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Smoke, Heat, and One Writer Getting By

Smoke in the air at the stables

Smoke and hot weather can make for a challenging combination . . .

The air is full of smoke. The temps are in the 90s—which in the wet and green Pacific Northwest is HOT—and there isn’t any rain in the short term. We don’t have air conditioning and movie theaters are out as a means of escape.

Let’s face it, 2020 has been a bit of a disappointment as years go. There have been a lot of complicating issues for everyone and nothing is either easy to solve or going away soon. And neither is this damn smoke.

So what’s a body to do?

I find myself doing a lot of baking, plus I picked up my banjo again for the first time in a very long time. I’m not going to admit how long it took me to tune the darn thing, but I’m happy to say I have mastered that part. Now to work on those forward and backward rolls.

From my office, I can see the smoke drifting across the sky. But I keep the window cracked. I feel sorry for my neighbors listening to me tune, but why are they outside in these conditions anyway?

As many of us move through our six month of lockdown, a few trends have appeared through the smoke.

I baked these!

I’m not alone in my baking craze, people are canning, sewing, and doing other domestic chores that folks mostly left behind in the early 1900s.

Others have increased their recreational drinking and there’s likely to be both a population explosion in about four months as well as a sharp rise in divorce. We are either settling into our domestic partnerships or discovering the underlying cracks as we spend 24/7 with our significant other.

And writers are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to write about the pandemic.

And writers are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to write about the pandemic.

I might not write about the pandemic, but smoke may rear its head in my next project!

For me, I see where I might use the pandemic as a part of a project on my horizon, but I’m finishing up projects where that aspect of our reality doesn’t exist. The two manuscripts I’m currently working on exist in the TIME BEFORE, as I often think in my head, complete with the capital letters. But I have an idea for a story that will be set IN THE TIME OF COVID.

I understand both those realities. The one where we casually went into a store and breathed on each other. Where we sat in bars and rubbed our fingers across the bar top without thought for germs or the possibility that touching our face next might result in our deaths. And also the one we’re in now. Where few things feel casual and we are constantly bombarded by reminders that nothing can be taken for granted.

I stopped at our local Bartell’s drug store today. Since I rarely go anywhere except the stables, just walking through the doors felt dangerous. Picking up my items as quick as possible, I still managed to joke with the pharmacist whom I’ve known for years and like very much. It was nice to see people out in the world, even if we all wore masks and there was plexiglass between us.

It felt . . . normal.

But I left as quickly as I could. I went down the aisles where no one else stood and headed for the front door.

But I left as quickly as I could. I went down the aisles where no one else stood and headed for the front door.

Back outside into the smoky air . . .

An elderly woman came in as I was almost to the front. She didn’t have a mask on. My first thought was what the f*&k? What is she thinking? She’s in a vulnerable population. Then I thought . . . I’m getting ten feet from her.

She looked at me with some surprise, as I moved away, then said “Oh, sh*t, I forgot my mask.”

That could be the slogan for 2020. “Oh, sh*t, I forgot my mask.”

Whether it’s the literal, I-have-to-have-a-mask-on-to-go-into-a-public-place-in-Washington-State kind of mask or the I-should-hide-how-I’m-struggling kind of mask or the I-never-leave-the-house-so-I-forgot-this-is-a-thing kind of mask, or any other mask we’re all trying our best to keep in place, sometimes we forget.

I got to my car and as I was putting my stuff away, I saw her returning to the store, mask in place. And I thought, good for you. Make a mistake, curse out loud, fix it, move forward.

Make a mistake, curse out loud, fix it, move forward.

SmokeAnother excellent reminder.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We’re all doing the best we can.

Here’s what I’m doing to get through: Writing, reading, binge-watching TV late at night, spending time with my horses, baking, banjo tuning (soon to be playing), and muttering at people under my breath as I drive.

What kind of mask are you doing your best to remember? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

We’re all in this together.


From smoky Snoqualmie Valley, Washington.

Looking for something to do to while away the time? Check out the stops on my current Blog Tour with Partners In Crime! Click the link here to see all the stops.

Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite on-line retailers. And don’t forget many independent bookstores can order books for you and have them shipped to your home or for curbside pickup.

For more information on All We Buriedclick on the link here to visit the home page.

Photos: By author except:

Mask, by Anncapictures on Pixabay

And Header Photo by HG-Photographie on Pixabay.

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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