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Never Turned My Back On You

I'm feeling blah. No real reason for it, just blah.

I carefully set the tape to record LOST last night and forgot that since Boston Legal wasn't on Tuesday, the cable box was not set to channel 15 (ABC). D'oh, and dang it! Thank goodness for downloads, although it's becoming more and more obvious there is a dire NEED for TiVo. It boils down to we haven't seen it yet, and my PLAN had been to come straight home and watch it right away. *sigh*

I've had odd miscellaneous and sundry ideas for posts come into my head a lot in the last several days, but never got around to posting any of them, so therefore I've forgotten most of them. Occasionally I get into a "why bother writing when no one's reading" sort of mood, which is really, when you think about it, patently ridiculous for a journal, which is supposed to be largely for one's own self - these online blogs have tilted that notion a bit, and like all writers I feel more validated when people read me. My friends list is small, but then, I don't have a wildly interesting blog.

But in the same category, the book is off to the next agent on the list.

And I have to write a review for a disc I just got yesterday, and it's a two-disc set.

I also really, really want (and need) to clean out this office. Preferably with a bulldozer. I can't find anything.

Editorial Observer
Letter From California: Some Thoughts on Living the Combustible Life

Published: May 23, 2007

Recently, I flew from Denver to Ontario, Calif. The next-to-last leg of that flight is mostly over desert, and at night the desert floor means darkness. Then we came over the mountains, and in the distance I could see a dim line of lights slowly rising to fill the horizon, the leading edge of the luminosity that is Southern California at night. Before long we were descending, wheels down, over a district of low, flat buildings, enormous in scale, their parking lots and loading bays gleaming under mercury and sodium lamps.

But what caught my eye just before we landed was another kind of light. It was the ragged edge of a wildfire off to the south, probably the Gypsum fire near Yorba Linda. It was dull orange, highly variable, often obscured by its own smoke and then flaring brightly once again. There was no geometry, no steadiness to it, and that lack of proportion and symmetry was as much a part of the fire’s wildness as the fact that it had escaped from human control. Other wildfires have been burning around the region, too, in Griffith Park and on Catalina Island. These have been widely scattered burns, but they raise the fear of a different kind of fire — the kind that begins in separate places with separate names but merges into a single conflagration and is best remembered by the year itself, the way 1988 is remembered in Yellowstone. This year may well bring that kind of fire to Southern California. It is the driest year in the last 120 years. The hills are just waiting to go up. The question is what else will go up with them.

The sight of that wildfire has stuck in my mind. It took the form of a wavering, shallow V on a distant hillside, and, of course, it reminded me of other wildfires I have seen. But whatever that fire was in itself — and it was contained by the next morning — it also helped me visualize global warming in a more literal way than I ever have. I suddenly saw that there are fires everywhere, all around us all the time, but fires so wholly controlled that we no longer think of them as fire at all.

I drove back to my college town that night along the San Bernardino Freeway. The traffic was light and lulling. But there were fires burning in the engines of every vehicle I saw. The lights in our quiet town were themselves a serene combustion, waypoints along a nearly infinite electrical grid that is itself a kind of wire-drawn fire. I got home and saw the porch light burning, its filament kindling in the darkness. The dull-orange haze of night in Los Angeles was the transposed heat of millions of domesticated fires.

A picture came to mind — the familiar sight of a gas flare at the top of the refinery stack in Laurel, Mont., a wavering flame of unwanted gas lighting up the night. I remembered a passage from the journals of John Cheever — a paragraph from 1954 describing “the winter fires of New York burning like the gnats in Benares,” the incinerating of mattresses, wooden crates, cardboard cartons, uptown and down.

It began to seem to me that we are a species of fire-starters, and that all of our imprisoned fires are just so many versions of yet another cook-fire on the edge of night in a land where fuel has grown scarce from all the cook-fires of all the people.

I thought about this sudden vision for a couple of days. At first, it seemed almost overwhelming. I tried to picture all the combustions that are essential to the human ways of life in all their global diversity. I wondered what Earth would look like from our neighborhood in space if we could see all our incandescences, in all their forms, glowing at once. There would be only a faint corona of anthropogenic combustion, but it would be more than enough to have begun overwhelming the atmosphere, which is, after all, such a thin, faint halo around this planet.

The image of the cook-fire kept coming back to mind — the cook-fires I saw burning last June in a village in Tanzania, where every day the problem of fuel presented itself all over again. Sooner or later a wildfire burns itself out for lack of fuel. The question, I suppose, is whether our species will do the same.

We will see what the summer brings in the way of wildfires in Southern California — and, still worse, what October brings when the winds really begin to stir. The drought that afflicts the region probably has nothing to do with global warming. It may simply be part of the natural pattern of wet and dry cycles in the Southwest. If the hills do go up in smoke, they will add their carbon load to the atmosphere, and it will perhaps crystallize in our minds the effect of all our more domesticated flames. But, eventually, the wildfires will die down, and life will return to normal and that momentary vision will subside.

I feel a vague sense of ennui.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 25th, 2007 01:21 am (UTC)

It's the oddest thing -- even though I *know* it's not exactly true, I always assume that the comments on any given post represent the only readers. But I do read your journal more than I comment.

Interesting article about the fires in the West.
May. 25th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
Same here! And I know it's not true, it's just that FEELING. Especially when my significant other is a BNF and has sometimes hundreds of comments... (not that I'm jealous or anything... *g*)

It actually hurts, watching so much of the west burn down. Places I've been, places I want to go, just gone. There's patches in the Arizona north country that were vast stands of ancient pine trees - all meadowland now. Of course the Earth heals, but it'll never be forest again in my lifetime, if ever.
May. 25th, 2007 05:30 am (UTC)
Gnats of Fire!
"Burning like the gnats in Benares"?! Somehow I think they mean the ghats, where people bring their dead to be cremated.

Somewhere there is an overzealous editor who needs to be soundly drubbed.
May. 25th, 2007 11:46 am (UTC)
Re: Gnats of Fire!
You should write them a letter. *g* Alas, I (possibly along with a goodly portion of the readership) was not literate enough to catch that... *blush*

May. 26th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
Have you seen Lost yet? I really did think it was a knock-out finale. And I tried to comment on your last post, but I kept getting an error message - literally about 20 times - when I tried to open up a comment box, so I finally gave up.
May. 26th, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)
LJ is having DTs the last few days, apparently. :P I haven't noticed it myself, but I've seen a lot of complaints.
May. 26th, 2007 06:12 am (UTC)
Not yet!!! The gods have been conspiring against us - we tried to watch it on ABC's website, but the buffering was making it tremendously annoying (lots of stops and glitches), so we went looking for a download - the first one turned out to be not "part II" as actually the second part of the "two hour season finale," but instead the last half-hour of Through the Looking Glass, so we stopped, and then downloaded what turned out to be the first hour - i.e., the clip show/wrapup that came before the actual finale, and now... I hope I've downloaded the RIGHT one this time, and we can FINALLY watch it tomorrow!

Well, I really shouldn't base my life around people making comments in my LJ... I'm fully aware that everyone has a life of their own that doesn't involve ME... *g*

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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