The Smell of Campfire Smoke in the Air 

I finished my Zoom call and stood up to stretch. I twisted and my spine crackled like popcorn. It was time to move! I put on my sneakers. My little black dog stood at the ready, waiting and waggling her hind end, her eyes fixed on me. I tied my shoes and zipped my hoodie. It had been cool these past few days, and I’d be grateful for the extra layer.

“Let’s go, girl!” I said. I grabbed her reflective blue leash off the hook in the entryway, clipped it onto Missy’s collar, and opened the door. She dashed out ahead of me, like she always does, gasping and grunting, excited for our nightly walk.

When I opened the door, it smelled like campfire smoke outside, but it was the aroma of wildfires burning across the state. I secretly hoped for a rainstorm to clear the air. My eyes were scratchy, and I had to keep clearing my throat. I’d had enough of this pollution!

I closed the door behind us but left it unlocked. We wouldn’t be gone long. When we stepped out onto our paved driveway, the sky was misting a little bit. Not enough rain to clear the air, but enough to dampen my hair.

Cars zoomed past us as we walked along the edge of the road to reach the sidewalk, and their lights blinded us momentarily. We picked up our pace until we reached the safety of the sidewalk, adjacent to my neighbors’ driveway.

I paused to look up and around at this point. During the summer when I looked to the west, I often saw a beautiful golden sunset. With the recent wildfire smoke, however, the sunsets have become a dramatic red. Most evenings, the sun looks like a cherry lollipop hovering above the horizon. And honestly, if the air didn’t smell so bad, I might consider it beautiful. 

But tonight, we left late, and the sky is perfectly dark. I can make out twinkly stars overhead, and the silvery moon hangs like a suspended slice of melon low in the sky. It’s pretty and still. 

Ching-a-ling-ling, ching-a-ling-ling. The tags on Missy’s collar make a rhythmic sound as we walk together in silence. We meander through the neighborhood below our street. We’re not in a hurry. There’s time for Missy to sniff and explore. I take in the neighborhood’s recently displayed Halloween décor. I enjoy the lit-up pumpkins, the orange fall leaves, the creepy skeleton hands that seem to claw their way out of the ground. I smile. It’s that time of year again.

We walk down the street and around the corner, then cut up by the middle school to use the crosswalk. We’re the only ones out and my body relaxes as we head back home. I inhale deeply and don’t notice the smoky smell anymore. I guess I’ve become accustomed to it. I roll my shoulders and Missy stops one last time. We check the mailbox, then walk down our long driveway and I open the door. It’s so good to be home.

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