is the taste of the sky the color of ash?
perhaps, could it be the feeling of sitting in a tub of water after a long day, leaning your head back against the wall, lathering the shampoo into your hair? the feeling of washing off grime from the soles of your feet after a long walk with your mother, the feeling of your feet pressing on a bike’s pedals deep into the night, aching (but in a good way), the feeling of ignoring the baby pink journal that sits on your desk reminding you that you have one, two, three things left to do for the day, the feeling of a sky yellower than one could imagine, burrowing away deep inside of one’s soul.
one might say it’s all of these. another might say it’s none of these.
what would i say, you ask? well, i’m so glad you asked.
i would say that one night it could be one of these, and the next night it could be another of these. and last night it was something completely different.
and so it goes on. the sky tastes like amber and lavender, i would tell you. and sometimes it’s roses and sunflowers, too. but right now, the sky is like burnt caramel left on the stove too long. it’s the feeling you get when it’s too dark outside to feel at ease but too early for it to be an excuse. the sky right now does taste like ash.
quite literally, i mean.
you would say it tastes like ash because it has a soft glow, like the last embers of a fireplace flew far away and settled down outside, nestled into the snowy. or because it’s thick on your tongue, like the word you needed yesterday that was almost there- but not quite. you only remembered it today, and you cursed your damn self for forgetting it. oh! you thought, that was the word.
you would say it tastes like ash because of all the ways you think it does. i would tell you that no, it doesn’t taste like ash because of the fireplace and caramel and thick tongues and whatever antics you’re coming up with. it tastes like ash because it tastes like ash. it really does.
i mean, the sky is practically burning. it’s orange and lit on fire, casting a dusky glow (flame?) onto me and you and us all. it’s not actually on fire- not yet, at least- but it is a hundred miles up north, and it is a few hundred down south.
i sit at my desk tapping away at a hulk of metal with some wires in it, the window open and the lights off (it’s two PM on a summer afternoon, i say- why would i need the lights?). the ash rains down in small, soft layers. like it’s a cottony flower, a dandelion, drifting down as a gift from the heavens, settling down on my desk like a thin layer of syrup left out for the hummingbirds.
only, it’s ash. not syrup or sugar or caramel or amber. it’s ash, and there’s ash raining from the sky, aditi and there’s nothing we can do about it because what would we do? try and battle the ash, spear versus empty space?
so we do what we only know- we sweep up the ash off of my table and off of the walls of our house from the outside (“it could come inside, too- close the windows!”) and watch with the rest of the world to see if it’s the end of the world or not.
we do what everyone else does. sleep (or try to, at least), wake up, eat, go for a walk (“no! you’ll get sick!” “nonsense, they always say that. i’m fine.”), and log into school, listening to our teachers tell us how the sky is yellow. then we pull out our phones and see the pictures of an orange sky a couple dozen miles away. are they trying to one-up us?, we joke. but we’re helpless and there’s nothing we can do about it other than wait.
we’ve already waited. we waited two weeks ago and two weeks later, when they told us we were breathing in the ash and it was settling into our lungs, making itself at home, and we should be ready to leave everything we know in the blink of a moment. we waited now and tomorrow when the ash dusts our home like a thin layer of snow. toxic snow.
and we’ll keep waiting, in the dark, looking at the yellow sky, while messages and news and stories and anecdotes and pictures pour into the rest of the world.
what’s going on over there? they ask. oh, they’re burning, someone replies nonchalantly.
WE are burning! you reply indignantly. the city i grew up in is bathed in orange glow! you cry out.
but it’s all the same to them, and if that small difference means the world to you, it doesn’t mean anything to them.
so we go on, thinking this is normal, and no one tells us anything different. we go on thinking there’s nothing we can do about it, and so does everyone else.
but! someone says, and you hear a tiny voice somewhere far out. help us. the voice whispers. you have a voice. i do not. the person speaks for thousands more, a chorus of voices that grows in numbers to tens and hundreds of thousands.
you have a voice. i do not.
If you can, please donate to any one of the links here which are donation links for the fires based in California. Wildfire relief fund. CA natural disaster response. Individual family GoFundMe pages. Commemorating fallen firefighters and their communities. Incident updates (over 1.2 million acres have burned).