Everything’s been a little different since the fire.
The drive back home is darker now. The trees seem angrier, defeated.
Even now, when the breeze picks up it stirs around the ashes that had settled into the dirt, the ashes that first arrived over six months ago.
I can still remember it so vividly. I can still smell the smoke, I can feel the ashes burning my eyes. I remember how hard it was to breathe. The air was thick and the world was sluggish and grey. For awhile I forgot that the sky wasn’t normally orange. The wind was hot. Everything felt dirty.
I can still picture seeing what was left of my uncle’s house for the first time. The home and business that he had spent so long building was reduced to a pile of black dust and scrap metal and crumbling rocks. I wonder how long it took.
My brother found a metal garden sign buried in the rubble. It read one word. Simplify.
How ironic can the world be? The fire had already taken everything from my uncle, so why, at the last second, did it feel the need to cough up a message telling him to simplify?
I was angry for a long time. I was sad. Our little town doesn’t deserve this, I thought.
But slowly, I’m starting to think maybe there are some good things that have come out of this, scattered all around.
The hills were black for a long time. And then it finally rained. So the grass started to grow, and trees that I’d assumed to be dead starting sprouting leaves again.
And now, there are hundreds of wildflowers blooming all over the ground. I’ve never seen some of these flowers before in my fifteen years of living here.
Before the fire the hills were dark green and brown, earthy. During the fire they were red. After, they were black, scorched. But now, they’re speckled with blues, yellows, purples, light greens, and covered with orange California poppies.
The only way that they are able to bloom is because the brush above them was burned away.
Maybe there’s some irony in that too. But I think it’s also very beautiful in a way.
And it’s the little things like these that we have to be thankful for.