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Thursday, October 01, 2020


by Sandy Sortwell Makau

Flames from the Glass Fire consume Chateau Boswell Winery. St. Helena, CA, September 27, 2020. Credit: Noah Berger/AP via The Washington Post, September 30, 2020. 

Burned remains float over the mountain ridge, houses, old cars, furniture and dreams, reconfigured into gray soot, travel to the valley floor on the wings of scattered ash to rest on my back porch.

The air quiet, oppression settles on every surface a reminder of the fire’s distant destruction, how lives suddenly transform from hope, to fire, to smoke, to ash.

Trapped in my air tight house surrounded by a white fog of smoke; its haze deceives me. Through my kitchen window, I see a cloudy winter day until I open the door, the smoke bullies me with its toxic fumes, it taunts me with the threat of more fire to come, saying to me ‘maybe when the wind changes tonight I will come for you too.’

I walk across the porch, the wind billows swirling like a desert windstorm trying to lift. My footsteps sink into the ash like freshly fallen snow making a path barren and gray. The destination unknown.

The mountaintop has shown me its sadness in the ash today.

Sandy Sortwell Makau lives in Butte County, California–30 minutes from both the Paradise 2018 Camp Fire and this years Bear Fire above the town of Oroville. She is surrounded by fires nearby in northern California, in southern California, and across the border in Oregon. Friends of hers have lost everything in these fires. She is a freelance writer and poet.