“The Tillamook Burn” by William Stafford

I’ve just come back from an overnight trip to Mineral School, where I had the good fortune to meet and read with mountain guide and writer/editor Charlotte Austin. Before I headed home, I stopped by the informal information center across from the Alder Lake Fire, which has been burning since a lightning strike on July 26 — a nano-second compared to the Tillamook Burn, which flared every six years in Oregon for several decades (yes, you read that right). Here’s what William Stafford had to say about that:

The Tillamook Burn

These mountains have heard God;
they burned for weeks. He spoke
in a tongue of flame from sawmill trash
and you can read His word down to the rock.

In milky rivers the steelhead
butt upstream to spawn
and find a world with depth again,
starting from stillness and water across gray stone.

Inland along the canyons
all night weather smokes
past the deer and the widow-makers–
trees too dead to fall till again He speaks.

Mowing the criss-cross trees and the listening peaks.

—William Stafford

“Tillamook Burn,” by William Stafford, copyright © Kim Stafford. Used by permission of Kim Stafford.

Read more and see pictures of the Tillamook Burn.

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