The burn ban. The pain did not begin with the cake or fire or police, but it ended with the pain in my feet. I do not believe this was all my fault, but I will worry that it was.


Maybe the bad day began with the cake. I did everything right. With multiple dietary issues in my family, I was determined to create a chocolate cake that everyone could eat. That meant: no gluten, no dairy, no nuts, no refined sugar. Organic and luscious. Pretty. I found a recipe that was close and made my own modifications to eliminate sugar. I test-drove the recipe and it was perfect that first time! So, the day before my son’s birthday, I baked two layers.

Epic fail.

My Facebook friends suggested trifle, jam, licquer, whipped cream. I contacted family who okayed dairy, but trifle is new to me. Easy, but new.

So I chilled the cake to tackle tomorrow morning.

Before that, I’d woken in the night coughing. Our father’s both smoked. Camels. And they both died of lung cancer, so we are both susceptible to colds and flu. I more than Gary have bronchitis and pneumonia if I am not careful.

I woke in the night coughing from smoke drifting from illegal beach fires. This is not surprising since air quality is poor in many places, much worse elsewhere than here. The West is burning. Friends in Spokane and Seattle and Portland and all across California have posted photographs on Facebook of the terrible smokey air that makes ordinary activity outdoors unwise. Oregon firefighters are overworked fighting regional fires.

We had to close all our windows to keep smoke out of the house. On our walk this morning Roxxy’s mother pulled apart an illegal beach fire that had burned all night, carried sea water up from shore to put out the four smoldering logs. We have had to do that many times. Sandy told me the mayor of Portland had a beach fire which he promptly extinguished when alerted to the ban. There are signs at public access to the beach warning of the burn ban. Locals are supposed to know.

After our walk I baked and my chocolate cakes did not turn out, but I wrapped and chilled them. Tomorrow I will make chocolate frosting or open a jar of homemade jam and do my best to make a pretty cake for my son’s birthday.

The renters next door went out to build a fire on the beach.

Gary walked out to talk to them. He did not want me upset about their fire. He explained about the burn ban, and they said they would check and not burn if there was a ban. It was a polite conversation with Gary. They went ahead and lit their fire. I went out and talked to them and they did not believe me either. I was less polite. They claimed they talked to Cannon Beach police (which Cannon Beach Police deny) and they said they went online and found no burn ban, but people believe what they want to believe, and not what would otherwise be reasonable.

It is inconvenient. Inconvenient laws often require a lot of convincing.

I did not have the email address of my neighbor who owns the property because I have updated my computer and lost my address book. It did not occur to me to phone since my landline does not work long distance, and so I wrote a note on the home owners’ property Facebook page. Then I began calling around, trying to find someone to explain to the tourists that there is, in fact, a burn ban. There has been a burn ban for weeks.

When the tourists added more logs to their fire, I finally got through to the State Police and talked to someone who said they would send someone out.

There is a burn ban. Local police will not respond. County police will not respond. Parks and so forth will not respond. The State Police will. They sent an officer.

So, the coughing, the cakes, the fire in the wind, and finally an officer calls me and wants to know where is the fire? I tell him but he explains that it is “very dark” here and he could not leave his vehicle in the road where someone might not see it and thus cause an accident. I tried to explain, but he complained that our connection was poor. Then he complains that I am being very rude. “I don’t know what I have said to make you treat me so rudely.” I stopped talking. Women offering information are inevitably “rude.” Unless we are apologetic and soft-spoken, we are yelling. We are yelling and disrespectful and rude. I took a breath and waited.

So I listened until I was told I could speak. I had already offered to come out and show him the path to the beach. I waited until he asked if I was still willing to do that. I said I was. I was careful only to say “Yes. It will take me 5 minutes to get there.” I pulled on socks and my shoes and ran south, then east, then north, all the blocks to the officer’s car, lit up and blinking in the dark. I saw a flashlight and turned toward the ocean down Markham Lane. I called out to the officer and he identified himself and I went to him and walked ahead of him in the dark to the shore.

He had been concerned about trespassing on private property, and it was so “very dark.” I explained “I am a 65 year old grandmother and have lived here most of my life.” I asked if he would please tell the people there was a burn ban and he said he would. “They don’t believe me,” I said. And then I turned and walked home alone in the dark in my nightgown and socks and shoes.

And then the owner of the rental property called. By then it was past 10pm and well past our normal bedtime. He let me know how “disappointed” he was because he “didn’t think we had that kind of relationship.” I should have called him. I should not have called anyone else. I thought I was only reporting someone breaking the law. But I should not have done that. I am the villain of this story.

I should have called him at home, he said. It was my personal responsibility to inform him of how to properly manage his income property. How was he to know about the burn ban?

I can see his point. He says his phone number is listed on the Facebook page. Only I do not have long distance on my land line. I suppose after posting my concerns on his Facebook page and talking twice to his tenants, I am to blame for the embarrassment of police coming. I did call the police, after all.

So I do see his point of view, that out-of-state property owner. I feel like a jerk and I am pretty certain that I will feel bad about this long after he has forgotten the events of this night completely. I also know that it is my home that would have gone up in flames had that fire sent out sparks (which it did—I watched the sparks) and the wind had carried fire to my house.

So the coughing, the cake, the sparks from the fire, not being believed, being acused of being unreasonable, and my feet now hurt like needles stabbing them because I am not supposed to run. I really am not supposed to be running in the dark. It was so very dark.

4 thoughts on “SO ‘VERY DARK’

  1. There are so many things I want to say; how frustrating this sounds, how unfair your emotional burden is, and yes, how I’m both selfishly relieved and sad that there are others who truly and thoroughly consider their actions- even the face of such inconsiderate people. Apparently neither beach fires or gaslighting have been affected by the very real BURN BAN.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. I was accused of “yelling” but Gary assures me I was not yelling. I was assertive and I used my “teacher-voice” so he heard yelling. I really did not want to hear about his disappointment at that point. This morning I cannot walk. I am really not supposed to run.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Condolences on the cake.
    And the neighbors…I have them too. The rules apply only to others -never them. I live in a rental. Landlord has people to take care of the grounds but invariably neighbors will break out leaf blowers ,then burn the piles making my bedroom unfit to sleep in.(and I had windows closed.
    I liked best your observation on women speaking-aint it the truth. Its right up there with”shes mad-must be her time of the month”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is terrible about the smoke coming in your bedroom! Compared to most of the region, our air quality has been good, but it would be nice if people appreciated that we’d hope to keep it that way. So many people flood to the beach to escape the heat and smoke inland! Anyway, thank you for your comment.

    Liked by 1 person

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