Real Life Blue Sky

Juni in smoke mask

“A mind full of questions and a teacher in my soul.”
~ Eddie Vedder


She awoke, looked out of the bus’s tiny windows and exclaimed, “It’s real life blue sky!” Then she jumped up and ran outside to more clearly see this amazing sight!

How many days do you or I not even notice how beautiful the blue sky is? How many times do we wake up and not even think about what a gift a new day is or how remarkable the world around us is? I can speak for myself – it’s far too many days.

After several weeks of moderate to heavy smoke in our valley, it was amazing to wake up to clear skies. It was amazing to see the landscape again, especially the mountains. And it was amazing to see clouds again, just ordinary, glorious clouds!

This August has been called “Smokust” and it has been much August 2017. We think of this as the “new normal” but Cliff Mass (WA meteorologist) says that it’s actually the “old”normal” which we are just not used. Apparently, this many fires and this much smoke was much more common in the early 20th Century and before, or so says Cliff Mass (

Whether or not this is the new normal, old normal or something else altogether, we are strongly affected by weeks of smoke and it’s having its psychological and emotional impact. The impacts are not only physical, but also mental. People tend to go out less and so suffer from a feeling of isolation. We tend to do less of the physical things that make us feel good such as running, biking and hiking. And we suffer from the loss of seeing and connecting with the places that we love. It is being called the “Lost Summer”, and it does feel as though summer just suddenly ended. No more swimming in rivers and lakes, no more trips to Black Pine Lake, no hiking or backpacking. There is a great article from The Narwhal that discusses this further:

For myself I ran for the first time in weeks this morning before the smoke came back. It felt great and I connected with a promontory above the Methow River that I have not seen in weeks. I love this spot and it’s like connecting with a part of myself. In that way, the Smokust is keeping me from feeling my sense of self in this place. And that is always distressing.

So what do we do with this “new-old normal?” What do we do when our habits and passions are suddenly put on hold? And what do we do with this sense of self when the places and rhythms that define it are altered so greatly? Questions are thick like the smoke, but answers may come suddenly and miraculously like the “real life blue sky,” which is always there shining through the haze.

By David LaFever


2 thoughts on “Real Life Blue Sky

  1. Ann Greenwater

    Dear David,
    As always, thank you for being so regular in keeping touch with us all here, and for your wonderful posts. “Real life blue sky!” What a treasure that exclamation is. I do most days when I say “grace” before supper remember to give thanks for clear air and clean water—among the many gifts in my life, these are so basic–so endangered—and so lacking for so many.
    I hate to add to the bad news about smoke, and you are likely already aware of this, but the massive use of the toxic fire retardants is pretty scary. There was a major article on this in a recent issue of The Nation magazine with the history of Monsanto et. al.’s promotion of their use. This included a picture advertisement from the 50’s that I found particularly chilling on many levels. A Christmas holiday ad, it showed a family (3 or 4 children from late infancy on up) wearing red and white striped pajamas/gowns complete with stocking cap (dad) and lacy caps (girls) reading, “Fire retardant pajamas for the whole family—the perfect gift—save $10…..”
    It’s distressing to realize this is the world in which I came of age and took for normal. The family, of course, white and middle class, which shows the invisible-to-us ethnic and class privilege in which I was raised, but also the blanket acceptance of “modern science,” too often screening capitalist greed.
    All looking so cozy and desirable…..So while it’s hard to be living right now, it’s also encouraging that people are beginning to wake up to what’s actually here.
    I had a question about the meteorologist’s comment that these kinds of fire were normal at the turn of the century. I was curious to know what part if any European immigrant activity in the area played in this, and what if any mitigating procedures the native population of the area had. Realize I don’t know what the native population in your new home is.
    AZG life continues to–dare I say “flourish” here under Gene’s guidance. I think I do. 18 people are signed up for the 3-day visit to Green Gulch in October. And Gene’s lecture of a week ago on creating a stable practice made me realize anew that that is still my current task, and I am looking forward to the support our upcoming “study intensive” will provide. It’s been a gift having Marie F. back with us, as well as several committed newer people with some previous practice experience.
    I do hope at some point it will be possible for you and family to return to this area for a visit, although I realize this would be a major undertaking.
    Wishing you all well, and in cleaner air,


  2. Hi Ann,

    Thank you for replying so kindly and thoroughly! I will respond in an email and also reply to your previous email with questions about my relationship with Juniper (which is close, loving and wonderful)!



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