*Based on true events.
He sat waiting in his home at the top of the big ridge, recently purchased with all of his life savings, his dog Rupert curled up in his lap as he watched the trees around him light up the sky with ash and smoke, filling the lungs of his home even with all the windows closed. It was an older house after all, and the insulation wasn’t perfect.
Breathe in, Breathe out.
All of the other houses on his block already burned to the ground. Every single one. All of the neighbors were left with nothing except the memories they created, decades of love, joy, disappointment and more were erased from the physical plane in just a matter of hours. With nowhere to go, he wanted to fight until the end. He sat in his home as a mighty warrior stays after all of his men had been slain. He sat wide awake through the night, planning to use his gas mask and sit in the pool if it came any closer. The fire moved up his block and took every single house down, but then decided to stop only moments before it entered his driveway, an omen maybe that perhaps, he was liberated.
The governor tweeted “We’re experiencing record temperatures across CA. The hottest August on record. The evidence of climate change is all around us”.
Another woman waited until the very end. She had the kind of God fearing resolve and faith that would intimidate a bishop, but even she wept as she collected her things when the fire came and swept up her house in flames. She wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet, but she collected all the things that really mattered to her in one small black bag. Her mother’s wedding ring, letters from her ex-husband, photos from her past. She cried softly and then loudly as she drove through the smoke on her way out into the unknown. Her daughter, already married with 3 kids and living in England, was too far away to help. She pulled over on the highway and called an old friend. “I have nothing”, she sobbed.
The man walked over to the door of his home with his dog Rupert and left out a giant sign out that said “I am here. I have water and food and bathrooms. All are welcome.” Rupert sat down next to the sign, an invitation for those in need.
Diana watched the smoke fill up the sky like an ashtray sitting on top of the clouds over the Bay bridge, watching and wondering if the fire would come for her. The birds stopped chirping and huddled closer together, creating their own safe haven.
Fire, an element that destroys the material world and what no longer belongs. Ready or not, the fires are coming. The sun became a matchstick for California, and the trees and homes became the sacrifice. Was this punishment or was this a kind of Grace?
When the old is burned, water comes in to erase what is left, so that a new dawn can emerge. A new day.
I sat in silence, praying for all of my friends who live farther North from San Francisco, in Healdsburg and Sonoma and Napa, and wondered what they were doing right now, even after they escaped this fire.
I walked outside and drew a sharp breath out as I tasted the dense ash in my mouth. The sky turned orange, bleeding from the inside out, screaming “Don’t you see what you’ve done!”.
California can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Taking a breath of fresh air has become a luxury in 2020.
Breathe in, breathe out.
When I hold my breath long enough, there is nothing left to do except exhale and surrender.