Most Sunday mornings in my small town are quiet; people start their days slowly, stores open their doors later, and there isn’t much activity on the streets. As a result, it’s my favorite time to run. I like the quiet.
This morning, though, felt even sleepier than usual. Something in the air wrapped around me as I ran on trails that felt vaguely abandoned. Though there was an occasional neighbor walking a dog or riding a bike, I had a sense of being cut off from the rest of the world. The sun intermittently came out from behind a fog of clouds, but it didn’t catch me, or warm me in the slightest.
It took me a minute to realize that it was not fog surrounding me, or a regular Sunday cocoon that dulled the activity of the day. Clouds were not blocking the sun; instead, it was smoke obscuring the light. Nearby Lake County, California – which has already been hit so hard this summer – is battling new fires this weekend.
Though there are many hills and miles in between those fires and my house, my car today is sprinkled with ash.
As I write, Lake and Napa Counties are in a state of emergency, as ordered by the governor. Towns are burning, and thousands are under mandatory evacuation orders. In the first 18 hours of the Valley fire in Lake County, 40,000 acres went up in flames. According to the information I could find, the fire is still 0% contained; the aircraft that could help is grounded because of heavy smoke. There is not an official number of losses, but news reports are saying that at least 100 structures have been destroyed.
In my life, I have experienced moments where I needed to depend on inner reserves of resiliency, but I have never been tested in a severe way, as are those who have lost their homes and communities. It resonates with me that in these moments, we must find ways of actively caring for those around us, who we cannot see, as they experience something that has never even crossed our imaginations or – perhaps more appropriately – our nightmares.
Under an eerie orange sky that one friend described as “apocalyptic,” I find myself thinking of what I can do for those directly affected. I’m not yet sure how best to be of service, but surely I can do something to help families who now, suddenly, have nothing. There is a website accepting financial donations for those in Lake County (http://www.lakecountylac.com/donate-now.html), and the mention that the Elk’s Lodge in Lakeport is coordinating the donation of goods (sleeping bags, clothing, tents, blankets…). Perhaps if you are so moved, give. I will.
In the meantime, here’s to hoping that firefighters stay safe and residents can go home and rebuild quickly. Here’s to hoping for clear, blue, September skies soon.