Home and family,
hearth and health,
joy and contentment.
Smoke on the horizon,
fear on the wing
as acrid fumes descend.
The world splits into confusion.
Blacken sky alight
as winds rush down the hillside.
Running before the wind
falls all around.
Safety for a time.
A meal to sustain.
Time to fear the dawn.
Stand in the ash
of what once was
while listening for the phoenix cry.
It’s fire season here in California and I’ve been reading news stories about the fire in Lake County. It breaks your heart to see pictures of the damage. The Clayton Fire is the second major fire in two years to hit the area. Nearly an entire town is gone.
The area is home to Clear Lake and in better times was an important tourist destination. Drought, fire, and declining tourism have had their effect on the area. It’s sad to see this area descend into destruction. One article counted the costs: lost homes, a church, lives and jobs. Many people will now be homeless and jobless.
One story I read today was of an elderly woman whose mobile home was consumed by flame. She won’t rebuild. She can’t. According to the story, she couldn’t afford to buy fire insurance, has no money, and now she waits in a shelter, moving between her cot and wheelchair. Can you imagine such a fate?
There are more stories here, many worse, while some fared better. Some will rebuild. Some will get new jobs. Someday the rains may return making the hills green again.
It’s easy to try to lay blame. Last year’s fire was started by faulty electrical equipment, and this year’s by an arsonist. In the past lightning, campers, and cars have lit the spark in these dry hills. It’s doesn’t matter, this is the land of fire – to be Californian is to live with the constant risk of fire, earthquake, drought, flood, and landslide.
But it is also a place of great beauty. Stand in Yosemite valley at the base of falls and drink in the power of nature. Walk in the quiet of the forest. Sit on the beach and watch the sunset. Drink the wine aged in the oak barrels made on our golden hills. Drive up the mountain at night, look out over the lights of the valley and marvel at the cities we’ve built.
Built at a price.
The price now being paid by a town and a woman in a wheelchair.