Lookout Point, Paradise, Spring,2018
Lookout Point, Paradise, Winter, 2018
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. – Genesis 3:24
Yesterday for the first time we took a drive up the Skyway to see how close we could get to Paradise. When we arrived at the gates of Paradise we were greeted not by an angel with a flaming sword but by a Highway Patrol officer with a kind attitude and a Smith & Wesson. He informed us that my home on Scottwood was not in the zones now open for return and directed us to go back down the Skyway.
Up or down the Skyway the landscape is not what you expect in your imagination. Instead of a charred and shattered scene, it looks almost clean; almost scoured.
The fire of November 8 came down Butte canyon and those around it like flood waters swirl and plunge and rip on by. The winds behind the fire drove it down at high speeds and it stripped out the scrub and underbrush and blankets of pine needles turning them to ash. The leaves on the trees were toasted a tan brown color for the most part and the sick trees with openings into their trunks were hollowed out by fire and lie toppled here and there.
I say here and there because the trees along the Skyway and up through the canyon seem to be about 80% upright. Whether they will put out fresh green leaves in the spring I have no way of knowing, but the odds favor it. Beneath the trees, there is on all sides a sort of charred surface with tiny chunks of charcoal crunching like tiny pumice pebbles on some cooled volcanic beach. In the middle distance, all is burned black, but closer in you see that the late, very late, rains of December have already caused the green shoots of grass to push up through the burned soil surface and tint the ground with Spring.
The earth at my feet
The horror of the burning one month back will, in time, be darkness visible when I am allowed into Zone 11 to access to what was my home. For now, in these startlingly beautiful clear winter days, the scene on the road up and the road down is one that hints of, in the spring, something that will look very much like a carefully manicured park.
In the town of Paradise, they are still waiting for recovery to begin. Nature doesn’t wait.