Yin and Yang -- Disney and Fire

>> Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The girls and I are on the highway headed to school and work. Up ahead, it’s dark on the other side of the mountain. I get a phone call from Michael.

“UCSD is closed, so you should turn around and come home.”

“Really? OK, I’ll see soon.” I hang up the phone.

“OK girls, see how ‘foggy’ it is up ahead? That’s smoke. Remember all the fires we saw on TV? Well, because of all the smoke, school and work are closed today.”

“Are they on fire?”

“No, but the air quality is bad -- it’s hard to breath. So we’re going back home.”

“Mommy, why don’t you turn around now?”

“Well, we’re on the highway, so I have to look for a road so I can turn around safely.”

I find the road and turn around safely.

“Mommy, why are we turning around?”

“Because we’re going back home.”

“Mommy, why are you driving us in circles?”

Oh, I don’t know. To burn off some of this cheap gasoline? To make Samantha car sick? Because I’m bored?

“We’re going back home, honey.” And we do.

In San Diego, we don’t have snow days, we have fire days. A few years ago during the Cedar Fire, we awoke to a gentle “ashfall” -- large flakes of ash fell to the ground like snowflakes. Schools closed; parents and kids stayed home. But instead of rushing outside to make snow angels, everyone stayed inside to avoid the intense smell of smoke and burning wood.

So far, we have no ash falling in our neighborhood because we’re right in the middle of fires that rage to the North and South from the Witch Creek and Harris Fires. But we have friends who have been ordered to evacuate and friends of friends who’ve lost their homes. Everyone is on high alert. It’s very windy outside, and very dry. The girls’ hair either clings to their cheeks or sticks out in wild angles. Green sparks alight in their sheets when they turn over. Not a good recipe for the days ahead.

We just found out that school and work will be closed again tomorrow. Definitely a mixed blessing. It’s nice to be home with the girls, but of course we feel bad for the opportunity. This afternoon a neighbor dropped by to see if we had any spares - spare pillows, blankets, snacks. I was able to provide fruit bars and rawhide bones. I figured no one would want our drool-stained pillows -- my neighbor agreed.

San Diego residents are encouraged to stay off the streets. A scrolling message on our TV reads: Children should not play outside today. So indoors we stayed. On the weekends, we head out -- we get groceries, visit friends, go to the park. But not today. Which leads me to this important question: do you guys have any advice for a bunch of stir-crazy kids and their parents? What can we do that doesn’t involve going outside, baking, or making crafts? (I mean, I have my limits...) Until I hear back from you, we’ll be painting, reading stories, and watching a lot of Disney movies...

And that’s our day. I’m happy we’re safe and together, but I’m sad to see homes burning on TV and people (and pets) living in makeshift shelters. I’m happy to spend a lazy day with the girls, being bored, taking naps, and eating soup. But I’m sad to learn that my friends are displaced and local hospitals are overwhelmed.

It’s been one of those extreme yin-yang days where the good makes the bad even worse... and vice versa.

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