Over It

The other day, I was outside sniffing the air and thinking to myself, this smells smokier than it’s been in the last few days, but it’s been worse. To double check, I looked up for the sun and saw that, sure, it was a little bit orange, but far from the deep red that it had been at times in the past couple weeks. And then I realized just how good I’d accidentally become at normalizing seemingly everything that’s thrown my way in 2020, even the Oregon wildfires and the atmospheric fallout.

When the wildfires started, my reaction had been a mix of fear and frustration; I recognized the way the light was changing very early on — 2017 had very bad smoke in Portland as a result of surrounding wildfires, and the way that it turned sunlight orange isn’t something that is easy to forget — but, beyond the worry of how bad it was going to be this time, there was this unavoidable sense of, really? Wildfires on top of everything else? Of course, why should I expect anything different?

Portland has had a rough year. I mean, everywhere has — 2020 has been cartoonishly cruel in ways that feel surreal when you stop to think about it — but if Portland, Oregon got off relatively easily when it came to the global pandemic (and we did, realistically, despite the deaths and the massive economic costs it’s taken from the city in terms of permanently closed businesses), it got hit harder than most when it came to the federal response to the Black Lives Matter protests downtown. We were, terrifyingly, the first city in the country where protesters were pulled into unmarked vehicles by federal agents who refused to identify themselves, after all. Ground zero! Breaking new ground! The President couldn’t stop talking about us, even if it was all lies!

But, after awhile, even that became the new normal. Life continued. That’s the running theme of the year: life continues. We get on with it.

So the wildfires surrounded us, and the smoke smothered us, and we got on with it. We recognized the good smoke days and the bad smoke days and complained when the smoke didn’t clear when it had been forecast to, over and over again. We’re resilient. I’m just not sure if that’s truly a positive, is all.

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