Thursday, May 7, 2009

Yellow Light

In Santa Barbara yesterday evening, sundowner winds whipped up the flames of the Jesusita fire into a neighborhood of homes, causing the evacuation of almost 14,000 people. Some twenty houses burned to the ground.

The shifting winds blew the plume of smoke south, and even though our part of the Pacific coastline is one hundred miles away from Santa Barbara, on my evening commute I drove home through a smoky haze into a smudged and tan-colored sky.

There's something about the light when there's a fire. Everyone who lives in fire-prone country recognizes it - even if only subconsciously - and it makes you feel tense.

I worked in theatre for so many years, and seeing this golden light at first makes me think of stage lights and gels and templates that color and break up the beam to mimic sunlight through foliage - but instead of being beautiful it is now eerie and ominous to me.

These are the ashes of someone's home, suspended with the heated gas of burnt sage and pine resins, wafted 100 miles down the coast, browning the sun, snuffing the light.

This is not a golden sunset.


Woman in a Window said...

Oh. Because really, the photos themselves are beautiful. But yes, always to look underneath that to see what it is really all about. I wonder how often we do that? Mistake someone's misfortune as something else?

g said...

There's something about fire in the air that makes your whole body know it - I never experienced anything like this until I lived in Southern California. It's a little like living in the Midwest and "feeling" it's tornado weather - only even stranger.

Jason, as himself said...

You're right about that light during a fire. I hadn't thought about it much. It is eerie.

Shey said...

I've watched this on the news, I hope the fire dies down soon.

The effect is quite fascinating and colorful, though. :)

JCK said...

You've described that light so well. My heart goes out to all of those people.

Gilly said...

It must be frighteneing to live where fire can occur so readily. Even if the fire is miles away, then "near" is not defined.

I think I would hate to live in California where fires can rage so easily. (Or in SE Australia, come to that!) What could possibly compensate for that ever-present possibility?

There's something to be said for living in rainy old NW England!

Pagan Sphinx said...

I love your pictures! My daughter and DIL are moving to Santa Barbara in August! Thy're very much looking forward to the weather.

Thanks for your MWM visit. Have a good weekend!

cactus petunia said...

Wow. The reality of the situation makes it hard to enjoy that golden light, doesn't it?
Beautiful photos, though!

Kate said...

THere is a weird feeling when you look at a photo and think "lovely" and then you understand that "lovely" translates into "horror" for someone else. Beautiful description though, both in the post and in your comment above.

M. Bouffant said...

Ah, that So. Cal. light, always a bit off, fires or not, due to the gunk in the air.

But have you been here for a BIG quake?

Life with Kaishon said...

Such a tragedy to lose a home. I can not even begin to imagine.