We go out every day to the chaparral, winding our way back into the hills in October when the dry season yawns on and on and the stillness, all that nothing, is cut by sudden bursts of wind that threaten to rend it all apart. They canceled the harvest festival – too many young bodies, too much kindling. The oaks are still, woodpeckers indifferent. Or just used to it, this season that stretches longer and drier every year. The smell of smoke parts cracked lips and burns back in the throat. Swallowing tastes dust and iron. They fled in the thousands from Napa yesterday, from Crockett, getting closer. Not here; not yet. We tread heavy over ancient seabed, the dog searches for fence lizards in the grass. The air snarls and curls with electricity, lifts every hair, rips up and out.
The dog’s kicking scares you. You’ve become superstitious; you watch for rattlesnakes. You’ve been finding deer legs, the bones still bloody. You can’t sweat. You fear the tower, fear combustion into a million roaring sparks. Keep walking under the power lines, keep listening for wind in dry brush, keep thinking of rain.
Janine Rich is a natural history nerd and avid tide pool explorer. Born and raised in the East Bay, her writing explores entwined themes of gender, climate change, citizenship, and labor justice. She divides her time between Walnut Creek and Istanbul.