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.
How sad. God bless that poor woman, and all the others affected. I hate wildfire season. It always freaks me out.
I can’t imagine this happening to anyone. very sad.
I really love the way you incorporated your poetry into the headlines. Beautifully expressed, Andrew. There are so many stories of loss and they are hard to hear. I feel like it’s been a wearying summer…and we haven’t even had the Santa Ana winds yet. But then I read about Louisiana and now Italy…the forces of nature aren’t easy.
The Santa Ana’s will bring their problems. There are many stories of loss and they never easy to here. Nature is powerful and we often underestimate what it will do.
Well written, Andrew, and these fires are so scary. We used to live in so. Cal, but now we’re in the bay area. I feel for that woman and all the other sad stories that are real. Though I am glad the arsonist is in jail and hopefully will be for a very long time. That mentality doesn’t make sense to me either. I think regardless of earthquakes and fires, the floods in LA were devastating to watch on TV and again, I feel for people there dealing with their losses. Water in abundance scares me, so I think I’ll stay on the west coast for now. The only reason we would move, maybe north to OR or so, would be cost of living. It’s pretty expensive here for now, but all is good.
They are scary and the damage to people’s lives is saddening. In my life I’ve seen the cost of living in the Bay Area go from low to outrageously expensive. When I retire, it’s possible I’ll be heading out of the bay.
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Basically, anywhere to live will have its natural disasters, so it’s about picking and choosing which ones we’re willing to endure. And although it’s beautiful where we live, heading out for retirement has been our thought, too. 🙂
Are they close to you, the fires, Andrew? I’ve watched the news in horror, and can scarcely believe someone would start this on purpose. Why, on earth?
I am about 100 miles from the closet fire. We have had a few days when the smoke was visible. I don’t understand the mind of a arsonist. The one that did this is now in jail – likely for a long time.
It hurts to even think about where she will end up.
It does hurt. It can’t end well for her.
There are so many sad stories. I can’t imagine having nothing at my age, having lost it all to fire.
There are so many. It’s difficult to imagine returning home to find nothing. It would be soul crushing.
Andrew, you have written so poignantly about such a tragic event. I agree that California has much to offer, so much beyond the destruction of fire, flood, and earthquake. It is heart-wrenching to see Mother Nature’s fury unleashed with this latest fire.
It can be difficult to see this kind of destruction and to know that it will happen again.
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I’ve lived in California more years than I have lived anywhere and I can never think of leaving. In spite of the earthquakes, the fires and the droughts, it has so much to offer, so much more than anywhere else. It is my home for better or worse.
I was and raised here. It’s my home and I’ve never given any thought to being anywhere else.
I know what you mean about fire…
This year Portugal “won” with the biggest area of burn forest in Europe and we are only in the middle of the fire season… and this week the temperature goes up to 40ºC again 😦
I’ve not been to Portugal, but I’ve heard that many areas are similar to California. We’ve been seeing record temperatures and record droughts. This isn’t the only place this is happening.
My heart breaks for California. We’ve had plenty of bad fires in Colorado, but it seems like for the last year or two California hasn’t stopped burning.
California is always burning somewhere, but the last 5 years have been extra bad.
So Real and so sad…and your words so eloquently describe the great beauty there and the admirable strength that comes with loss.
It’s a very sad situation – loss always is.
The human cost is always high after fires like these.Have we made the situation worse with the changes we’ve made to the landscapes over the years or have these fires always come periodically and ravaged the landscape to encourage new growth? It seems such parched areas are ever a target for arsonists who never seem to care about the cost in human misery.
Fire is a natural process here, humans have done a number of things to make the situation worse and of course the drought makes things much worse. Arson isn’t a big cause of fire, but seems like the more deadly and destructive ones are set by arsonists. In the end, we pay dearly.