Opinion: I’m digging for fire


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Ever since the dawn of man, us monkeys have been staring slack-jawed at the awesome sight of flame. For almost as long, we’ve been making up terrible poetry to describe it. What happens when the doggerel blends with, say, the perennial east coast desire to interpret the land of fruits and nuts for the civilized natives back home? Pure comedy gold, that’s what!

From the letters section of the New York Times:


There was an eerie silence as I stood there in the orange smoky haze, ashes falling like snow on Mercury, and blinked two or maybe three times. By motivation, this had absolutely nothing to do with the fire -- it just seemed like something that would happen in Southern California. As I quietly closed the door, I thought about Joan Didion; she would understand this.Tom Impelluso

How could you not close the door ‘quietly’ with all those heavy thoughts rattling around your noggin! Letter-writer Martin Kruming also added: ‘White ashes rain down from blackened skies; residents wear surgical masks outside; estates and homes crumble in seconds and tens of thousands flee.’

Lest you think I’m being unkind to Seaboard proles, I give you Janet Fitch of the Washington Post:

All week, it has been like a funeral here in the city. The moon rose orange through the smoke. Although surrounded by miles of concrete, we could feel the million trees burning, taste the fear but even more the sadness in the air [...] The funeral we Angelenos feel is the periodic funeral of all our illusions about the nature of this place. [...] California is so dry now, a wet towel hung over a shower bar will be usable within half an hour. Street trees have been looking stressed all summer.

I come not to bury Fitch (or Didion, or Raymond Chandler, or Mike Davis), but to salute the whole lot of ‘em for giving it the old college try while fighting an ultimately losing battle -- using the wholly inadequate medium of words to describe a force of nature that’s all about the visuals. Like this one, by The Times’ phenomenal Wally Skalij:

To see and celebrate the poetry no words can convey, keep on reading after the jump.

You want more Wally? How about a lone firefighter, with his trusty truck and hose, against a towering inferno? Followed by, in order:
* The Times’ Stephen Osman, continuing in the David vs. Goliath theme in Malibu.
* Karen Tapia’s iconic Stonehenge.
* Irfan Khan’s jack-o-lanterns from hell.
* Richard Hartog’s classic Malibu surfer.
* Reader Matt Doolin’s Malibu morning.
* Reader bajawildman’s Punta Banda.
* Reader Ashlie’s Running Springs-at-night photo.
* Reader oceansider’s Bound for Glory-like bit.
* Reader Avtek 9’s look at Santa Clarita.
* And, even though it may be a cheap juxtaposition, I think reader Doug Z.’s ‘Via Princessa’ contains more poetry than even the letters section of the New York Times.