As I write this, we are driving south to the Monterey Peninsula to celebrate Thanksgiving with a couple of branches of our family tree. And boy howdy, do we have a lot to give thanks for right here, right now.
On Tuesday, after nearly ten days of living under a blanket of pollution, particulate matter, and preoccupation with the fires raging in California, I caught a snippet of welcome news on my car radio. Over the airwaves came the voice of Cal Fire’s chief, announcing to a cheering crowd of weary firefighters, “With luck, today is the last day of the 2018 fire season.” I glanced at the sky, still murky, the sunlight still tinged with a weirdly apocalyptic blush of peach, and assured my fretful self that the Cal Fire chief must know what he’s talking about.
Otherwise he might wake up with a fire hose wrapped around his neck.
When we went to bed the sky outside was still sullen, the stars muted. But when I awoke before dawn on Wednesday, there it was: the light, pattering benediction of rain. In drought-ridden California, the first rainstorm after a long dry spell is always a deep relief, but under the circumstances, this one seemed a miracle.
It rained nearly all day. We kept the windows open as far as we could without risking wet windowsills and quietly reveled in the freshness of the air. I spent the day happily cocooning, reading and writing and roasting an enormous pile of root vegetables, my contribution to the communal feast.
Today, on Thanksgiving, the rain has abated. It has left in its wake masses of cottony clouds scudding across a washed blue sky. The colors of the landscape have come out from under their dismal veil and again the vineyards are bursting with bronze and gold, studded with stands of scarlet maples and nestled among the newly refurbished green of the surrounding hills.
It’s like seeing the world all over again for the first time. It strikes me that all of this wonder and beauty is there even when it’s under a cloud or a haze of smoke. As the world must, it changes continually, an ongoing dance of creation, one that has and will continue whether I can see it or not. As an ordinary and flawed mortal, my grip on this truth is fragile.
The tragedy that has befallen so many people in great swaths of my home state are far from forgotten. But like the survivors at the end of any disaster movie, those of us who through no merit of our own (unless we’re Bruce Willis, maybe, or Will Smith) have come through it creep out from the wreckage of the recent past to greet the dawn, to register the astounding gift of another day and another chance. This is really the same truth that faces us every morning, if we are lucky enough to wake up.
So today I am thankful for the reminder that I am fortunate beyond my limited capacity for wild dreams. I am grateful to be a wee part of it all, for however long it is given me to be here, and to have people and animals in my life with whom I can share the marvel.
That includes you, dear reader: may you and your loved ones breathe in all the splendor that life has to offer, today and all days.