Lazy Letter: Snowing Ash
It was still dark when I finally woke up. I didn’t sleep well throughout the night, woke up with every little sound. We had to sleep at the volunteers’ house since we decided it was safer for the night. We have no car at the studio, how would we get away if the fire reached us?! Who would come and rescue us? So, we each found a bed to rest, and waited for the morning to reach us, maybe it would make things look better–I picked the small couch, RJ slept on the floor by the terrace door and the cold fireplace.
First, I heard a dog barking, and then a man speaking to someone, perhaps he was on the phone since it was a one-way conversation, or he could’ve been talking to himself. Then, it was a door opening and shutting a few times back to back. Later I woke up to something else, but I can’t remember now what it was. I was expecting bad news, probably for Julie to come and wake us up, let us know it was officially the time to evacuate. Get our bags and hurry down to the car; it’d be either Robert’s or David’s, or maybe both since we’re too many, or it could’ve been the municipality’s or police’s van to collect us, take us somewhere safe. Although, I was perfectly aware that the fire was still very far away from us, and none of it wouldn’t happen anytime soon. I just couldn’t stop picturing the valleys beyond were burning in flames from three different corners. And if we actually had to evacuate the house, it meant that the whole valley was going to be on fire. The smoke was stronger than ever which made the sky tragically brown, it was rising from beneath the mountains and hills around our village. I guess that’s where Dave and Chris live; he’d pointed out to that hill where the smoke is rising from the other day. He said they live there. Although you can’t really see anything from here, still good to know it’s there. Now their yard has burnt down, their shed is gone with all their collection of things from different places and times.
It was foggy and smokey outside when we left the house to head back to our studios. The smell of fire had already filled the valley, and the smoke had blocked out the sun; we were surrounded by fear, the real fear of death in the corner. The weather forecast had expected rain and storm, and it was going to be rainy all week; we would check our phones every few minutes in hopes of heavy rain. I kept carrying my blue raincoat with me everywhere, in strong believes that it would rain soon, but it was just not getting there. It hadn’t rained since last April. That’s what the locals kept saying. No wonder how all these forests were burning up constantly!
The past two days felt like a week. It was a full-on adventure ever since I arrived. Not just because of loads of incidents back to back, or because I woke up early and went to bed the last. I don’t know, maybe because we packed and unpacked for too many times, and had to leave the house twice. We didn’t really need to evacuate, we weren’t yet in the danger zone; Julie made us do so! I guess she’s witnessed so many fires in her country, has felt tragic deaths in her life that she didn’t really need to see another one–fair enough. She was certain everything would burn down in flames each time we left the house. We even took our suitcases with us; RJ and I live without a home, so we couldn’t risk leaving our stuff behind; our bags are basically home.
Well, to be honest with you, I still wouldn’t believe that the fire was so close to us if I hadn’t seen the flames with my own eyes. The hill on our east side was burning. We saw the flames on top of the hill, it must’ve started from behind the hill and grew over the top, and pretty soon burnt its way further down towards us. Ugly, scary, but pretty impressive, and very upsetting for all the lives it’s taken within. The flames were massive, even from a great distance. Giant, and loud, we could hear the flames howl with the wind. I wondered how they would sound from close by, how frightening it must’ve been. Some said that the flames would shudder the ground like an earthquake. We stood still on the small bridge over the dried stream of the village. We watched the fire getting closer to us. One minute of silence for all the dead ones, trees, bugs, houses, birds and humans. We listened to the sound of the fire that we embarrassingly admired. Smelled like a barbeque party, reminded me of a fun summer camp, except that it was no fun this time. I found it disrespectful to take pictures of the scenery, struggled with myself for a while whether I should capture the moment or not. Eventually, I gave up, and decided to go back to the yard where we’d left our bags to take my camera down to the bridge. Just as I set the tripod, it started to rain. Who cares about the pictures! We danced. It deserved a good dance. We cheered for the rained, Sasha, Anna and I.
16.Oct.17 – Bordeiro, Portugal