38 Comments

This is beautiful, Annie. Thank you. It reminds me of when summer was my favorite season as well. I don't know when it changed to fall and winter. I remember summer seeming endless, and as a 4-H kid, the Big Ending was always the Western Montana Fair, when I would see kids I only saw then, and could run wildly unattended for the better part of a week. I never went to summer camp—the wide open fields around my house, and stands of pines, and irrigation water that would rise in the low places and form small ponds and swamps—those were my camp, and I would go completely feral in my solitude. So I was shaped by those experiences, and sleeping outside, and looking for Sputnik among the stars, and wondering about UFOs and cattle mutilations and all those great things from the 70s. On a summer day in 1977 my cousin and I saw three movies in one day—jumping the ropes between auditoriums at the end of each film—at the old tri-plex theater on Brooks: Viva Knievel, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Star Wars. Much as I loved Star Wars (everyone did) it was Dr. Moreau I loved most. I've written about this before and probably will again ... but I had plastic vampire teeth left over from Halloween, and I would run around in the wilds around the house with my two big dogs, imagining myself to be some half man/half beast superhero for the rest of the summer.

We've been lucky here in Missoula the last couple years, for the most part, as far as smoke goes, but we seem to be paying the price this year.

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I read this in bed this morning, and ended up sobbing in the bathroom while brushing my teeth. The climate grief is real.

I grew up in western New York and now live in southern California. Fall was always my favorite season, the bite of cold in the air, the changing colors, all thing spooky, the way it leads into the coziness and twinkle lights of the holidays, and of course the new beginning represented by a new school year. Fall is always the season of new beginnings for me to this day, even though we don't even really have fall where I live now. We have fire season and heat and dryness. My favorite SoCal season is spring, everything is green and cool and we earned it by putting up with the oppressive heat of the previous summer and the longer and longer fire season. A few weeks ago, I went for a hike during what should have still been spring. We got up to the top of a ridgeline and looked back at where we had started, only to see smoke billowing up just beyond the next ridge where we'd parked. And that is how I went for my first trail run. I made it back to my car and got out of there, but dang, things are not supposed to be on fire this early. It's not the fact of the fires. It's the ever increasing severity and destruction, and the fact that we can't seem to do anything about it, whether it's getting off of fossil fuels or simply providing adequate funding and support for firefighting efforts.

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Jul 18, 2021Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I've spent my entire life (7 decades) in the Pacific Northwest, from the desert Columbia Basic in Washington to the I-5 corridor from Salem to Ashland in Oregon and now the Puget Sound area in Washington. Each of those areas now deal with the effects of wildfires. When Covid-19 landed, I already had a stock of N-95 masks for the days when we asthmatics were warned to use them. Turning back the clock to my high school days when our debate club topic was air pollution, we and our counterparts in the other regional clubs had a difficult time arguing the con side that it was no big deal because we were researching the literature. In adulthood, I bought into no-wood-fires and high-mileage cars and the reuse-recycle-repurpose mentality; but life has just been watching politics and ignorance and pigheadedness abet the changing climate and now we're at the too-late-now boundary. My everyday thinking is about death, now that all of my family is gone and I'm alone and will die alone, but it's not just about me: it's the culture, the civilization, and the planet. It's grief on so many levels, and loneliness because we're surrounded by racial-political-environmental-educational bigots who are loud and nasty about their defiance of science. I don't recognize this country any more. Guess I'm just as happy if my end comes sooner.

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author

Cosigning Chris here: we need you.

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Hang in there, Peggy. We need you.

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This is so beautifully written. It made me cry. While you are heartbroken over the loss of your Montana summers, so many of us around the country are also heartbroken because of the myriad changes in the natural cycles that we've each come to love and depend on. Humans have upended the rhythm of the planet, and this piece poignantly captures the anger and grief we're feeling.

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Ah Anne, I so identify with what you wrote! My childhood in the Midwest was similar, and summer long ago became my favorite season. I'm sometimes just plain shocked at how our government dithers over things that, in contrast to climate change, are small and transitory issues. The climate is everything. It's the food we eat and the air we breathe. We are such a foolish species to try and simply *adapt.*

I might be a little odd; but I choose not to go quietly into that climate goodnight. I am only one person, but I cannot in good conscience do things that will make things worse instead of better. I think of the Sesame Street song I heard when my kids were little, with words something like "If every kid did it, can't you see what a messy, dirty, no fun world this would be?" How prescient was this children's program years ago!

I grieve for the mellow summers of riding my horses and growing my garden. We used to have a few hot days interspersed with many beautiful ones. Now we get a few beautiful ones in a scorching steaming summer of hot ones.

I don't air condition, but plan to install a geo-thermal system next year tied into my solar panels so I can unplug from the fossil fuels. I don't allow single use plastics, and buy a lot of my clothes from thrift stores so that they're essentially recycled or repurposed. Native species are becoming a part of my place, as I phase out plants that don't support the bees, birds, and butterflies that are native here. Things like that. As consumers we can find ways both large and small that distance us from the climate change machine. We vote for the world we want to live in with our actions. I'm sick and tired of waiting for politicians to do something. I have to start NOW, or I won't be able to sleep at night.

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You articulated something I was speaking about with @alittlebrittoffun on Instagram this week. I feel that with the hopelessness of the future that is especially prescient these days, I’m having to grieve a future I was promised that is no longer attainable, largely due to climate change. We as millennials were sold a future that is impossible. It’s hard realizing that as the world gets hotter and hotter.

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founding

I’m more of a winter person, so have the years of mourning reduced snowpacks and more winter rainfall, but still, all of this. Our summers in Montana were always so short to begin with, and now every day is one we look at the smoke map and smell the air and wonder if we can go outside. It’s awful, and so much more awful for anyone who doesn’t have a choice.

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My favorite is summer too, even though I am a native southerner and summer means heat and thunderstorms and oppressive humidity. But it also means fireflies and swimming and all of the wonderful things you mentioned. My summer camp was also blissfully low tech and therefore perfect.

This piece is so beautiful and so sad. What the fuck have we done to this place?

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Fireflies. *swoon*

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I leave this week for upstate NY and am SO excited to see fireflies again!

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I’m deeply sad for you that the smoke has descended already there. The smell and the red sun and the sense of doom… I’m so sorry. All of us here in the Eugene area are walking around with this collective trauma from last year’s fire season wrapped around us—not to mention all those who live just a few miles east and who dealt with fire and not just smoke. I’m waiting for the rug to be pulled our from under us any moment this summer. I went to my favorite blueberry farm upriver last week, and it was untouched by last year’s fires but the ridge *just there* above it was crisped. Is this just how we live now? Is this it?

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It just feels so miserably unfair that it's both too hot--I don't have AC and the record breaking string of 90 degree days is miserable on its own--and too smoky to open the windows at night to cool the apartment enough to make it tolerable. The first thing I check when I grab my phone in the morning is the air quality (I'm asthmatic). I remember coming to Missoula in 2001 and not being able to see the mountains and how weird and aberrant it felt, and how now it's just part of summer.

Anyway, I'm a spring and fall person. Both are just so welcome by the time they finally arrive.

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A beautiful reflection on a situation that seems to be getting worse summer by summer here in Vancouver. Summer is my favourite season too but now just thinking about August brings me anxiety. When the smoke is really bad, as it has been almost every August the last few years, I feel like I’m also on fire.

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I, too, experienced the magic of an Inland West summer—so different from the torrid humidity of Fl, where I’ve been for more than 2 decades. Here it’s not smoke but mold. I read this nostalgically—even in the Blue Ridge mountains & Valley of VA, where I grew up, my childhood summers were much like you describe yours. I wonder where I can live that my body & the earth’s will be in harmony.

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Thank you for putting words to the emotions of climate grief I've been having as well. Here in the Northeast it's been the opposite problem. It's either so hot and humid you can't go outside or it's pouring down rain with round after round of thunderstorms and flooding. I wish we had a giant version of those fish tubes used to transport salmon over dams and we could use it to send some water your way.

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This year I feel like we're just waiting. Waiting for the smoke to arrive in the Puget Sound area and blanket us for weeks like it did last year. The heat wave a few weeks ago was another eye opener. We've purchased more fans and out air purifier should arrive tomorrow or the next day, if FedEx can get their act together (that's an entirely different topic). So far the air currents have worked in our favor, but it could change at any time.

My son was hiking in the Methow area a few days ago and had to evacuate when a fire started nearby. Much of his life is spent outdoors - gardening work in Bellingham; recreation and botanical research in the mountains. I'm so sad for he and his friends, and the damaged world they're being given.

Thank you for this beautiful piece that expresses what so many of us are feeling. Grief that the idyllic summers of the past are not likely to return, aside from a day or two here and there. Grief for lost opportunities, and now the start reality staring us in the face.

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I’m one of the people who head west in the summer, with my fly rod, to escape the humidity. Readily concede I couldn’t make it through the winters.

I too went to working-class Presbyterian summer camp. My mom was the nurse so we boys got to go for free and stay the whole summer. Yeah, bunk beds, canoes, rusty screws, and pine straw. My first awareness of girls.

Anne Helen and others probably know this, but Norman Maclean’s other great book is called “Young Men and Fire”. It’s about a specific fire but also about the formation of the smoke jumpers who fought it. They were paratroopers returning from World War II.

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I grew up in West Michigan and have lived in central New York most of my adult life, and although my favorite season has always been autumn, it's the winters I mourn the most: reliable deep snowfall that would last for months, snow days, frozen-over ponds and lakes for skating, cross-country skiing every winter on that snow that would last for months, no early warm days followed by frosts to threaten the fruit crops, even the threat of having to wear a snowsuit under a Halloween costume (the WORST) or to keep warm for 4th of July fireworks on the beach (fun). I fear that winter will disappear from the world. My grief is profound. I wish I knew what to do for the world. As a Gen-Xer, I have grown up during the time when these changes have become inevitable, and I wish I could have done something. Something more. Even if I never understood how to do that.

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