From wildfires, wildflowers.

Credit: strandedonland.com

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.

Credit: wildnatureimages.com

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.

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Things We Lost In The Fire

I never realized how easy it is to take the things you have for granted, until they disappear into the wind like ashes from a fire. I remember playing those awkward ice breakers with people you’ll never really know, and one question that always seems to show up is: “If you could only take three things from your house in a fire, what would they be?”

I never had a definite answer. Obviously there were the essentials: passport, laptop, cellphone, and valuables, but I never imagined that one day I’d actually have to make that decision. That one day, in a panicked hurry, I’d have to scurry across my dorm room worrying about what I should bring, and being filled with regret over the things I left behind.

On December 4th, 2017, a wildfire ignited its flames outside the place I’ve called my home for the past three years, and on December 5th, it had reached the beloved campus and destroyed multiple classrooms, the dorms, and everything in its wake. On December 4th, we were told to evacuate, and we were asked to grab a backpack for one night. We were told to pack anything we absolutely couldn’t live without, but we were also told not to worry about our other stuff, the fire would pass, and everything would be okay. So, I packed what I held closest to me. I packed my polaroid pictures recalling the memories from my sophomore year. I packed a single stuffed animal: a panda I was given in second grade. I packed my All Time Low pillow, my signed posters, a UCLA shirt, my favorite leggings, and two t-shirts.

Photo Credit: Foster Huntington

But still, there were so many belongings surrendered to the flames. I lost years of memories put up on a small cork board above my wall. There held all my concert tickets, plane tickets, medals, and setlists from concerts I had caught in the crowd. I had lost all my riding ribbons I had won in the last couple of years. I’ve lost tour t shirts, my guitar, articles of clothing which held little bits of my personality in each thread, and class notes I’ve worked on hours into the night just so I could have a good grade the next day. They weren’t the most expensive items in my life, but they were the ones that were tokens of moments in my life that I cherished, or the moments that defined me. They were the things lost in the fire that I regret leaving behind the most. I guess if I could go back in time and grab a few more things, I’d make sure they reached my bag first.

While mourning this fire, my family constantly tried reassuring me that everything was replaceable, but then they’d ask me what I missed most, and what I missed most wasn’t what was replaceable. However, despite the hard process, I come to realize that those small items I’ve lost are still there, but in the form of memories that will stay in my head forever, for the rest of my life. Someday, after all the debris descends into the ground, and the years pass, I will have new tokens from new memories to hang up above my bed, and the tragedies from this fire will soon become a distant memory, only serving reminders through the objects I saved from it.

homeless

i don’t get how everything i’ve built could be so fragile. just when you think your foundation’s set, an earthquake comes and shakes it. next a huge rainstorm. then a forest fire. or a tsunami. each disaster shakes the very thing you thought was solid. now my house is starting to crumble on contact. the walls a little less sturdy. the ground with a few cracks. but that’s why they call them natural disasters, because they have to happen. except they shouldn’t have to. you were a fire that didn’t naturally arise. you sparked something in me. i thought you were the soft ember in the fire-place, warming the whole house in a crisp, cold night. but you crept and crawled out, until the polished hardwood floor became singed beyond belief.

Photo Credit: chriscrespo.com

you burned everything. engulfed the second floor, filled with broken-down cribs and pictures lining the walls.  you exploded in the kitchen, where everything was black and it wasn’t bad cooking. you burnt the living room, even all the memories made there, the many late nights, turned to dust. you left the backyard, full of brand-new spring blooms, dead. except it wasn’t all you. my house wasn’t fireproof. my foundation wasn’t concrete, it was loose pebbles. my walls were made of rotting wood. you barely made a scratch on my already damaged surface. so, while you sleep in your warm sheets in your warm bed, I’ll be shivering under my army blanket in a foreign homeless shelter, because you destroyed my only home.

fire and ice

fire and ice

she was burning with fiery, passionate love

she had eyes of burnt ember and they sparked every so often

she wanted to envelop everyone in a comforting warmth

she became her kids’ campfire so she could give them a place to sing and laugh

she burned with such fierce power that she could eradicate an entire forest or anyone who dared to hurt those close to her

Photo Credit: http://www.icompositions.com

she who smiles with the brightness of the sun

she needed someone to hold her close and add sparks to her weakening flame

she needed to burn an image of herself in everyone’s minds, so she wouldn’t die out

she needed a moment that was so bright that even he remembered her warmth

he with those icy, blue eyes that could stare into you and make your heart stop

he who gave his family the cold shoulder and now has no one

he who sleeps in an empty bed in an empty studio apartment, listening to the city life pass by him

he who makes strangers shiver when they so much as glance his way

he always froze up when near her, his face getting paler with every step she took toward him

he who could never get himself out of his dark, barren mind long enough to let himself thaw out

he was so cold that even she couldn’t melt away his icy exterior

so they were stuck in an eternal loop, the same moments, waiting and longing for a connection to bring them out of their burning, but cold misery

The Spiders Rise pt. 2

Parts of the following blog are fictional accounts.

Tuesday
I’m always the first one back from breakfast, so the dorms are quiet and still. Halfway down the hallway, a drawing of a cartoon spider flutters to my feet from it’s position on the wall. It was an omen, I swear it was. There was a spider in the dorm’s cutlery drawer when I was looking for spoon to make hot chocolate with.

The girls went to bed that night feeling weary but quite hopeless. We all knew that the relentless torture would not ease up yet. “Third time’s the charm,” they say.

3am and the all-too familiar sound fills the dorm. I laid awake in bed for 20 seconds or so, contemplating just staying in my room and facing the consequences.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with that thought, as I was the first person out of the dorm. The other humans took their time coming out because they knew that there was no fire and no danger.

We’re all tired. We’re all bickering.

Wednesday

No sign of our 8-legged friends anywhere, so I felt internally relieved. The other girls felt hopelessly exhausted and didn’t have as much knowledge as I do.

All was quiet that night. Not a peep, not a ring, not a twitch.

Thursday
6:40am and I’m brushing my teeth, eyes still closed and dozing off in the silence. A friend screams and points to the wall – a large brown recluse, crouching and staring at me from the mirror. I bring him outside and try to calm my beating heart, now definitely awake.

There’s the cartoon spider at my feet again. I had stuck it back onto the wall on Tuesday, and today… Well, there it is.

9pm Thursday. I’m prepared for their final attack.

Friday
5am and I was woken by the smell of smoke. It was faint enough that the fire alarms didn’t go off.

There were about (aw heck no) a dozen spiders on my floor.

They all ran under the crack of my door and I followed them out into the hallway and out of the dorm. It was hot outside. Like, fiery hot. Actually, there was a huuuge fire outside the dorm that singed the edges of my tie-dye shirt and curled the ends of my braided hair.

The fire alarm finally went off but the dorm didn’t jump like it usually did.

Everyone was sick of the fire alarm. Every single one of them stayed in their beds and covered their ears and groaned. Nobody was awake enough to smell the smoke or to even bother to check the hallways, where smoke was coating the ceilings.

The dorm dogs ran outside silently, followed by a cat and several hundred more insects of all shapes and sizes.

I thought I was dreaming, which is why I only laughed and waved at the dorm.

Bye.

Photo credit ifiberone.com

Goodbye.

Nine One One

It was just a regular sunday night until it wasn’t.

I was sitting at home with a friend enjoying some pizza after playing Madden 13 when all of a sudden my sister bursts in the door yelling.

I was sitting at the table and she rushed in telling me that there is a huge fire right behind a property that we rent out.

She said that she drove by and called 9-1-1 and told them that there was a very large fire and told them the location.

After finishing dinner my Dad and I decided we should probably make sure our property was not on fire and that our storage was ok.

After we had determined our stuff was in no imminent danger and had a talk with our renters we wanted to check it out.

We walked down a long stretch of driveway to see a house engulfed in flames, making loud popping noises like something was exploding, and a firetruck parked right in the middle of two trees.

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