Oregon Journal archives to retrieve useful information concerning how to gauge smoke safety levels from your easy chair.

Oh, I know we can visit the AirNow website and receive hourly updates, but that leaves all the adventure out of it. So, here are some observations made while struggling with a similar blanket of particulates just a skosh over three years ago.

I have the spectrum down — green, yellow, orange, red, purple and purple-er. Huh? Since I spend most of the day linked to a computer, it’s too easy to flip over and check hourly updates.

It’s every shade of frustrating to watch the smoke map provided on the sites. Just as our area begins edging tantalizingly close to the green, or even yellow spheres, the wind redirects the fickle smoke track smack into our valley funnel.

One thing I’ve discovered is that wind and smoke play a mix of dodge ball and hide and seek, first ganging up on Shady Cove then scuttling across town to purple things up in Ashland. It has encouraged me to be more spontaneous and drive faster.

I don’t need no stinking index. I’ve got one of my own. When I wake up and smell smoke, I know it’s smoky. If my eyes burn but my head doesn’t swim, it’s likely in the Unsafe for Sensitive Groups range, and an average length walk is in order. If I can’t see my neighbor smoking on his porch, I remain indoors.

For a back-up there’s the shade and hue test. That’s when I get out my Benjamin Moore paint chips and measure them against the depth of orange reflecting on my curtains and floor. Oxford Gold means I can probably do a short no-mask walk. If Orange Burst is a match, one combined trip for newspaper and mail is allowed, and maybe a birdbath fill-up. When Flame lines up, it’s time to reach for the car keys and head for greener territory.

I’m sick of the word particulates, but dwelling on the bleak narrows my focus and turns me into a downcast couch lump.

Good things are happening. People and businesses are surviving. The coast is clear. TCM is still in operation, and my popcorn bowl is at the ready. I no longer hyperventilate when opening my VISA bill, as it has thinned down for lack of indulgences. A short drive northwest and we escape to blue skies, enjoy a few deep breaths and reset the scope.

The first September morn always marks fall for me. Why wait until the 22nd to start celebrating my favorite season? This first chilled day of fall, according to the Pegorian calendar, said 44 degrees. If that isn’t indicative of autumn leaves to fall and cocoa on the front burner, I don’t know what is. Time to pull out faux leaves and ply my friend Lynn with heaping bowls of corn candy or candy corn for when she visits for old movies. Time to think outside the mask, even though I’m wearing one.

This week I’m thinking of and praying for those who will be reliving last year’s catastrophe, and I’ll give thanks for all the rebuilding of lives that’s happened despite desperate circumstances. A united community will not fall.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com. Find her books, “Stone Revival” and “Trips and Tangents: 101 Favorite Southern Oregon Journal Columns” at Amazon or order through any bookstore.