June 26, 2015 § Leave a comment
The smell of the fire came up on the forth day, or was it the fifth? We had walked down Mojave Road, passed the almost electronic rhythm of some bird gawking, sometime before noon. It was hot. Really hot. Even under the shade of the trees and cool rising breeze. The burning wood reminded me mostly of the ’92 Los Angeles uprising, the deep scent of old wood, thick and black, straight into my nose. The smoke also reminded me a little of camping in Yosemite as a kid.
I had heard on the radio before driving up that the fire had been burning for a couple weeks. I even called the fire Hotline to make sure it was okay to drive up. The woman who answered seemed bored. She droned about how the fire was 19 percent contained and no structures had burned. She finally said, right before I hung up and thanked her, “You should be fine in the general Big Bear area.”
I had met Jane at work a few years back. We seemed to be on the same frequency. We had similar likes. I had even been nice to one of her former boyfriends when he happened to come and work on my campus. I’m a guidance counselor at a high school in San Bernardino.
Jane’s friend Raymond turned out to be okay, a little old fashioned and redundant in his jokes, an okay guy, though. I still have lunch with him in the faculty cafeteria once in a while. Jane had offered her place since she was going home for a few weeks. She needed someone to house sit and feed her dog, Lola. We agreed and she gave me the key. I used to go camping not too far from her place in the mountains when my kids where little, so I knew the little town and thought it would be relaxing. “It’ll be fun, Jane. I can stay a week, maybe 10 days?”
On one of my hikes I found three feathers. The blue one was right in the middle of the trail, easy to see against the yellowy dust. As I walked and rubbed against the nape I thought about the Native Americans and how they saw feathers from the sky as gifts from the creator. A surge of power, luck in life’s voyage. The second and third feathers I found as I was heading back to the trailhead. They were a lot bigger: white with brown stripes coming down symmetrically. A hawk, maybe, or an owl. I felt a connection with my Mestizo heritage. Some fraction of Native American most likely tickled.
The burning scent went away by the next day, but by early morning the next the sound of helicopters woke me up. By two in the afternoon one of Jane’s neighbors, Stephanie, knocked on the door and told me we had to evacuate. The fire was moving our way. All I could think about was the stories of how during the Los Angeles fires after the Rodney King verdicts people in the affluent parts of the city moved out to their elevated decks and roof top lofts and had riot parties as the city burned miles away from their neighborhoods.
As I wait to hear news about the highway closure a bird lands on the power pole. It chirps and turns its head robotically like tiny birds do, back and forth a few times. Its feathers aren’t blue or striped. The bird stops as it stares straight at me. I can tell it is looking at me, trying to tell me something. I stare back, but don’t understand. As I try hard to communicate, to reach back to my possible Native American animism, the bird flies away.
Jane texted a week later. All was okay. The fire turned east into Joshua Tree the day after the highway opened and I parked in my drive way. I put the feathers on the window sill of my study, right next to the Mayan idol my cousin gave me a few years ago from his trip to Chiapas. I burn white sage in it once in a while. On the radio another unarmed Black kid has been killed by a cop. The mayor of the city is afraid of rioting and violence from the community, so a curfew has been set. Everyone is afraid of possible fires. Somehow I know things will be okay. At least for a day or two.
June 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
It’s been taking all day lately. The sun low behind the cypresses, inches above the tar smeared roofs. 6 PM, today. 4 PM tomorrow, possibly. Never the same. Unpredictable regularity the only guarantee.
Literally not all day, hyperbolic lie, I know. The hum of constant commute still loud. Enough light to see shadows and smell burning paper from invisible backyards still around. Technically 2 hours of sunlight, 6 hours of measured day left. 4 hours pushed forward to tomorrow’s today.
On either day, 6 hours of 24 feels short, like the day is gone, life wasted. Justifiable little white lie, wouldn’t you say? Hours mean something. Mean everything, maybe not everything, something. Especially when the reality of time sets in. What do I mean? When you, I, we truly realize our finite life span on Earth.
Not in killjoy sense. An awareness is what I’m brooding. Dreading every movement or running down a shoreline damp, free of any spasm or pinching pain in my arms, sunlight flickering on the Pacific as pelicans dip their beaks under waves is still life, is what I mean. The vast good or destruction that can happen in minutes, for example.
Today, the words speak as soon as it doesn’t hurt. Not like before. Before, writing has most often come when conflict has asked for examination, analysis, the petty human “why”? I know there is no why, just life.
Still, words came then. Not today. Today, pain-free sparks a line. Is that the difference? I see the conflict in the nebulousness. But it’s not the same. Today it’s the joy of no pain that sparked the idea.
I like how impetus has evolved. More opportunities to catch the truthful words, the universal gist of living on this Earth. Everything matters. Just in it’s own way. Subjective, biased, even justifiably authoritarian and personal. Everything has a place. Even if I don’t want it. It’s not only up to me as I have mistakenly thought over and over all these years. And I’ve known that, too. I also know that it is not enough to know to believe.
The lines that speak and pick up the scent and smash the glass to the ground into billions of jagged cuts are worth it. Scars left behind all have something to add to the conversation–scars tell human stories. A scars’ mark leaves something lasting.