This moment, as I sit at my desk facing the window, a canopy of redwoods lining the fence, blue sky peeks through the tall branches. This morning, the sun came up brighter than I have seen in days. In fact, today is the first day smoke and haze have not permeated the air, polluting, causing burning eyes, headaches and breathing difficulties. Like many others, I have been taking my exercise to the gym instead of outside.
The fires have been in areas other than Santa Rosa, all the way from Humboldt County (my old stomping grounds) down to Big Sur, and many places in between. In fact, other than two house fires started by electrical mishaps, Sonoma County has been very lucky. All we have gotten is the smoke, but it has been everywhere for days. In places where fires run rampant, wildlife has either died or been displaced, and many people have lost their homes. All from the natural phenomenon of lightning striking like an angry match.
I have only been in one fire, when I was five. We lived in a mobile home in a small town in the hills. I think it was California, or maybe it was Oregon. I don’t recall. My dad was a logger, my mother stayed at home. Sometimes she would put us down for a nap and go outside and split wood for my dad.
One particular day, she was outside working. She had told us to stay down for our nap. I was cold and asked my brother, who was six, to keep me warm. At some point, we found some matches and built a fire, just a small one in the closet to keep us warm until mother came back into the house. Within moments, that little fire took on a life of its own and raged out of control. The last thing I remember is my mother, five feet two and one hundred ten pounds, running out of the house with each of us under an arm.
I remember the terror I felt from the heat, the fear on my mother’s face as she rescued us from the preying arms of the flames, the anger in my father’s voice as he scolded us for playing with matches. However, I didn’t remember the incident until I was an adolescent, and then it came back full-force in flashbacks explaining why I hated fire, even that small flame when my parents struck a match to light their cigarettes.
In present times, I feel for those who have either had to evacuate or have lost their homes, including wildlife. Fire started by a natural phenomenon affords a lot less guilt than one started by matches. However, the emotions are the same- loss, anger, grief and the actions of picking up pieces and starting over. I remember when my parents had to pick up those pieces.
Each day, I say my prayers for those directly affected by the fires and for the fire fighters who have been working for almost two weeks to bring the flames under control. Other than prayer, and the angels who help out in numerous ways, all California needs is a good strong dose of rain.