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.