Friday, November 30, 2018

Fire and Rain Santa Barbara

Melinda Palacio

Rain clouds above a burnt out Santa Barbara hillside, view from my house.
Rain returns to California like a scorned lover who can’t remember what the original argument was about. For the past two days, the rain was the kind the entire state has been praying for. I’m sure the land appreciated the many hours of a soft gentle patter. However, there were fits of thunder, rare for the west coast, as well as wind, and sheets of water falling sideways and banging on my glass French doors. Wikipedia calls the winter phenomenon a Pineapple Express or an airborne river out of Hawaii. This burst of frenetic downpour feels like the singer Sia belting out one of her famous lines into your ear, “I want to Swing from a Chandelier.” 


Ever since fires have become more prevalent in California, the idea of rain, however badly we need it, makes me feel anxious that there might be another deadly episode of mudslides, such as the one in January that killed 17 people in Montecito when the 101 turned into a river of mud. The view from my kitchen window is of an exposed, burnt out hillside. The lack of rain since the Jesusita Fire in 2009 that consumed the house and hillside means there is some protection from a future fire because there is no fuel left to burn, but it will be a long time before the hill returns to the verdant state it was when we first moved in over ten years ago. Most of the state is covered with burned out hills and I can only imagine the heartbreak in the town of Paradise where an entire town was destroyed by fire. 


Rain used to be a seasonal expectation until drought became the new normal in California. On social media, a teacher posted a photograph of her young students staring outside the classroom window at the water falling from the sky. The picture made me a little sad, rain shouldn’t be such a rare sight. However children who are five to seven years old have only known drought. I am reminded of the Ray Bradbury story where children lock a little girl in a closet during the one hour the sun come out on Venus. I hope we return to a state where water and rain are not such an odd or deadly phenomenon.