Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Where there's smoke...

I've been meaning to write about the Sespe fire for the last week. It started on Labor Day in Los Padres National Forest and it's burned all the way to the 5 Freeway. That's 39 square miles of brush. It amazes me how little news coverage there is over something that huge. It's becoming too common, too expected, and that in itself frightens me.

Now, I love a good thunderstorm. I love the oppressive feel of the humidity in the air, the tingle in your skin, the pure lizard brain thrill that comes from watching black clouds roil and undulate, from listening to the sky rumble, thunder grinding like huge boulders in the surf. The crack of lightning splitting the air. And then the roar of the rain coming down, a thousand snares drumming on every surface. Damn but I miss the rain.

But a brush fire is a different beast altogether. Even when she's far out of sight, she makes her presence known. She bleeds into the air, smoke blowing for miles across the valley, outlining every air current, dusting the entire landscape with a coating of fine ash. Skies that should be clear and bright and blue are stained, tinged muddy red brown and gray. The early morning sunlight thinks that its twilight, casting an eerie golden glow on everything. The moon is literally dipped in blood, a baleful reptillan eye hanging low on the horizon. The sunsets are spectacular. Maxfield Parrish meets H.R. Giger. Ominous.

Every morning this week has found my car powdered with specks of ash. As I drive off, they leave perfect parallel streaks on my windshield. I pretend I'm driving some kind of interplanetary fighter craft, and the dust is the result of having fought a dogfight in the tail of a comet. The color of the sky is all wrong, so I pretend I'm on a different planet, and if I wait long enough, the second moon will rise to join her sister. If my commute took me past the alien landscape of Stoney Point, only a few miles away, the illusion would be complete.

As much as I bitch about the Valley, there is beauty here. And I'll miss it when I go. I should really just take a weekend and document the hell out of this little corner of the world.

And I just read that Ann Richards died. Damn. Maybe she can put in a good word with the folks upstairs. Have them do something about the mess.

No comments: