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Fire Time

For the third night in a row, I’ve had to drive past hillsides where plumes of fire burn fifty, a hundred feet into a night sky made white with smoke.

Living in these desert mountains has renewed my appreciation for weather in all its forms. Last year, I sat in my car in the middle of the road while all around me, a dust storm raged. Ten minutes of seeing nothing but swirling brown while the car swayed. And now… fire on the way to and from work that’s so close, I could get off the freeway, drive three minutes, and pick up an axe and firehose if I was that crazy.

At work, “down the hill” from my house some sixty miles, all you can see is the false cloud bank of smoke and water vapor. At home, you can’t see the smoke, but the smell forces us to close all the windows.

It’s a remarkable thing to have an example of nature’s unshakable power so close, all day, for three days. Finally, a legitimate use of the word “awesome.”

Speaking of “awesome” and fire — as I write this, we’re twelve hours or so away from being washed by another tongue of fire, this time from the sun. A solar flare, or plume, more accurately, is headed our way. No, we’re not going to shrivel and fry like a cotton ball under a blow torch, but this “geomagnetic storm” might screw with your cellphone and AM radio reception for a day or so!

Finally, the biggest fire we know of, the fire of creation itself, the Big Bang, is my latest wallpaper. We’ve actually got an image of it, you know. Find it at http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/index.html. That’s the universe at 379,000 years old. If the universe were an eighty year old man, that would be like looking at a pic of the day of his birth.

It’s intriguing to me — just down the hill a ways, fire is destroying homes, uprooting lives, wiping out history for several families. 93 million miles away, the fire that gives us life just sent us a little reminder of who’s boss. Meanwhile, all around us in the sky, the infinitesmally small heat remnant of the Big Bang, the fire that started everything, is speaking to us with knowledge and showing us its face.

Not a bad time or place to be alive!

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