Fire on the Mountain

I

Here we go round the prickly pear

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Prickly pear

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Prickly pear

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Here we go round the the prickly pear

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At five o’clock in the morning.

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II

On June 8, 2019, on of the Great American Wildernesses began to burn.

Within hours it became clear that there was little we could do other than hope.

Hope doesn’t do much to stop fires.


III

The land is patient,

The land is kind.

It does not envy,

It does not boast,

It is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

The land does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,

Always trusts,

Always hopes,

Always perseveres.


IV

The fire’s growth has slowed enough for us to be able to reflect on what has been lost.

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There is Reavis Ranch, who offered wood to keep us warm, and Campaign, who lifted us far from the valley floor. Whiskey Springs, who taught us the joy of being poked by thorny plants, and La Barge, who showed us the value of solitude.

There is West Pinto, whose hills kept their secrets, Cuff Button, who brought us to our knees, and Red Tanks, whose womb I crawled into when I had no where else to go. We asked much of these places and we gave back very little.

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Soon they will start to recover, each a tiny Forest of Theseus. We will, and should, find some consolation in this. But we also shouldn’t be fooled: though they may look the same we will never see the forests of our youth with old eyes.


V

It is dark and I am reading Jack a book.

“I don’t need very much now,”

said the boy.

“Just a quite place to sit and rest.

I am very tired.”

“Well,” said the tree,

straightening herself up

as much as she could,

“Well an old stump is good

for sitting and resting,

Come, Boy, sit down.

Sit down and rest.”

And the boy did.

And the tree was happy.

He asks me to read it again. I can’t. I am crying.



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Max Wilson is a born and raised Arizonan with a love for all that is beautiful and strange about the Southwest. He studied at Arizona State University, where he received his PhD in ecology. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for Backpacker, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.


4 thoughts on “Fire on the Mountain

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