i started this blog the day before my house burned to the ground. that was one week ago. i mentioned something about fire being cleansing before it ever reached anyone i love. i didn’t know. i didn’t think it would come for us, but it did. and when it did, it came fast and strong. i don’t have words for the images i carry with me into the wee hours of the morning, only setting them down to close my eyes when i can no longer keep them open. i don’t have words for the ache in my chest or the way our bodies swell with pride watching our neighbors stoop to help one another. i have seen men and women fight to save another’s home while their own still smolders. i have seen strangers embrace and old friends reach through the years to offer words of comfort and the use of their own hands.
tonight i sorted through what few pieces of clothing we have left. the sweet smell of burnt pine lingered on a favorite sweater. i sat on the end of the bed in this small room cradling my head in my hands, remembering the hurried hours before it all went up in flames. i paced the floors, forsaking housework in order to watch out the windows. the ash and blackened oak leaves fell all around and i talked myself out of being scared. don’t be silly. it couldn’t move that fast. but those canyons. those trees. the dry, dry grass. they’ll tell you if you need to go. funny how i can now recall that every inch of my body was on edge. my brow furrowed. my gut questioning my reason. so instead of packing i picked tomatoes. as the sky turned orange and the ash fell more furiously, i spoke with my neighbor. our eyes saying what our mouths could not. maybe we should get ready to go. the hotline says we should just be prepared. you get a real person. he didn’t sound concerned. i’ll get a shower. wait for my husband. i should grab the box on the top shelf of the closet. where’s my engagement ring anyway? jack called. he sounded excited…not yet worried for our land. we’re just being cautious, baby. do grab the box on the top shelf of the closet. by the time he got home the wind swirled in small circles around the yard. kicking up what i now know to be the remnants of friends’ homes. the lights flickered quickly as i moved from room to room and a foreign heat radiated through the trees behind our houses. when the distant explosions first started you could almost convince yourself that your ears were playing tricks on you. but they only came closer and more frequent in number. i’ll never forget following our yellow jeep out the gate, jack motioning to drive on, signaling that i shouldn’t bother to close it. the ash danced in our headlights like falling snow. as our cars melted into the river of them hurrying down the mountain, i looked back over my right shoulder as the flames silhouetted the ridge before our own. alone in my car, what little we’d thought to take stacked precariously in the back, i cried for the first time.