Why is it that on the shortest days of the year I have the longest lists?
Dawn arrives in the thinnest, milky colors these December days and then, it seems, dark falls again before I can get anything done.
I am utterly discombobulated after the Thomas Fire – now officially the largest wildfire in modern California history – consumed two weeks of our lives. Of course, that is nothing compared with what it took from others. Hundreds of homes destroyed in Ventura County; only three, I think, in our community, but it’s always harder when you know the people who’ve lost their homes. Last night we dined a few tables over from a family whose home was destroyed; a friend of our son was also among those whose hilltop aerie went up in flames. Unthinkable.
There is a consensus that if the fire had begun here, and there would not have been time to assemble a veritable army of 8,000+ brave firefighters, the community of Montecito and perhaps much of the town of Santa Barbara would have been devoured by the fire. We were told that each threatened home in the foothills of Montecito had a fire truck in the driveway and was individually and fiercely defended. The homes that were lost were simply subjected to a wind-driven inferno beyond what even the best firefighters in the world – which is who we had here – could defeat.
And even more mind-boggling, it seems, is that the smoke has cleared now that the beast is 65% contained and, unless you drive along the roads below the charred hillsides, it’s as if it never happened. For the sake of posterity, I did get this photo of the scorched hills along the northbound 101 freeway between Ventura and Carpinteria:
But it did happen, and here it is December 23 and we are not even close to being ready to celebrate Christmas. The check-offs on the lists I made put me at about the December 7 mark. No way to time travel that gap. Many fewer packages under the tree this year. But we have a tree. And we have a home. And dark as the dawn may seem, a star will rise and wise men will follow it.
The darker the sky, the easier it is to see the stars. My prayer for those devastated by the fire is for this miracle: that somehow, amidst their grief, the good news of Christmas will shine more brightly for them and glimmer with hope for the future.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” – Luke 2:9