I watch the fires in California rip through the canyons like souped-up race cars in a drag race. Sparks fly and the deadly and fiery glow dips in and out of a smokey haze. These flames are like Roadrunner on Speed with a chaser of Adderall washed down with a super-size Coke. They’re Usain Bolt fast. They’re no match for the bravest firefighters. It’s as if they’re saying, “Go head, bring it.”
Malibu holds a special place in me. I spent three weeks there when I was an about to be senior in high school, with my sister who lived in an apartment on PCH that was on stilts above the ocean. It was magical. More than 40 years later, this past May, we went back to Malibu and rented an amazing house in one of the Canyons there, for Jake’s graduation. That house had burned down years before and been rebuilt, and from what Jake can tell, it looks like it might be going down again. I texted the Air B&B owners and told them we were carrying them in our hearts. All she sent back was a heart and a prayer emoji. Ugh.
Fire has always made me afraid. I had a brief visitation with it about 10 years ago, right before Christmas. In seconds the candles I lit near swags of greenery on my mantle went up while in the kitchen, I artfully placed appetizers on platters for my dinner party of eight. One of my guests saved the day, and probably my house, by tearing the beautifully set table’s cloth from its perch and stamping out the flames. The entire house was filled with smoke, the firemen busted in like mobsters. I sobbed and drank a lot of vodka before deciding the 20 pounds of filet must be cooked and eaten. In just that small amount of time and those few rabid flames, I lost a lot, but what I could have lost is what really made me cry.
So I cannot wrap my brain around the idea that people are losing the houses they’ve made into homes, friends, neighbors, all that makes up a community. I don’t seem to have the imagination to create this horror show in my head. I watch, I look at pictures, but something in me says “No, how could that possibly happen.”
But of course it can, and it is happening as we speak. Someone just like you, with all their dreams and aspirations, all their accomplishments and hopes and memories are being forced to get down to what’s really valuable.
And that’s what surfaces for me. Suff is just that. Possessions are no match for people. If I walked out of my house with my family and my dog, I’d ultimately be ok. The trappings are pretty, some of them are well-loved and tell stories of another time. Some of them are steeped in memories of what my life has been. But what my life, what all our lives really are, is the people we love. It’s as simple as that. If we have those, we have what we need.
Here is a good list of places to send money. And of course, there is always the American Red Cross. I gave to a family I didn’t even know on GoFundMe because I saw it on my friend from high school, Frank’s, FB feed (Michael & Linda Weisberg). There is also a general GoFundMe specifically for the fires.