Here in the wondrous mountains of Southern Appalachia, we begin Advent in a state of extreme drought, circled by raging wildfires. We wander a parched land through a haze of smoke, eyes stinging and throats burning. Never before have the psalmist’s words meant so much to me: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul thirsts for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1).
We awake every morning anxious to hear the day’s air quality hue: green (go ahead and breathe), yellow (breathe, but do so cautiously), orange (don’t breathe too much if you have heart or respiratory problems), red (take comfort in knowing that breathing is bad for everybody), or purple (consider hibernation). I listen to the regular radio reports but could get the news just as easily from the rooster at the end of our cove. He raises a piercing alarm and crows endlessly whenever we’re shrouded in smoke—the very times he should be saving his breath. Continue reading