Day 1: I’m sitting on the deck with a book in my lap. Delicate flecks of ash flutter from the sky and settle on my legs. The book is Stephen King’s On Writing, and though it’s not one of his horror thrillers, it still feels fitting to be reading something by this author in this moment. I should probably be inside. Breathing ash is not generally recommended. But it’s no longer 110 degrees out, and I need some air. At any rate, it looks worse than it is. I’m not coughing, and I can breathe easily. Harlan tells me that this is because the smoke is above the marine layer. It is wildfire season once again in California, which doesn’t jar me the way it has in the past. I am strangely calm. Perhaps all of the other calamities that have occurred this year have inoculated me against freak outs.
What’s one more crisis in an already apocalyptic year?
The ash covers everything: the furniture on the deck, the cars in the driveway, the plants in front of the house. It even sneaks inside. I find it on a camera and a pair of Harlan’s sunglasses. It is a case of dandruff gone out of control and brings to mind the unsettling nursery rhyme that may or may not have been inspired by Europe’s Bubonic Plague in the late Middle Ages.
Ring Around the Rosie
A Pocket Full of Posies
We All Fall Down!
Day 2: At 10:00am the sky is dark, our bedroom cave-like. My body is confused. I only recently got up, but it feels like I should be winding down for the night. The world outside is Mars-like. The sky itself on fire, everything bathed in red. We keep the lights on in the house on all day. The sun never appears. My friends and I text photos back and forth. The view from my house like the inside of a jack-o’-lantern. A blurry San Francisco street like something out of Stranger Things. Ash like raindrops on a window in San Anselmo. In the late afternoon I head to the backyard to play fetch with Riley. The Air Quality Index reads 232 or Very Unhealthy. I wear my N95 mask. There are so many uses for masks these days. Before we go back inside I wipe ash off Riley’s fur and my clothes.
Our house is a sanctuary or a prison, depending on my mood.