August 2009

All That Wood on Fire

August 15, 2009 08:10

The wildfire, dubbed the Lockheed Fire, started Wednesday night. Feasting on junk pines, manzanita and overgrown, bone-dry foliage, egged on by Thursday’s hot, breezy weather, it grew quickly out of control. By Friday afternoon it had consumed 5000 acres of land and was only fifteen percent contained. Although the fire is only ten miles from us, fortunately it is burning away from us, down the ridges and canyons toward the Pacific coastline. But it is still close. Too close for comfort. 

We have a beautiful home nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Large picture windows afford us a redwood-studded view of the valley and surrounding ridges. Often I’ll look out my bedroom window as I’m practicing my violin, enjoying the beauty, the serenity. 

Thursday afternoon was not serene.

((See photos below, taken on a fogless, cloudless day. If my fine, dramatic photos do not upload, go here: ))

 We’ve lived in this house for twelve years, long enough to see some action. Last summer was “the summer of the fires” in my mind, with two big wildfires close by, and further down the coast, the Big Sur Fire, which devastated a region very dear to my heart. The latter raged on and on and even though I couldn’t see it, it felt like my soul was weeping, burning along with the trees. I’m so attached to the trees. But the truth is this: you make your home in the mountains, in a hot, sunny region that won’t get rain from May to October, you can expect wildfires, and some will be close.

All that wood on fire. How it grieves me.

This fire, however, is not “my” wildfire, not the way last year’s were. And that makes me feel both relieved and humbled, somewhat ashamed that I can go along with my daily routine while my neighbors across the ridge can’t. On Friday we don’t see the plumes of smoke. Either the wind has shifted or the fire has moved further down the ridges, closer to the ocean. Now it is coastal Santa Cruz that is feeling the effects of the fire. While running errands there earlier, my son and I observed the sky, overcast with smoke. There was a yellowish tint to the air and an acrid, burnt wood smell that reminded you at every turn that a wildfire was burning out of control only ten miles away. Then we shrugged and went about our errands.

Because that’s life for you. A tragedy can be close and feel far. It can be far and feel close. In most situations, however, you are only peripherally affected, and life goes on as usual. So, at the same time as always, I go to my practice room, pick up my fiddle, my bow, and begin to play. I pause from time to time to look out at the now-deceptive serenity, the sight and staccato thrum of helicopters overhead the only reminder that a fire rages on uncontained, ten miles away. I humbly offer a prayer to those affected; I silently thank the fates for sparing us this time, and then I make my wooden instrument sing. 

© 2009 Terez Rose



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