October 27, 2007
Back. Packed a lot of general business, public speaking, and private friend-visiting into eight days on two coasts. And as anyone within media earshot knows, I had the added experience of being in Malibu and L.A. during the first three days of the massive wildfires. The familiarity was eerie: years ago I was one of the soot-drenched Malibu minions defending her property with a pathetic garden hose in one hand and a wet towel covering her face in the other. Once you have stared directly into a wall of flame so close to you that it heats your entire body, and desperately stomped out spot fires on your porch from swirling embers, you never forget the experience. Since then, no more groovy red party lights for my studio ambiance: the fire-orange glow is frightening, not calming.
My trip began in a 10-seat puddle jumper from quaint Friday Harbor, with a quick, bouncy stop on a tiny airstrip on Whidbey Island to the south, as seen from my window in the photo above. The first time I landed here months ago I was convinced that the little one-lane road wasn’t even wide enough for a Volkswagen Beetle. I remain convinced.
Fast forward to five days later, lifting into the skies from Burbank airport headed to New York City. Aerial views of devastated airspace laden with smoke for hundreds of miles were sad reminders of one of the reasons I chose to leave southern California. But my dear friends still call it home, and that knowledge completely negated any sense of relief I may have felt. Below, you can just barely make out the skyscrapers of downtown L.A. in the center of the fury.
The air cleared as we flew upward and eastward, offering this view of the Lake Arrowhead and San Bernardino fires:
And away I went.
But after 24 years that included multiple southern California fires, earthquakes, mudslides, windstorms and other indelible events, I’m certain that a large part of the heart never leaves at all. Home isn’t only where our possessions reside. Home exists simultaneously in another place where our memories were created. Many of us have lost things we cherished, but nothing can take away remembrance.