The sun shines weakly through the haze today. If one didn’t know better, it might be thought that the marine layer has returned to the Central Coast of California. But no, this haze is not natural.
Residents often refer to this section of the Central Coast as Paradise. We post that word on social media. We are proud of the beauty here. We think ourselves privileged to live here. We enjoy the marvelous good weather. We boast of it to relatives who live in less balmy climates. The temperatures that were in the 80s yesterday are more than 10 degrees cooler. The breeze has brought something alien here. Paradise is obscured.
It is dry. Too dry. Except for one tiny bit of rain over a month ago, this part of the world hasn’t seen measurable moisture in more than a year. It doesn’t take much for the brittle brush to explode into fire. Neighbors stand outside their houses and speak to each other. “It could happen here. Are you prepared?” We wonder aloud how we would evacuate if we had to; what road could we take. Or should we just head down to the waterfront and try to get on boats; sail out to sea, while we watch Paradise burn.
It did. The small town of that name in northern California burned to the ground. Paradise is lost.
Is this an omen? A message from God? Would Divine Providence let our Paradise burn and turn it into Hell like it did there?
If it is a message, how do we decipher it? Perhaps God feels we have much gall to place the name Paradise on an earthly locale. Do we live like the saints in Paradise?
I am not very biblical by training but there is a section in Genesis where it becomes apparent that God would destroy the city of Sodom for its transgressions and Abraham intercedes and asks God, “Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked? If there were 50 good people in the city, would you spare them?” And God says, “If there are 50, I will spare it.” And Abraham goes on and keeps asking the question over and over, if there are 45, if there are 40, if there are 30, if there are 20, would God spare it? And God answers each time, he would spare it for 45, 40, 30, 20. Finally Abraham asks. “If there are 10 good men, would you spare it?” And God says, “I would spare it for 10.”
Were there not 10 good persons in Paradise? Was there not even one? For God did not spare the place.
Is this God’s revenge for the way we, the human race, have taken care of this planet? For surely, we have not done it a good service. We are creatures of destruction. We thrive on it. We foul our air, we poison our water, we desecrate our land. We are not kind to each other. We turn our backs on the poor and the homeless. We laugh in the face of justice for all. We are quick to answer any supposed threat with war. Little wonder that Paradise is lost.
The thin rays of sun sink down upon the sea and a darker gloom sets in. “It’s the smoke,” a neighbor says, “from the fires in the north and fires in the south. Can you smell it?” Indeed, I can. “Stay indoors if you have any trouble breathing,” I tell her.
We are on fire again in California. it is becoming commonplace. When will it be our turn? Today this Paradise is obscured. Tomorrow it could be gone.