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Fire Signs

Fire Signs

By Trudy Wischemann

This past weekend, fire season was reignited around Lindsay and Exeter. Saturday it started off with Rocky Hill, followed Sunday by two lightning-struck blazes on the south hill slopes of Lewis Creek. The weather played a role, first in producing the lush crop of grass with spring’s extended rains, then turning the dried stalks to cinders beneath the towering thunderheads.

For me, there’s something comforting about the first fires, as if I finally know where I am for sure. I don’t know what it is. It’s terrifying, seeing the first columns of brown smoke, then the flames. It’s worrisome, knowing there are people out there risking life and limb trying to keep the burning contained. It’s distracting, taking attention away from the daily routines of creation and maintenance as the earth’s whole season of grass production goes up in smoke. But I think I might be benefitting from the realization that you can’t always get what you want.

And what I want, most of the time, or what I think I want, is for things not to change. It’s part of being a control freak, I’m sure: please don’t remind me that I’m not in charge of the world, or even parts of my life (if any.) When Mother Nature’s earth processes take over, as in fire or flood, I’m reminded who is really in charge and briefly relieved of my duties as hall monitor.

But I think there’s also something comforting in the intimacy I now have with this place. I moved here with the subconscious desire to become familiar with the geographic realities of somewhere before I died, and it seems to have happened. Saturday night, as I skimmed the edges of the burn above Myer Drive, seeing the fire trucks encamped to keep watch over flare-ups, the road blocked to keep us lookie-lou’s out of the way, scenes from other fires over the years popped up on my mental screen. So did memories of the people with whom I shared concerns over those fires, and the sense of community that builds as the fire takes off, then wanes.

But I think it was the smell Saturday night that meant the most. During the day there had been the smell of rain mixed with the smell of ash. But once the fire was out, just glowing coals marking the edge of the burn where Mother Nature met CalFire’s resolve, it was the smell of completion, of finality. Nothing much more to be said or done. Back to being hall monitor, with one small difference: that black crescent like a toenail across the southwesternmost foot of Rocky Hill to remind us we’re not in charge of everything.

To everyone who kept us safe this weekend, I give my thanks. To my sweetheart, who was out taking my clothes off the line during the rain of ash, I give special thanks. To everyone who looked around to see what was going on, in wonder and concern, and reviewing the grassfires of years past in their minds, remembering the truths of our lives here in this place, I say “Nice to know you.”

Trudy Wischemann is a daughter of a volunteer fireman who writes. You can send her your cindered thoughts c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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Trudy Wischemann is a writer and rural advocate. You can send her your messages and ideas c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.

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