I took the back roads home through the Delta tonight, south on 84 to Courtland and over the River Road to 160. Smoke lay thick on the land. I used my brights when I could, watching for oncoming traffic. I could not decide if the rule of fog applied, but I counted on the high beams bouncing from the eyes of frightened deer. An owl swooped across the highway. I slowed and watched him disappear in the dimness.
Ashes lay everywhere, not from a fire that I had to endure but one three hours north, where sixty-three souls perished and six hundred more cannot be found. Every night I scan the internet for news of that devastation. I send a trivial text to my son, just to remind myself that we are the lucky ones. The unscathed.
One site on social media bears a heavy list: names of people whom no one can locate. A string of comments provide the weary edits: Take his name off, confirmed dead. . .But also a few happy updates: She’s my aunt, she’s with me. I don’t know these people, but I know folks like them, men and women who sit in windbreakers at the counter of local cafes, exchanging the same greeting day in and day out. I envy them from my lonely table at the window. That’s the kind of folks who died in Paradise last week — retired folk, people’s eighth grade English teachers, the greeter at the Baptist church on Sundays.
A couple of brush fires erupted near me. This morning I anguished over whether or not to drive to Elk Grove to earn my living. I only have 200 square feet left in the world, and it has cedar siding and pine walls. Flames would gobble this place in an instant. I said a prayer as I pulled away.
It still stood when I came home at eight, over the River Road, through the dark, with soot on my windshield and a cold ache in my bones. i pulled the blue door shut and stood in the silence. Time settled around me. I listened: The old familiar rattle of the electric heat; rising symphonies of tinnitus; the last rustle of a critter under foot. Home. My rectangle of rented dirt and a house on wheels, safe below sea level under a smoky sky. I let go of a stale gasp of air and crossed to start my dinner in the littlest kitchen I ever hope to have.
It’s the fifteenth day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
West Sacramento, late afternoon, 15 November 2018.
REMEMBERING THOSE WHO DIED IN ‘THE CAMP FIRE’ , PARADISE, CA.
♥♥ GONE TOO SOON ♥♥