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.