Waking up to a burning California

Brenda Hillman

( CNN) Monday morning, by the time I woke up, the poet Brenda Hillman, who lives up the hill from me in Kensington had already posted a picture to Instagram of the eerie sky out over the San Francisco Bay: a layer of low-lying fog, blanketing the hills, a small gap of sky, and then above it a huge dark plume of looming smoke, lurking like a dark genie over the metropolis.

By that time, the sunshine was rising — the bright apocalyptic red it turns when the air is bad. It’s an curiously pretty nectarine colour that also signals dangerous air. My spouse and I glimpsed it in the backyard where we were catching a quick workout before the kids got up.

It was still cool, but we could feel the heat building, and as I moved, I could feel a familiar, phlegmy rattle in my lungs — the low-level irritation of living with bad air. What’s more, I acknowledged all these things from last year at this time: “Fire season, ” I said to him, as we headed in to pack the kids their lunch. “Have you checked the go box? ”

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