But now all I want to do is go home--to my familiar childhood home, which is being devoured by a 100,000-acre wildfire. The forest I used to smell at night, whose trees spoke to me in the wind, is dying. Ash and smoke blanket my mother's house, dirtying her newly washed windows and blackening the air she breathes. She's not in danger, not really, but I can't tell that to my overanxious brain. Somehow I feel threatened, though I am thousands of miles away and the fire can't touch me. It can touch my life; it can do damage, no matter if that is real or imagined. There is something violent about it, a blind and unconscious violence that could take away everything I love. My mother talked today about dying, about how all things die--trees, animals, and eventually herself--and her voice was so far away, so muffled and distant, and panic strangled me so that I couldn't reply.
And suddenly I find myself aching for what I can't have. For the touch of my horse's nose against my face. For the sharp briny scent of the air, the half-dark at midnight, the shush of birch trees talking at dusk. I miss the mountains. I miss living in the lower half of the food chain, bears and wolves above me; and above them, earthquakes and avalanches and wildfires. I miss the feeling of being a tiny cog in a giant wheel that overwhelms me with its deadly beauty.
My place on the wheel tonight is so obscure, so far off-center, and here on the outer rim I spin so slowly, like Pluto--the sun a distant memory. Crying myself to sleep seems childish and surreal, because after all nothing is wrong and no one I love is dying, and yet everything is wrong and no one I love is close enough. What is close enough? I would like to pile my loved ones into my bed with me and fall asleep hearing them breathe, feeling their limbs entangled with mine, knowing we would wake in the morning and all would be well. There would be birdsong in the trees and the light would already be full, having crept into our closed eyelids well before we ever thought of coming awake.