Who knew a lake could burn? In 2010 Lake Bistineau showed us just how easy it can happen. These photos are void of color, void of life, and void of my happiness.
Each year this lake experiences a “draw down”, meaning that the water level is dropped to 7 or more feet lower than normal stage, so only the main channel has water. This is an (very poor in my opinion) attempt to control aquatic weeds, such as giant salvinia.
This year, a good-intentioned lake resident was cleaning debris and burned the pile on the dry lake bed. Who would have thought the fissures in the cracked lake bed would send fire racing around three fourths of the perimeter of the lake.
The fires traveled quickly. Sometimes out of control. Sometimes fire crews worked all day and night to squelch them from burning boat houses and homes. Sometimes the fire won.
Nearly daily for a month I walked the lake bed. I would stand on areas of green weeds and feel heat rising up inside the legs of my pants. I watched fire rise up and destroy one tree and leave the one next to it unharmed. I worried every day. I cried every day. This place that I love so much was forever changed.
From an audio recording on 10/6/10:
“Solemn. That’s the only word I can use to describe how I’m feeling as I watch the sun come up behind a thick mask of smoke rolling over my home and through the pine trees. I try to trick myself into thinking it’s just morning fog but the smell of smoke permeates everything and I can’t maintain that lie.”
From an audio recording on 10/9/10:
“I’m out taking pictures this morning in areas where the sun is shining and I notice I can feel heat on my legs and I have a hard time deciding if that’s because I’m walking in an area where there is heat underground or if the sun is warming the ground from above. But then when I step into a shaded area and I still feel heat, I don’t have to wonder. I know somewhere underneath me it’s burning and that’s a very uneasy feeling. I only see a couple of hot spots smoldering in green areas this morning and that’s good. Lots of birds singing and animals running under the brush. Squirrels are barking and life is here; spiders and lots of insects. I think about (Hurricane) Katrina and how after the water went back down all everyone could think about was getting back home. They didn’t care that it was destroyed or what it looked like; they just wanted to get back home. Now I can see where that native instinct comes from. Nature is that way. Nature say “This is my home. No matter what it is and what it looks like, this is where I am, this is where I exist, this is where I BE and I make it what it is today. Where so many people didn’t understand why humans wanted to go back to their devastated areas of New Orleans, this helps me understand that a little bit better.”
Seven years later, the dead trees still stand and lie on the lake bed. The lake is on draw down right now, and I will soon be walking out amongst them, once again wondering why but accepting what is, and hoping it never happens again.