An Unfiltered Breath
By Michael Orr
In the aftermath of the California wildfire that destroyed the town of Paradise, talk around the state has turned away from the tragedy and onward to air quality warnings for the Northern half of the State. And perhaps rightly so. There are indeed dangers to breathing the smoke-filled air. Masks are recommended anywhere within 100 miles of Paradise.
But sitting here… a mere 9 miles down the hill, below my beloved home, my perspective is a bit different. Though I am smart enough to realize the danger, I breathe unmasked. For me, it isn’t simply toxic smoke. For me, that smoke carries much more…
That smoke, that so many complain about, carries the last remnants of my Beloved Town. That smoke, that so many complain about, carries the last remnants of friends and neighbors. That smoke, that so many complain about, carries the hopes and dreams of every small business owner on the Ridge. It carries churches of every flavor. It carries the faith of some, while strengthening the faith of others. It carries our parks and beautiful vistas, scarred for now, but not destroyed. It carries the invincible innocence of every child that should never see the sights they saw that day.
That smoke carries within it the last remnants of my pets; Macie, Connor and Sammie. It carries my high school letter jacket and football helmet, my favorite guitar, that painting on the wall, and my photos of life. Lost baby teeth, clippings of hair, all the things of no value that mean everything. It carries my home.
That smoke carries the same pains that my friends and neighbors are suffering, it is a truly shared experience. That smoke carries the Thanksgivings of 30,000 and the memory of what it was to be.
That smoke carries what is left, when the smoke dissipates there will be nothing left. Except, what is in our hearts. Love of Paradise. Love of each other. Love of the potential of a rebirth.
So, yes, I am an idiot for not conforming to the masked masses’ sense of preservation. But I will continue find my own perspective, my own peace, my own memories. I will breathe my unfiltered perspective.