The first time I thought this, I was in the hotel lobby in Maryland and had just heard how close the fires came to my family in San Jose, California (CA). My boyfriend called to tell me he had seen no shadows that day because the dust and smoke in the air had caught them before they could touch the ground. He said the air looked an alien reddish orange and smelled like a cook house.
On the tv in the hotel I would watch callous but beautifully manicured reporters comment on the ravages of the flames: how they took out neighborhoods; demolished countrysides; cleared forests.
And then I arrived home and noticed… very little. The air wasn’t red or dirty or smoky to me then. All I could feel was the beautifully dry air, the clean heat, the warm asphalt.
But I have been home a little under two weeks and I am remembering what I forgot when I first came home: I am remembered how I used to be able to see the hills, the sky, the bay. Now I cannot, for my home is layered in smoke. Now I cannot see my hills, which always defined, cradled and encompassed my world. My desert blue sky, my slightly slushy bay–all are hidden by the smoke of my home burning.
Today the shadows after 5pm were red–a crass, gaudy red usually reserved for clowns’ faces and Independence Day Sale posters. The sky was yellow, my hills were brown (as they should be this time of year) beyond the smog, and my bay hazy.
I have always known fires are necessary. Words like: controlled burn; mast; wildfire; have always been part of my understanding of nature. But in my lifetime I had never seen so clearly that it is my home that is burning. These firestorms, predicted throughout my lifetime, these holocausts are scars upon my mother state. When I see scars on a woman, I see them as proof of life, proof of age, and proof of experience; but on my home scars are signs of mismanagement, poor planning, and death.
My home is burning, and I pray it will stop soon.
The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. – Ralph W. Sockman