My observations over the past 6 years have led me to the conclusion that Oregon and much of the West now have five distinct seasons- Winter, Spring, Summer, Fire and Fall. Last year we somehow missed "Fire" with just one brief day of smoke, so minimal, many missed it. A couple weeks ago, "Memories" from 2012, 2013 and 2014 popped up on my Facebook Feed. September 6, 2012, "Off the grid and and out of this smokey valley. Yaay!", July 29, 2013, " Currently in Ashland, 79 degrees and smoke...", July 31, 2013, "I just bought the last box of N95 respirator masks at Miller Paint. Don't go outside without protection", Three weeks later on August 22, 2013, "Big bursts of thunder and rain never felt so good! Thank you, Holy One." And, September 24, 2014 from Instagram," Oh the rain is so beloved. #rain #drought #quenchthefires #relief #cleanair#ashlandoregon"
I think you get the picture. Due to there being no fires, last summer, I was caught off guard this year, when Oregon got slammed so hard with the fires which began in Southern Oregon on July 31 and are still burning. It seems to be all too easy for us humans to put our blinders on, over and over, without really getting the big picture.
From the amazing crystal clear blue sky and 85 degree days of June and July, doing daily hikes and Qigong next to my creek, we went directly to fire, smoke and triple-digit temperatures which all became exponentially worse as we moved into late August and early September. The following images of "Fire" season are blazed into my mind. The sky is not blue or overcast with grey clouds- there is no sky to be seen; there are no mountain views to be had; an orangey-yellow light filters through the tree branches, casting an orange glow onto everything, filtering into my home. The rising and setting sun and moon, fluctuate between orange to deep red, depending on the AQI. I check 2-3 different websites regularly to determine if it's safe to be outside or open windows. If the air suddenly clears, getting into the "Good" range, desperate for clean, cool air, I race to open my windows and doors. All too often I have bitten this sweet bait late at night and gone to sleep with a clean glorious breeze blowing through my windows only to awaken a few hours later to the smell of smoke filling my home. I immediately race through the dark house, shutting windows and turn on a fan to cool my bedroom rather than turn on the air conditioning and bring more smoke particulates into the house. Each day, as the smoke increased, more and more people were donning N-95 masks, on the streets and in their cars. When the air was at its worst I developed a cough, sore throat, headache, dripping sinuses and fever. For weeks, sleep at night was sticky-hot and stifling due to the closed windows, even though the night time temps had dropped to 52 degrees following triple digits during the day. For us north westerners who live and breathe to immerse ourselves in nature, being trapped inside is been torturous. On bad smoke days, work-outs happen inside, that is if I am not too fatigued and toxic to move body. This is "Fire".
We are now less than a week from The Autumn Equinox and fires are still burning across Oregon and many places in the west. Temperatures have suddenly dropped into the 70's and low 80's by day and into the chilly 40's at night. It's almost time to turn the heat on as Fire season morphs into Autumn. This year, we had approximately 5 weeks of summer and so far, 7 weeks of Fire.
Fire is not new in our forests. More than a century ago, Breitenbush Hot Springs burned down in a massive fire and just last week the community was ordered to evacuate. On the first trip my parents made to Oregon, in September, 1981, they drove into Ashland through thick, dark smoke, by way of Highway 66, with no visibility or view of our spectacular valley. That year, the Rogue River Fire raged out of control. I remember my father being debilitated with a severe migraine from the smoke during his visit. What is new, is that these massive fires no longer come several years apart, but fire season in Southern Oregon, seems to be an annual thing- the new season.
Ten Helpful Tips for Fire Season Self-Care
This is not my typical blog post based on detailed health advice. This fire season slammed me so hard that my main work was my own self-care and daily function, with little ability to be the teacher and helper. Here is some of the best self-care advice that came out of this fire season for me.
1) Invest in an excellent home air purifier which filters out particulates down to.1 micron and filters wildfire smoke. If you choose to live in this area it will be one of the best investments you will ever make for your health and quality of life. My Advanced HEPA + Air Purifier has allowed me to regain functional lungs, energy and clean out all the masses of smoke particulates and VOC's which my house was poisoned with, pre-purifier. Research to find what will be best for you.
2) Wear an N-95 mask when you are outside and the AQI is at a level which is unhealthy. A mask will give your face deep red indentations that last for hours and seriously mess up your hair and make you look totally dorky. Dorky is far better than developing emphysema and lung disease years from now as a result of living in wildfire country year after year. Some need a mask when the AQI hits 100 and others may not feel it until the AQI gets worse. At this point, I need a mask even in the moderate range. If you have lung or heart disease, are elderly or highly sensitive, be very attentive to protecting your respiratory system. Studies do demonstrate that people who live their lives in wildfire areas develop lung disease later in life. Two weeks ago I drove through 150 miles of thick smoke (AQI over 400) wearing my mask in the car for over two hours as I escaped to clean coastal air.
3) Neti (rinse) your sinuses daily to remove the gross toxins you breathe in daily. I use a Baraka Neti Pot with Neil-Med Sinus Rinse packets, but you may prefer their BPA-Free squeeze bottle.
4) Up your daily dose of Vitamin D-3 since you are not getting much if any sunlight during the fires. The D-3 helps reduce systemic inflammation.
5) Detoxify by staying well hydrated with plenty of water; using at least 1000 Mg. daily of N-Acetyl Cysteine (N.A.C.) which not only helps detox the liver but works as an expectorant to thin mucous in the lungs and sinuses.
6) Purchase a little bottle of what I find to be liquid gold for sinus relief, Baraka Sinus Rejuvenation Oil- a topical essential oil blend which not only opens, protects and clears sinuses but the "Inula" oil in the formula helps dilate bronchial passages.
7) Nourish yourself with nutrient-dense organic whole foods and stay hydrated by drinking enough water to help flush out toxins.
8) Stay active with a good indoor movement practice- Aerobics, Qigong, Yoga or working with exercise equipment.
9) Adopt a Gratitude Practice to help your mind stay strong and positive while feeling the claustrophobia, suffocation and low mood that typically comes with such stressful environmental conditions.
10) This is a good time to hang with friends, family and nourish your relationships for emotional support. Heart-felt connection is essential to our emotional health.
Many Blessings and Prayers for Clear Air, Blue Skies and Rain.
Web Resources for Air Quality levels:
Oregon DEQ Air Quality Levels