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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Pink Disc, Yellow Sky

9/12/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood, early afternoon

Although we have our own deadly fires here in Washington State, the Seattle area has been covered by a blanket of smoke since Wednesday that originated with Oregon’s equally devastating wildfires. The smoke here is not nearly as thick as it has been in Oregon and California; photos and sketches of those areas show the sky as dark orangey-brown. Here in the Puget Sound area, the sky is more yellow than orange.

On Friday when I tried to look at the sun, it was still too bright to see with bare eyes, so I knew the smoke wasn’t too bad yet. I recalled the thick smoke we had two years ago from fires to the north, when the sun was an orange ball that was easy to look at with unprotected eyes.

Today the expected “super-massive plume” fully arrived. I kept looking for the sun, but behind the smoke, the sky must have been partly cloudy, because it was nowhere to be seen most of the day. I stood at our bedroom window in the early afternoon to capture the weird yellow light and low visibility. The “unhealthy” Air Quality Index was 185 (under 50 is considered “good”).

9/12/20 the sun is finally visible around 2:40 p.m.
By mid-afternoon, the clouds behind the smoke must have parted because I suddenly spotted the sun – a coral pink disc that, by contrast, gave the yellow sky a bluish-gray cast. Under any other circumstance, I would have called that pink “pretty.” It’s not often that I can sketch the sun by viewing it with unprotected eyes: Other than the smoke two years ago, the only other time was the moment of totality during the 2017 solar eclipse.

This smoke is terrible, but it’s not nearly as terrible as fleeing for my life as so many are from fires engulfing parts of the West Coast. I’m grateful to be safe. I’m grateful for all the firefighters working day and night to put the flames out.

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