That’s what they’re calling it, these infernos from Hell that are consuming tens of thousands of acres all over Southern California. “The Perfect Storm” has completely destroyed over a thousand homes and businesses, and sent almost one million people running for their lives. It has irrevocably changed the face of many communities – and much of Southern California itself.
And it’s only Wednesday.
This is my territory, my ‘hood – Southern California. I’ve grown up here and created precious memories all along the various fire fronts. I have memories of my days spent as a young woman on the beach and in the hills of Malibu. I lived for awhile in San Diego and spent one long weekend at a resort in Rancho Bernardo. In the last couple of years there were many trips to Lake Arrowhead to lounge, cruise the lake and enjoy shopping and music with people I cared about. Then there’s the fresh apple pie I’ve had in Julian, and the night spent in Fallbrook – avocado country! I’ve made love in the hills of Big Bear and Ventura, and gone to the Ren Fair in Devore. These are my stomping grounds. And my Californian sisters and brothers in them.
I paced around the Tree House yesterday, keeping one eye on the news and the other looking out my windows at a changed landscape of my own. It’s Nothing compared to what others have experienced. I lost some Mexican pottery to the 60 mph winds, and everything is covered in a fine sprinkling of soot. Then there are the piles and piles of windtorn branches and debris everywhere. Across the way I can see at least three old trees that were snapped in half by the fingers of some invisible giant – Trees that have been rooted and growing here for probably 30 – 40 years. And just like that! they were torn from the soil like matchsticks.
On my way in to work this morning, driving South into Irvine and nearer to the Santiago fires, the air became acrid the further I drove, and the Sun burned a blood red sky. It’s hot and dry, but thankfully, the winds have stopped. Only thing is, now the smoke lies like a choaking, gray fog blanketing everything in sight. Kicking up ashes on my way to the door, I was grateful to fill my lungs with the clean air inside the building. Even at this, my eyes sting and feel swollen, my nose is congested, and going out into the 90plus smokey heat to get to my car? It’s enough to keep me inside and at my desk for lunch.
I read the stories. Watch the news. Listen to the conversations around the office. All of us have been effected in one way or another. We’ve got employees that were evacuated in San Diego. One of the parks in Fallbrook has almost completely burnt to the ground.
And all I can think about is…What must it feel like….
To be watching the news from an evacuation center, and see your home only yards from consuming flames ten stories high?
To have only the space inside of your car for packing all of the ‘important’ items you’ve collected in 40, 50…70 years of life – knowing full well that the next time you return to your home, nothing will remain?
To have your son, husband, or father standing at the front lines of the Fire, inhaling smoke, blinking back cinders and fighting the damnable winds trying to get control of the Uncontrollable? And knowing he’s trying to save the property of perfect strangers, his own life at risk of being be swept away in fire tornado?
What must it feel like to look around you and know that all of your worldly possessions just went up in smoke?
My heart breaks as I watch the news….families displaced and ‘homeless’ now. The faces of the elderly particularly move me. The elderly that may not have had insurance to cover their losses, who haven’t the physical or mental stamina to rebuild, restore, and recover. Thankfully, our commuities here in California are coming together. We’re seeing the very best of people come out, with very little of the nasty stuff our brothers and sisters in New Orleans experienced with Katrina. Maybe we were better prepared, having learned some painful lessons through their ordeal. Maybe the people running the cities are different, somehow, or the people themselves are different. I don’t know. All I do know is this:
It reminds me of how important it is to build my life on something that lasts…something that cannot be consumed by fire, washed away in floods, or torn to hell by a tornado. My life – like a house – must continue to be built upon a sure foundation of faith, love and hope, strong vital relationships, and a lifestyle that has rejected the superficial in order to dig deep into the Everlasting.
It also reminds me that I better get renters insurance.
Today is the Perfect Day to do that.