I’m not quite sure why, but somehow I’ve recently started receiving real estate listings in my e-mail for the Sonoma County area. (I don’t view these messages as spam; I have registered with these sites in the past.)
You might have heard about the fires in this area, which were, if I’m recalling correctly, briefly the worst in (recorded) California history, until there were more fires in Southern California, all in 2017. It all seemed apocalyptic around here for a few days until, suddenly, and I’m still not quite sure how this happened, it all started seeming normal again.
A lot of people lost their homes but I actually had not traversed the burned out neighborhoods and I actually had seen relatively few pictures of burned out lots.
Word got out pretty quickly that people really didn’t want sightseers in their burned out neighborhoods in their moments of grief. I heard that one way of seeing the devastation was to get on the new SMART train, whose route traverses that portion of the burned out area from a fire that had jumped Highway 101; I guess the divide of a train car window offered a suitably respectful distance.
All that requires planning and I just never got around to it.
But now the pictures are arriving. They are of burned out lots, but you probably don’t quite realize that when you’re clicking on an eye-poppingly low price.
And there’s a chimney. A fireplace. A place where a family was meant to gather. The hopes those families held for the future. The memories of children and grandchildren. The holidays. The ordinary days. The lives.
Burned to a concrete pad.
And here’s another. And another. And another.
Wow. I guess I understand people deciding not to take the risk of rebuilding there for maybe a multitude of reasons. So they collect their homeowner’s insurance money, sell the land, and move on. This helps them do that. So I guess I don’t really have an objection.
But wow. Oh wow.
I remember my mother and I going to look at a house that was barely a stone’s throw from the railroad tracks. I cautioned that SMART was coming, that what then seemed a relatively quiet neighborhood would not remain so. I’m guessing—just guessing—that house might no longer be there.
And not just a wow of amazement. This is more a sickening nauseous reeling kind of wow. The kind of wow that you’ve stood up, but your face is pointed down, because maybe you shouldn’t have done that, and damn it’s amazing you can feel so sick. So rapidly.
Yeah, we need to move on. But maybe not just yet.