October 28, 2003

fire raining down

The sky is an unusual color or, more appropriately, colors. Pale blue in places, misty gray in others, and also a kind of earthen brown Ė the light brown of dust swirled into mud. The sun, this late afternoon, is bright and yellow-orange, but muted through haze, a daylight moon. My eyes sting, I keep coughing and sipping water but it doesnít ease this burning itch in my throat, my breath sounds like a soft wheeze. My sonís voice is hoarse and he canít stop sniffling. People say they see a fine white ash everywhere. I believe them but I canít see it. I saw a woman standing outside a school in Santa Monica today. Her nose and mouth were covered by a white mask. I simultaneously thought: How dramatic is that? And Where can I get one?

I feel so very lucky to be here and not in Simi Valley or out by Lake Arrowhead or down around Julian, east of San Diego. Our house isnít endangered, our schools and shops are open and life goes on as normal. You might almost think it is normal except for the smoky overlay and the burn in your eyes.

You know why California is called the Golden State? I used to think it was dubbed that for remembrance of the Gold Rush days that made the state famous. But now I think itís so named because itís so very dry. Golden grass waving under the hot sun, golden canyons baking through the summer heat, dry brush ready to burst into flame with the rush of a hot autumn wind. We dare live here in the midst of a desert climate and we pay the price in houses on fire. Every year, people pay the price. This is the worst year since we moved here, fifteen years ago. Fifteen hundred houses engulfed. White ash on the wind.

Posted by Tamar at October 28, 2003 09:22 PM