I can see the pirate on the mountain from the window in front of my desk in the cabin. It’s a formation of trees and rocks that create a Johnny Depp sort of swashbuckler, with features defined by 50-foot ponderosa pines poking out of granite skin. He has a pert nose, neat beard, and a large, graceful hat; one eye squints and the other one is covered with a patch. — Burn Scars: A Memoir of the Land and Its Loss.(Photo from 2012)
The pirate was a big casualty of the 2013 East Peak Fire.
Now, most of the pirate’s eye and nose are gone, his beard a pale shadow, barely visible against the rock of the mountain. His eye patch, plume, and part of his hat have some life to them, the rest is burned away. We hadn’t been up to check on it, but we heard the miner’s shack was also gone.
We and other neighbors once used the pirate as a beacon—if we left the mountain, we could still see him, guiding us back. We now have a vague reminder of our swashbuckler on the mountain, but it’s a sad one, a sign of all the forest we have lost. And since 2013, the United States alone has lost more than 40 million acres to wildfires. While the West has always had forest fires, these new ones are beasts—increasingly larger and hotter, fueled by dry timber and insect-infested trees that are the result of the climate crisis. Now, as I write this, California, Oregon and Washington are burning with a historically destructive force, sending ash-polluted air across the country. What will be left after that conflagration? And will we get serious soon about slowing this devastation down?
If, like me, you see this land as God’s creation and recognize that we have a responsibility to protect it, check out Interfaith Power and Light, a faith-based group that shows us how to be better stewards of the land God entrusted to our care.
Get Burn Scars: A Memoir of the Land and Its Loss from your local bookstore, or on Amazon.