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Aldo Leopold, the American ecologist, forester, scientist and environmentalist once remarked thus: “nothing could be more salutary at this stage than a little healthy contempt for a plethora of material blessings”. Philip Connors in his occupation as a ‘fire look out’ in the serene wilderness of the Gila mountains experienced first hand the splendid and pure salutary experience – an experience recounted in a restorative manner in this fascinating recollection.

Inspired by the experiences recounted by his friend in her profession as a ‘fire-lookout’, Connors packs in his mundane task as a journalist in the All Street Journal and takes on the job of spotting fires and alerting the fire service brigade. What follows next is a season in tranquil solitude followed by many of the same. With his faithful dog Alice for company, Connors is blissfully lost in the very lap of Mother Nature. A profusion of colour, a proliferation of wild life and a panorama of breathtaking landscape compensates more than adequately for the loss of company, chaos and city fervour. Using simple and rudimentary techniques as well as tools, Connors keeps an alert eye for tendrils and wisps of smoke in a distant horizon indicative of a potential fire. A fire that either needs suppression or non-intervention so that it can run its course.

However, a rookie ‘look-out’ can find the going tough perched atop a tower all by himself right in the middle of a dense jungle. Connors lists an incredulous list of phobias that has the power to render a novice helpless and overwhelmed. An illustrative list being:

fear of fire (pyrophobia);
fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia);
fear of fog (homichlophobia);
fear of thunder and lightning (brontophobia);
fear of wind (anemophobia);
fear of the moon (selenophobia)

Connors dazzles and leaves the reader gasping for more. Traversing the same path and blazing the same trail as done by Jack Kerouac, Aldo Leopold and the likes, Connors carves a beautiful amalgam between man and machine, fire and forest, rain and reconnaissance. The immortal Kerouac in his work ‘Dharma Bums exclaims “Hozomeen Hozomeen most mournful mountain ever seen”

Connors’s mountains on the other hand are never melancholic or mournful, they mesmerize, mock and become meaningful.

Fire Season – A searing sermon to the preservation of pristine nature aided and abetted by the improbable ally that is fire!

Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout – Philip Connors

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