Our Beauty is Their Sadness

The Southern California fires

It smells like smoke everywhere you go right now.  We can’t keep our windows open because the air outside is so much worse than the air inside.  I’m used to the natural air conditioning of living close to the ocean: just throw the windows wide open in the morning and keep them open until bedtime, and no matter how hot it gets during the sunny part of the day, there’ll probably be enough of a breeze by night time to feel comfortable.  I still open the windows out of habit–and close them again the second I walk back through the room, because the smoke smell is so strong and the air so ashy.

We’re the lucky ones, of course.  Our home isn’t threatened.  The smoke and ash are blown to us from fairly far away.  We know people who are closer to the fire than we are (I called one friend late Thursday night because her street was mentioned several times on the news as being one of the borders of the Montecito fire–hearing her cheerful voice respond when she picked up was an incredible relief) but we don’t know anyone personally who has actually lost a home or a dear one or a pet to any of these fires.  We watch the news like people do thousands of miles away–and we COULD be thousands of miles away, except for that smell in the air, those ashes . . . and the beautiful sunsets.

Our sunsets ARE beautiful right now.  They’re pink and purple and golden.  The hazy sky is lit up with colors that seem too theatrical to be real.  We’ve been out driving at night this weekend and when we’re stopped at a light, we all look up and ooh and ahh over the night time sky.  I remind the kids that it only looks like that because there are fires burning in that direction, that we’re looking at the sun through the ashes and smoke and that it’s a sad thing. 

But it’s so pretty.

The daytime light is prettier too.   I’m trying not to go out too often–just smelling the air you know it’s bad for your lungs.  But the dog needs some exercise, so I went out this morning, and the light was different.  It’s hard to describe.  It’s pinkish, like the sunset, but only vaguely so–and it shimmers a little.   The air pulses and glows gently and it’s LOVELY.

If you can forget about the reason.  If you can forget about the firefighters who are dealing with this THING that grows and jumps and roars and sometimes subsides and sometimes comes back to life with a vengeance.

If you can forget all that, the air has never been lovelier, the sunsets more spectacular, the glow of the sun gentler or more flattering.   I can’t help but enjoy it.  Then I go back inside and shut all my windows and watch the news and worry about the fires that are destroying so much right now.


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