Mostly I love firefighting for what it can be; the pure, simple essence of it, a person with a tool, dig a line, put it out. I used to love being on the line, the camaraderie of strangers, the sweet-acrid smell of smoke, the thrill of being somewhere high on a mountain. I hate firefighting for what it can be also: a glut of overhead with burgeoning costs, often unjustified.
It's coming to an end for me, but I still hang on to some of the qualifications I once had. Doing this job, in what is affectionately known as "The Box", is not for everyone. It's either slammed or not busy. "Would you rather," I ask Mike, "change gender every time you sneeze or mistake a baby's head for a muffin?" I do pushups when I make a porta potty run. I go for a run with a headlamp. It's hard to be inactive. "Did you forget your medicine?" Mike asks.
I don't know why I hang on to some of these fire qualifications. I'd really rather be hiking in the limited summer we have. It's like anything else from your past: you remember how it was, not the way it is now. I'm glad I was part of the glory days, when fire was my life, when I felt like I could do anything.
Kim brings me a quinoa, oatmeal and fruit mixture. An extraordinarily good looking pilot strolls by (don't worry folks, just looking). All the helicopters come back in safely for the night. And I realize that even though this isn't what I want to do all the time, it's easy to get stuck in a comfortable, controlled zone, where you know you can exercise for a certain amount of time, you know what food you can eat, and so on. Fire is the ultimate loss of control over your life, and it's good to be a little uncomfortable sometimes.
It's Day 2 in the Box. I have: water, internet, snacks, and plenty of time. I'm making up a novel in my head. I'm going to surpass my pushup level today and maybe throw in a few planks. I'll be back in the mountains soon.
I think up Two Truths and A Lie for Mike. He looks worried and scuttles off to Briefing. It's good to be part of a team again. I have missed this.