The fires aren't near. I don't even know which fire has dirtied the sky. A big fire to the southwest, over 150 miles away has been burning for weeks; a smaller one, about 30 miles southeast, is under control, but may be still smoking; and 100 miles to the north another has been burning for several days. I'll breath a deep sigh of relief when the fall rains finally come.
I'd forgotten how pleasant the Umpqua River is at this time of year. The Umpqua is low, way low, but the water that rushes down the middle, between the bare rocks of the riverbed, is clear and cold. Along the edge where I'm sitting on a cool rock I look down into clear, shallow, quiet water. Big fat bullfrog tadpoles like the shallows, and so do some four inch bass. Skittering on top of the water are two types of water striders, 'tiny' and 'tinier'.
Tiny is a 'riffle bug.' They are less than a quarter inch long and hang out clusters. Their legs are blunt and they are constant motion machines.
Tinier isn't a cluster-bum like the riffle bugs. There are several, but lots of space in between. Tinier's body is less than an eighth inch; his legs are ever so thin. First impression is they float just above the water's surface, but then I see a tiny dimple where their legs touch the water.
A great blue heron hunts the shallow water not far from shore. He spots us and flies to a rock father away. Time to preen. Nearby a family of common mergansers have also come out onto the rocks.
It's going to be another hot summer day, but signs of fall have started. Ash leaves are yellowing and starting to fall, fewer dragonflies are flying, and a noisy flock of Canada geese fly in from upriver. They land in the river but soon come out of the water onto the far shore. Turkey vultures and osprey are still here. Soon they'll be heading south.
When I first came down to the river edge, the rocks were cool. The sun has been warming them and now out comes a young lizard, probably a fence lizard. I was hoping one would come along while I paint. They usually hide when I approach, but I'm sitting quietly. He is curious little fella -- comes right up to within a foot of my shoe. I sit still, feeling privileged to be part of his world.