Unsettling Fire

Here’s the Flat Lake Fire when it first really got going a few evenings back, looking north from Big Bar Lake.

And here’s the Bonaparte fire, through the smoke, off to the East at the same time.

It is one of the illusions of settler culture that there is a primary state of nature, on which development can be made.

Even the idea that a wildfire is to be combatted only when it threatens structures is a settler idea. It’s not just structures and forests that burn.

Butterflies and asters burn, too. And the porcupine grass community.

And the little red damselflies.

These are not settlers. They come from water, move out on the dry Earth, and retreat when it becomes too dry with the season or simply burns. They aren’t settled here. They are part of a rhythm. Eagles, a vital part of life on the Plateau, don’t even live here year round. That’s hardly settlement.

Sometimes, the time to fight a fire is before it begins. In our case, a thorough dismantling of the notion of settlement, and of government acquiring legitimacy through its adopted role of dispensing permanent rights to property based on the notion of building a structure on it would help enormously. The quail below and fire both have their ways of adopting to the presence of a structure like that.

Fires upset the whole notion of ownership. So do robins.

The whole idea of wildfires is the notion of life, destruction and renewal, but that’s not really it.

The broken aspen in the centre of the image, here on the Big Bar Creek Wetlans, is not bad, just as the young aspens in the foreground are not new. They are all the same plant, just, luckily, without the predation of cattle, another image of settlement little different than the European idea of nature that dies and is reborn. The aspen has gone nowhere, and the beetle-killed pines here, and others collapsed and lying in the grass, contribute more to life and store more water in their non-growing phase than in their phase with green needles. As climate changes and the forests get ever more dry, we will learn to accept them both as barricades against fire’s capacity to remove settlement. They are fire themselves, only in a green form.

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