I am, for all intents and purposes, a Californian. I live in New Jersey, but in the same manner as New Yorkers who leave take their city with them, I too carry California in my heart. I don’t know if it’s the same as those who never quite shed the transformation they make in college, who are ever after “alums”, but 35 years, up and down the coast, and some time in the desert have shaped me, as the sea the shore, and the rivers the mountains.
My sense of scale is that of The West. 70 miles is a moderate drive, but not out of the ordinary. 450 miles, to take part in a weekend event, 11 weeks running, is dedication, not ridiculous obsession.
I still track the weather, the electionsº, the development. I know when the Santa Anas blow. I live in fear of fire.
Fire is an ever present thought. There is no season when it can’t happen; just those seasons when it’s less likely. I have spent time under the brown pall of smoke filtered light, seen ash falling as snow drifting on the wind. Last summer I was walking and I smelled burning brush. Turns out there was a small brush fire in the Meadowlands… 3 miles away.
Right now the Thomas, and Shadow Hills fires are forward in my mind. I know the ground they are burning. I know, from walking the burnt ground in the Santa Monicas, and the Angeles Crest what is being lost and left behind*
The Thomas Fire is something folks who don’t live where such things can happen, can’t really comprehend. It’s the size of Rhode Island.
So my heart is heavy, though were I there there is nothing I could do.
We carry our homes with us, everywhere we go.
ºThe death of Ed Lee, yesterday, grieved me.
*The plants are charred, the ground baked to a crust; cracked like a loaf of brick-oven bread; the rain will pool in the low-points, and penetrate only the seams; until, like snow on the mountains in spring the weight of the top shears from the bottom and slides down the hills, scouring the slope. Seeds will sprout. If the fires are frequent, it becomes oak savannah. If they are rare, it’s cresote and ceanothus, and trees are light starved, so the fires are hotter, and the oaks obliterated.