Ashes Wednesday, July 4th
Wildfires, Vulnerability, and Gratitude
Fire! Four fires sprung up west and south of my house on Tuesday and Wednesday. I saw them burning hot in the distance, red flaring through the clouds of smoke that darkened the late-afternoon skies. Rainy season brought an abundance of the wet stuff a few weeks ago. Since then, the skies, although resounding with startling thunder the last several afternoons, have yet to loosen rainy season’s balm of cool moisture into the earth in my part of Florida.
Late yesterday afternoon, we saw three fires in the distance. Five miles or so due west, one brought smoke into my yard. More disturbing was the ash falling snow-like from the sky. But as soon as the once-gray flakes landed, they announced their lack of moisture and dusted the driveway with soot. We watched the flakes tumble to the ground, and after studying them, noted they were only ash, blown the intervening miles by an east-moving wind. None were hot.
Even so, I didn’t feel safe. In fact, I felt vulnerable, being aware of the fire devastation in Colorado the last month.
I imagined puny efforts on my part if the ash had been hot. What could I do? Would I stand in my yard wetting everything down with a garden hose? In the face of a threatening fire, I knew I would feel helpless, as so many have in the past and likely will in the future.
I cannot compare anything I felt watching that ash fall down with anything felt by people whose lives have been consumed by fire or flood, hurricane or tornado. I’ve been spared Nature’s wrath for the most part, although my life has been touched by other disasters and fraught with other challenges.
I watched the three fires burn. I touched the ash. The ash turned to soot. I again noted the distance, that my loved ones and I were, indeed, safe and secure, at least on that day, at that time. I felt the simple emotion of gratitude.
Early this morning, smoke and low visibility from one still-smoldering fire caused the Florida Highway Patrol to close I-95 from Route 60 in Vero Beach to Route 512 in Sebastian/Fellsmere. During my daily walk, a bright-red helicopter—looking much like a dragonfly in the distance—circled the fire area south of me. Although small and somewhat contained, the fire continues to burn, but the highway is open, and I hope this afternoon’s clouds will not be from smoke, but for rain.