“Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone…I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain….but I always thought that I’d see you again.”
It wasn’t just yesterday morning. Actually it seems like forever, but it was just last Friday when the Soberanes Fire forced us and our neighbors to leave our Big Sur home with an hour’s notice. As I write, the fire still burns out of control, over 25,000 acres, 3000 firefighters, growing in all directions. Our house in Palo Colorado still stands as of today, but 20+ of our neighbors, some very very dear friends, hear from far away that their homes are gone and think, “I always thought that I’d see you again.”
I’m staying in a lovely home in Carmel of kind friends. I walked early Sunday morning to the corner store to get the NY Times (can’t usually walk to the store from my remote house!) It was a little surreal to see this charming village, skies eerily green through the smoke. As I walked the aisles, James Taylor came on the sound system, “I walked out this morning, and I wrote down this song. I just can’t remember who to send it to. I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain….”
At first I got mad – Fire and Rain!? I know full well there’s a damned fire raging and I know we’re getting no rain soon in this crazy climate, in November if we’re lucky. How dare you play that song when a fire is threatening me and the land I love and devastating dear friends?
Then I indulged in some James Taylor memories and affection. I remembered reading something about the song’s Suzanne, a tragic story, the plans they made put an end to you. I recalled Taylor’s own long painful journey through addiction and recovery. Moving through the stages of grief, I remembered concerts, sing alongs, you’ve got a friend.
I thought, OK, yes, he is just stating the simple truth: I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.
I usually write something in these Wednesday posts about the ocean and spirituality, Blue Theology. Oceans are wet. Fire is not. The ocean is actually helping to put out this fire. Helicopters are pulling buckets of water out of the ocean and dropping it on the roaring flames. Oceans are saving lives.
I went to a funeral today of a beloved church matriarch, Lois. The family announced after the service that we would process from the church to the cemetery along Oceanview Blvd in Pacific Grove. “We will drive by the sea because Lois loved the ocean; let’s take that route with her one last time.” This view of Asilomar is near her house, and she is buried close to her beloved sea.
So while I wait and worry, hope and despair, I’m taking walks by the sea. I’m remembering that the ocean can help douse a flame of pain or sorrow.
A friend wrote of their destroyed home: “We got the hard news tonight that the fire has taken what we have put our hearts into building at Rocky Creek. It took the structures but it did not take the creative life we built there with family and friends….We accepted the risk of knowing that the land belonged to greater force and that someday we may be faced with this. A risk we full heartedly accepted. The day has come and we are now on our knees at the power of the wild.”
I’m not ready to tie this up in a neat bow of “lessons learned” and “the phoenix will rise” and “the wildflowers will be spectacular next year from these searing flames.” Lives and landscapes have been forever painfully changed.
Walk by the sea and let the ocean help douse the flames.
(Chad King photo of Asilomar, NOAA)