The air smells of smoke. Breathing is tension inducing. The fires consume our attention. Sometimes they seem to be all around us. We live in a battle zone.
This is Southern California when the weather is hot and the humidity low and those Santa Ana winds arrive like evil spirits.
Part of my childhood was spent in the shadow of Diamond Butte. We could sit on our front porch, look across Spring Creek, and peep like toms into the big butte's other world.
One hot summer afternoon we watched as thunderheads gathered in that across the creek other world. We hoped they would save their rain until they got to our side of the creek.
Sipping sun tea, we saw the other world's sky turn black. Angry lightning bolts shot from the heavens toward the butte until one finally made contact. It hit a tree. Probably a juniper or a pinon. Instantly the tree became a torch. The flames spread up and down and across Diamond Butte's southern face.
I was too young to worry that the fire might travel down the butte and toward us. Those things couldn't happen.
Our parents, though, seemed to shift uneasily in their chairs. Our father set his glass of tea on the floor and stood as though added height would provide greater safety.
We were transfixed by the spreading flames. Soon even I began to suspect that this was no ordinary event. I was the last to stand.
The thunderheads suddenly opened to release their cargo. Summer rain slammed into the side of Diamond Butte. In seconds steam rose to welcome the rain. The fires were out.
Our father sat back down and picked up his tea. We did the same.
In less that five minutes we had seen lightning strike a tree, the tree burst into flames, the fire spread, and the rains extinguish the blaze.
Sometimes we don't have to leave home to witness a miracle.