I come to consciousness at the hint of first light in the sky….. not aware yet I was again in the firelookout cabin atop Desolation Peak nor any particular place…. slowly feeling the ripstop slickness and circular close warmth of the sleeping bag around me. And then the muffled sounds from outside the wood walls……the quiet, early morning with distant birdsong, and the scratching of the marmots. My nose registers the smell of the old lookout itself.. …wood walls heated by many summers, layers of old gray paint and fresh dusty cardboard…. voices still softly lingering from the day before. And…..in time, the sporadic leakage of fresh air thru the gaps in the window sills brings more sounds…but this is fuzzy and mixed in the mental haze of recent dreams and a sharpening sense of cold air outside the bag. In this emerging being…… warm in my cocoon…… my mind is skating all over my past life and beginning to allow the present. The present though doesn’t switch on until I opened an eye. Then my brain switches off sleep mode and accepts the new input of the inside of the lookout seen from 2 feet above the floor, the firefinder standing square and blocky above me,

the glowing white porcelain stove in the corner, the radio antenna sticking menacingly up on the desk to my right, and my sleeping bag, a blue arc extending across the lower half of my vision. If the sky east of Desolation Peak that particular morning is clear……then soon the sun begins its push above Joker Mountain and sends a piercing urgent, yellow-white horizontal light right thru the east windows over my head and out thru the west windows. If instead, there is a line of clouds…then it will set them on fire, an inferno silently blazing away…… a startling sight when it occurs, and ……for a split second it will appear that I am missing the largest fire of the century right outside……. the flames busily inhaling the combustable sky.

But still laying in my bag…. my cells do a check of their circuits and soon detect the full bladder…… which once recognized…… will be screaming its urgency. I can mute this circuit momentarily by ignoring it and selecting another sensation, but like a snooze button, it will soon be lighting up my to do list NOW. Sometimes though, that check doesn’t reveal the urgency and then my memory searches for reasons… only to 1/2 remember that stumble in the middle of the night in my bare feet across the smooth cold linoleum floor to the flipflops and then the pull of the tight door with the noisy loose knob, the rush of cold air, going down the creaking three bowed steps and across the uneven sharp rock and out to the distant rock ……. But all that is hazy still…. though the memory trace explains my surprising comfort….and I can drift back off for a few minutes knowing the bladder bell is accurately silent.

Like any good fire lookout I do a 360 degree scan as soon as I finally sit up in bed and make sure there aren’t any smoke columns visible. I become possessive of the country laid out all below me for 20 miles or so in every direction…… wanting to see a fire that had sprung up overnight before anyone else.