the smoke outside is having a war with the sun.
i woke up a couple days ago with my window open as usual, to let cool air in and hot air out of my room. i woke up with my asthmatic lungs working to pull breath in through coughs. it smelled like smoke and burned things, but it wasn’t the smell of a careless cigarette butt left by a neighbor this time.
this time it smelled like my nine-year-old memories of South Africa— a place where grass fires run wild and heaps of compost are burned by grandmothers on the sides of dusty roads.
the sky is grey now from the influence of fires that are hours away in the vineyards, burning thousands of acres and consuming homes in smothering jaws. it’s the polished grey of those reflective rocks that you use to skip across water. it’s the polished grey of the sky right before it rains; only it’s burning, not raining right now.
the wind carries the grey throughout the clouds until the smoke wins.
i stand by my balcony window behind the protective glass, scanning the sunset horizon, glancing past the cookie cutter neighborhood to the hill that used to be the dead grass color of an uncomfortable shade of tan. i’ve never seen that hill more alive than it is now, dancing with flames of ochre and scarlet.
“it’s twenty percent under control,” they say.
but twenty doesn’t seem like enough when there’s the other eighty.
it hasn’t reached the houses yet, but my family waits to see how far it will spread before an evacuation order is released. to pass the time, while we watch and wait, i think about the one thing i would take with me if we did need to flee: my laptop? my phone? my writing notebook? is it sad that i considered my backpack full of textbooks? my kindle? a bag full of clothes?
but all i really want to bring is my worn out bible and the ratty old teddy bear that i’ve had since i was two.
it almost makes me laugh: there are so many more important things to worry about, but all i can think about is that worn out bible and that ratty old bear.
it turns out that i don’t need to think about either, because the fire is now eighty percent contained.
every day after the fire scare, i drive back from class up the hill to get to my house, and the charred hill sits behind the buildings— a big black spot in a blue, blue sky.
and every time i think: what i take for granted could disappear in a second. where would that leave me?
and those moments of vulnerability stay with me for days when i think about losing everything.
everything except for my bible, my bear, my family, and my God.