Heading towards 7:30 on a Monday morning as I write this post, all the lamps and lights are on in the house, skies dark, smoke rolling down the street. I’ve been outside a couple of times already, to feed the outdoor cats, or as we call them and the squirrels, the backyardigans, change out the water dishes, water the front porch flower pots, and ring the wind chimes, a task I do each morning to wake up the yard. Each time I have dashed back into the house to do or procure, I find myself with chest or head pain. The smoke is that dense and thick.
A former student went to the ER last week, thinking she was having a heart attack. It was smoke inhalation. We are miles from the fires, but the smoke from all over the state settles here in the valley. We are often called the bread basket, or salad bowl, that feeds the world. It’s a big bowl. The winds seldom push through here. Rain right now would help, but none is in the forecast.
Our son-in-law and grandkids came on Saturday with new air filters. We had not seen them since late December, except via FaceTime, so this was a real treat. Terry had a pretty hard week due to the smoke, feeling tired and coughing, and when our daughter heard this she immediately said we should change the air filters. Yes, Terry already knew that, but he didn’t have any new ones. She immediately said that Chad and the kids would come with filters on Saturday if we felt comfortable with them being in the house. Yes, of course, please come. I had lots of ice cream in the freezer.
It was a short visit, but a real highlight to our week, and right now, we need some highlights. These dark, smoky days are very hard. I cannot sit on the front porch or work in the yards. I cannot stand and look up in the treetops. Just the brief forays I make throughout the day wear me down and make me hurt, physically and mentally. The fires make the pandemic look easy. Our son-in-law fought a terrible fire on the coast of San Mateo County a couple of weeks ago, surrounding the camp where he and our daughter have worked off and on for 17 years. Because our son-in-law is in charge of the water system, he was allowed into the fire zone, and he said once you crossed the line, the pandemic was just an afterthought. The raging inferno, coming down the hillsides, took over. Masks, social distancing, hand washing…didn’t matter a bit. Getting the water and building fire breaks were what mattered.
Two small towns in Oregon, along the I5 corridor that we traveled all those years our daughter was in college near Portland, are gone. Talent and Phoenix burned to the ground last week. I was shocked as they are not in the mountains, but the fires came rushing quickly, giving them only 20 minutes to evacuate. An artist who I follow on Instagram, and who lived in Phoenix, lost everything. He posted some photos of the devastation. It is ghastly. A couple of months back, he had offered a few of his sketches to his followers, and I asked for one. He sent four and I have them sitting in various spots in the house. When I awoke the other morning, after seeing his terrible news, there was one on the booktable next to my bed, and realized just how fortunate I was to have it. So much I am fortunate to have when so many have lost so much.