I grew up in a Chevy Biscayne on the Pasadena freeway. I lived in cars; jeeps, trucks, a BMW and the first SUVs, one per decade. But none of them was black, I’d always wanted black. Today that black car, my new shiny toy is parked outside my window, sprinkled with ash. The air is unbreathable, visibility dismal. California is on fire, ash falls from the sky. The sight of something new covered by the dust of the dead is more than ironic. How absurd it would be for me to get annoyed. The ash is all that remains from pines and ferns, grasses, bears and people, coyotes, crows and mice. This snow of ash is someone’s home, memories, neighborhood, their life’s story. Should I have my car washed, rinse these vestiges down a drain, or scoop them into my palms as something sacred? Say a prayer, ring a bell, light a candle, burn sage or avoid flame all together? Fire has eaten so much its belly must be full. In my palms, I hold your life. I see you, hear, smell, honor you, celebrate you, mourn. With you in my hands, I call out to the rain, to the clear, cool waters of heaven to cry upon us. I remember you, your colors and shape.
Some blame it on the year. Some say it will change when the year changes when the election is over when the vaccine comes like there is a start and stop button to this fire–this transformation, these end days, this collapsing dawn of a new age. But I say the fire will burn until it doesn’t. We are riding the story that we have all created, we knew this time was coming and now it’s here, we are all in it, ashes in hands, all looking for a way out, somewhere to move, some way to put it off–just a little longer, just long enough to assure our safety, to preserve our lifestyles, save our fortunes. But that’s what we’ve done for decades and now there is no there there. So, we burn like Catholic Saints, eyes cast upwards. We are on fire from an inconvenient truth which we all contributed to bit by bit. Ashes in our grasp, thirsty, scared, confident, anxious, our spirits cry out, the forests and creatures cry out—water. Ashes in palms, the dead float then sprinkle themselves among the fearful living, settling on our shoulders and hair, blinding our eyes and windshields, cascading downward like dust on the flowers and sidewalks. Honor them, give them a resting place, celebrate their lives, remember their names. We are in this together. We knew that we would be, remember? Consumed by a fog of smoke a black car drives away, a dust of ash blows away. “Spend no time fretting,” go the departing words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg “find a way to do what is important to get done.”
David e Moreno