I <3 California by Sara Frykenberg

It’s Friday. I drive down PCH, Highway 1, at five-o-clock in the morning on my way to the airport. I left early and avoided the evacuation traffic. The sky is pitch black—not just dark, but black. Smoke cloaks the sky, sky presses against black mountains. I can’t actually see the ocean right next to me. I don’t look either, because the wind is pushing my car around on the freeway and I need to pay attention. Don’t look at the invisible water Sara, pay attention.

I admit to myself that I am afraid even though I am doing something I do every day.

I am getting on a plane. Why am I getting on this plane? I need to be here. I want to be here. But life goes on, doesn’t it? We hope that life goes on; even if we live like it does not. All I know is that I want to tell everyone I see that my home is burning. Not my house-home. Not mine. I’m safe just south of Ventura. I’m not on the freeway. I’m safe on a plane. But my home is burning. MY HOME IS BURNING. (Again.) Please somebody talk to me while my home is burning. But instead, I check the news and twitter reports every 5 minutes and worry about my students and my friends. I want to cry.

Saturday morning, I give a paper about apocalypse and The Broken Earth—it’s an Afrofuturistic sci-fi, a damn good one, no pun intended. But I feel a little sick. Am I sick because I am nervous, or because I can’t stomach the irony? I can’t tell, but I give the paper anyways.

My paper goes something like this: author, N.K. Jemisin introduces her series, “This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. For the last time.” The double entendre is a challenge which reminds us of the intimacy of apocalypse and its resolution. Jemisin’s protagonist wields apocalypse but she chooses to give it away.

I suggest that there is hope in her surrender of apocalypse, in her act of giving away—a counter-apocalyptic hope (but I will write more about this some other time). What I cannot stop thinking about is that she hopes for her daughter: she trades (on) apocalypse for love.

I hope because I do not want this present-future apocalypse for my daughter.

It is my daughter’s birthday today. She tells me that there’s a fire. She’s three today. She pretends that there is a fire at our home and that she has to keep her daughter (Daddy) safe from the fire. I ask her who helps keep us safe from the fires: “firefighters.” After last year’s apocalypse, my then two-year-old told me that she wanted to be a “pink firefighter.” She also wanted to be a teacher, like Mommy. I asked her what she would teach my class. “How be firefighter.”

My heart feels full and empty at the same time.
But I feel grateful too.

I drive home from work on the 101 freeway the day before my daughter’s birthday. They have just reopened Highway 101. The scene is surreal—even though I’ve seen some of it before. Cactus bushes weeping, more into black than brown. An overturned freeway sign, hanging awkwardly from a fence. A red patch of earth, smoking on a hill, and a cop car waiting on the exit below. And then I drive by an overpass, a sign hangs there, written on a sheet: “Thank you.” And I want to cry again.

Thank you to all the firefighters.
Thank you to everyone who fights for our home.
Thank you for loving our home.




Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D.: Graduate of the Women’s Studies in Religion program at Claremont Graduate University, Sara’s research considers the way in which process feminist theo/alogies reveal a kind transitory violence present in the liminal space between abusive paradigms and new non-abusive creations: a counter-necessary violence. In addition to her feminist, theo/alogical and pedagogical pursuits, Sara is also an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, and a level one Kundalini yoga teacher.

7 thoughts on “I <3 California by Sara Frykenberg”

  1. I love your home, too, Sara. I have only visited but have always been so kindly welcomed by the people and the land and sea. I am keeping your home state and all the life there, human, animal, and plant, in my daily prayers for what that is worth. We must all speak truth to power about the plight of your state and our home the earth. Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Earth is breaking open and our house is on fire… cactus do weep from fire and flame.
    Isn’t anyone seeing, listening, feeling, witnessing? I ask these questions every single day.


  3. The rescue agency from which I received one of my cats is–was–in Malibu. I sent a text to Mary Dee, the rescuer: “I’ve been thinking about you. Are you and the kitties safe?” The reply, several minutes later: “We lost everything.”

    These fires and what they do to real people, plus both domestic and wild animals, are heart-breaking. The Abuser-in-Chief, who is supposed to visit Northern California where the entire town of Paradise was burned away (is he going to throw paper towels at the survivors?), recently threatened to withhold FEMA and other federal help from California because of “poor forest management.” Does he not realize that something like 65% of the forests here are federal land?

    I live in Long Beach, which is south of Los Angeles. California and perhaps other western states are suffering from drought and fires and storms of various kinds largely because of climate change. I interpret that partly as the suffering of our blessed Mother Planet. We–Her children–are killing her. We’re right to pray and ask questions and work to survive.

    Sara, take good care of yourself and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember last year here on Vanc. Island. The smoke from the US fires came from the south, the smoke from the east joined it. Then a few smaller fires locally joined in. I had to wear a mask to breathe. Imagining what it must be like now in California, I’m conscious not only of flames, but air, and I weep for you and for Mother Earth as I read this post, Sara. I fear what is to come if we continue on our present path. I think of an interview a year or so ago with a coal miner dying from black lung. He supported Trump because trump would reopen the coal mines and there would be work.


  5. Hi Sara,
    You post touched me deeply. My father lives a mile from where the Hill fire started. I used to ride my horse there. Luckily for my father the wind blew the fire away from his home, but of course that was very unlucky for many other people, as well as the animals and plants. It is all so heartbreaking!

    Liked by 1 person

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