Fires continue to rage in California, a state very close to my heart. The birthplace of my mother. The now home of my brother. A haven for my family, who cherish the salt, sun, and clear rhythms of the earth. The fires have touched the lives of people I love this week, and it is sadness I find myself left with today.
Watching land I have grown to love engulfed in flames, black smoke billowing above, darkening the perpetually blue, vast sky has been gut-wrenching. With bated breath we have watched Nature reclaim what we forgot always belonged to her, charring everything in her path. Never before had I been connected in any real way to a natural disaster, never before had I seen a place I knew well transform into hellish chaos. The events of this weekend, above all else, have inspired in me a deeper gratitude for my safety and the safety of my family. Nothing beyond that matters to me; disaster, the misalignment of stars, has struck me with that poignant clarity.
It is a loss, nonetheless, for a place well loved has been touched and changed by tragedy. Grief and shock, burning rubble, now fill the space where joy and comfort once were. These days have reminded me that this world we live in is filled with both beauty and pain. We live in this unfortunate and yet graced contingency. In the midst of pain, loss, grief, and bearing witness to the brutal power of this world, we have one another to hold onto, our sacred consolation. What would life be worth without this?
It is twilight as I write this piece, the sounds of Manhattan are beginning to quiet to muffled hums of car engines and families walking home from dinner. Twilight is a special time of day because as the light dims, that which is nearest to us becomes clear while the landscape becomes fuzzy and irrelevant, while the sky turns dark blue, and buildings and trees become inked shadows in the distance. We behold predictable transition, as the earth, in her calmer form says, it is time to be quieter now. Our bones register our fatigue. We drink tea. We pray for what we hope will become true in our world tomorrow and the days to follow. We behold the people we will carry lovingly in our hearts, into the next maddening, uncertain, imperfect, light-filled day.
We lean into the graced part of our existence, telling people we cherish how much we love them. We prepare ourselves to begin again to greet what may come with readied compassion and strength. We lay our heartbreak and our fear down. In our holy humanness, for a time, we rest in the grace of the world and are free.