This has been a rough one, this week. This damn week. I have just enough energy for a cup of tea (loose leaf jasmine green) and solitude. Perhaps time spent here, on my apartment balcony, in the plastic chair that was made to look like wicker, will smooth my rough edges. Perhaps the afternoon sun on my bare toes and the rustling of the thirsty trees, the warm tea settling into my belly, will bring me toward a place of ease.
The hills behind my childhood home burned last weekend. I am used to fire (Southern California must sometimes burn to feed herself) but I am not used to it coming for the places that house my memories.
The Blaine fire, named for my childhood street, burned quick, quick, climbed the face of the first wild hills I ever ventured into, and reached, hot and angry, for the homes on the other side.
If you live in a place that burns, you know the sound of fire, the sirens, the collective wailing scream. You know to expect the rough beat of the choppers as they race across the sky with great buckets loaded with retardant, red like new blood. You know to watch for the pink spray that falls in great arcs from the sky and scars the untouched edges.
You know that tomorrow you will wake to a Martian landscape. You know the retardant will mix with the morning dew and coagulate on wilted, ruddy lawns. You know to expect the ash that will fall like black snow and coat the remaining beautiful things (the flowers, the ripe citrus, the bright tile of a backyard pool) in a thin film of death. You know there will be mourning through the long winter as you hike the black earth past the husks of great trees you knew as saplings.
But you also know the spring will bring shoots so fiercely green it almost hurts to behold them. You know what has managed to hold onto life will grow, fat and vital, to take the place of what was lost.
I expected this as I watched the video online.
What I didn’t expect was to also watch my country burn. To see faces, twisted, lit as they were in the mocking, happy amber light of tiki torches. Giddy, as they lapped at old, festering, hateful wounds. I didn’t expect to watch, helpless, as they marched quick, quick into a history I think many of us had fooled ourselves into believing we had long since left behind, and reached, bitter and spiteful, for a false enemy fashioned from their own ignorance.
I do not know what to expect in the tomorrow of this. I do not know how to walk this burnt earth, to mourn. I don’t know if I can have faith in the coming spring.
But perhaps my country, like my childhood hills, needs to burn to grow. Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves, especially those of us who are white, on history and power structures and race relations and violence. To break through old myths, to feel the uncomfortable, unwanted feelings that may come up, to tell the truth, ugly as it may be. To burn.
And then to watch and hope with all our might for those first green shoots of Spring.
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This amigurumi teacup was made freehand with a US F/3.75mm crochet hook and small amounts of Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn. Facial details are cut from felt and hand-sewed.