chiffonade just posted a brief entry about the fire that’s been raging through Griffith Park since early this afternoon.* I began to leave a comment, but it turned into a long thing, so I decided to write in here instead. This can be another installment of my TWP (Thoughtful Writing Project).

Before anyone knew this fire was started by an arsonist, the assumption was that it happened because of typical LA weather conditions: Red Flag Days are times of high fire danger due to strong winds and hot, dry weather. There are at least a few of these every year, and fire danger is still high on other days when Red Flags haven’t been declared. I’ve become strangely used to them in my time in LA. If you remember, there was a fire that happened in the hills behind my apartment two summers ago, where they closed down Hollywood Blvd for the night and residents walked the neighborhood looking up at the smoke and talking to each other as if they did this every day, except that they don’t. Since that time, I’ve seen several more fires, including the one that happened only about a month ago in Universal City, which I saw in its full blazing-orange glory while driving back from the airport on a nearby street. I had just come to assume that fires were a nasty but unavoidable reality for those of us who live in the city, just like traffic.

Today, though, for some reason, the Griffith Park fire came to seem more real and dangerous to me than either of these other fires, despite their closeness. Could it be because we were just in Griffith Park two days ago, for our little anniversary picnic, so the place now feels “ours” in the way that locations of cherished memories come to do? It did startle me to think back on our happy lunch and realize that those same beautiful trees we admired while eating our potato salad might not be there anymore. Actually, I’ve just remembered the conversation we had about those trees, and now I want to cry:

“I like these trees,” Erik had said, seating himself on a bench. “I think it’s because they are old.”

“Yes,” I’d said, looking up from the dry riverbed to the sunlit green treetops.

“These trees have been here so much longer than we have,” said Erik. “They could be the same trees that have been here since there were Native Americans living here.”

“And they’ll probably be here longer than us, too,” I’d replied. “Maybe our kids will see them.”

Maybe that’s not true anymore.

But it’s not just the loss of the trees that disturbed me this afternoon, or knowing that people were being evacuated from the park and nearby homes. At least… it wasn’t only the news that people were evacuating. I guess somehow this news, these facts, became understood knowledge for me in a way that never happened before. Somehow, in reading and thinking about the blaze in Griffith Park, I finally put all the pieces together and understood why it is that I have gallons of drinking water, cans of beans and boxes of nuts and granola bars sitting in the trunk of the car.

I think part of it is that Erik is in San Jose this week, so I suddenly became aware that bad things could happen to me and I might not have my partner here to help. I was sitting at my computer reading about people having to evacuate and then I looked down at Lyapa and realized that “evacuate” in my case would mean putting both kitties in their carriers and getting them to the car, and then looking around the apartment and trying to decide what to take with me of two people’s lives, while still trying to keep aware of the latest news so I would know where to go and what to do. It was a very scary thought.

This also brings me to the realization that the emergency supplies we keep in our car couldn’t even begin to approximate a rebuilding of our lives, should this be necessary. Obviously, we’d never be able to bring everything, but it’s so chilling to think that in a few hours’ time my life could be reduced to a Honda Accord, a trunkload of nonperishable foods, two cats in carriers, and whatever I could bring with me from the apartment. When I put this emergency kit together I was thinking of earthquakes, so without intending to I assumed that these were just the essentials, what we’d need to tide us over until we could go back inside to our stuff. I didn’t think about total destruction. Now I’m thinking I need to reevaluate the emergency supplies, think about what else I might want in there if that really was all we had. My friend Linda lived through either a big fire or a big earthquake here in LA, and she told me that she has since compiled a quick-reference list of things to take with her in case she ever needs to evacuate again. After that, I made my own list, but I’d totally forgotten about it until today. I’ll need to reevaluate that, too.

But that’s life, isn’t it? I was thinking about this just the other day, and I wrote it down in my sketchbook but never got around to posting it here. Here it is:

Sunday 29 April 2007, San Jose, 11:20 PM.
It occurred to me today that my recent philosophy of trying to live each day as mindfully and meaningfully as if it were my last has neglected to account for one fact. This fact is what makes the philosophy even feasible in the first place: the whole concept that we have stability or a status quo is an illusion. If I really want to live each day as if it were my last, I need to accept the reality that there may be no tomorrow, or even no one-hour-from-now, that each lived moment is a unique and extraordinary gift that I may never receive the equal to again. I’m not expressing this well. Let me try a different way.

When I used to think of living each day “as if it were my last,” I always interpreted it as “as if I were going to die tomorrow.” But what I’ve just realized is that there are other lasts, lasts where I don’t die but instead have to face a reality that is entirely changed from what I knew. If I thought I would die tomorrow, I’d pig out on junk today. But if I knew that tomorrow I’d still be alive, but unable to eat solid food ever again, or unable to eat that particular food ever again, I’d think differently. The same difference goes for many other things. All I can say is I suddenly realized how extraordinarily precious and changeable each instant of my existence truly is. What’s important is not that I might die tomorrow, but that tomorrow might not be like today, or tomorrow I might not be like I am today.

That’s what I’m saying.

*This is why I read, even though some people complain about how idiosyncratic some of the posts are. They had info up about the fire well before the rest of the internet even knew it was happening.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]