Within the first month of my moving to the mountains in 2003(where I ended the last post), a fire broke out. That’s putting it lightly. Both in number and in verb usage. There were actually a number of fires. And “broke out” sounds a bit like Southern California had bad acne. That’s not at all fitting. No, it was much worse. Fires conflagrated around Southern California. Mandatory evacuations were ordered.

We didn’t evacuate. For a number of reasons, most to do with my mom’s health. There was fire about five miles or so away (likely less), but no smoke. The evacuation of a mountain community that had been overbuilt by housing contractors made for crawls out the available roads. It took hours, we heard, into the smoke to get down the mountain. Where we were the sky was blue, smoke was blowing different directions.

So we stayed. And stayed. Power went out after the first or second day. Gas and phones worked. That first week, my dad and I kept watch, watching the horizon for flames. We were in a valley, a mountain bowl, so could see when fire crested the ridges. That would be the sign to leave. So many fires meant so many directions to watch. Each day a different fire would make its way closer. During that week, we were essentially surrounded, one would advance another would recede. Destruction, denudation, in every direction.

After six days, it snowed. Really. That’s what happened. A week of fires, then a couple weeks of too much cold. The fireplace was kept active.

Power came back on. Life went back to its regular state of abnormality. Peace and quiet in the mountains, once more.

Wait for it.

One contribution to the fires was the dead pines. The bark beetle had plagued mountains of pines that had been weakened by many years of drought conditions. The trees died. Dead trees make for good firewood, whether chopped or standing, so the new policy was to chop them down. The electric company paid for much of it, since the trees in neighborhoods threatened power lines, and downed power lines cause fire.

Let the sawing commence. About 15 or so pine trees on my parents property (which isn’t very big) had to come down. That’s added to everyone else’s property made for a season of sawing, a lumber mill neighborhood.

Then homes had to be rebuilt. Homes not destroyed had to be, for some reason, added onto or upgraded.

It turns out mountains in southern California aren’t exactly quiet places, not when there are fires of flame and fires of real estate development.

I was there for about five years. There was another major fire in 2005 or so. The construction sounds never stopped.

This was where God had me. This is where he answered my prayers with, “wait”. Also, “learn.” But mostly “wait.”

It was sometimes on the borders of idyllic, but never quite got there. Idyllic, it seems, is not really transformative. so, that’s not the kind of waiting I needed. I was told to wait so that I could be transformed. Transformed in the nothingness, in the emptiness, in the social catacomb for which confused others and, no doubt, elicited their pity. He just gave up, some likely said. He’s being foolish, many thought.

They were likely right. But it took me a long time to let go the pride that tried to justify myself to the world. That tried to make sense to others, even as I didn’t make sense to myself, and God certainly wasn’t making sense to me.

A hermit said, “When you flee from the company of other people, or when you despise the world and worldlings, take care to do so as if it were you who was being idiotic.

That passage changed my life. That passage and those that surrounded it. It was clear that the fires and noise outside were nothing compared to the fires and noise inside, raging storms that sought constant distraction and appeasement, pride-soaked justification of my abilities and experiences. There was none of that in the mountains.

I was thirty. I was unemployed. I lived with my parents. In the mountains. I was, indeed, idiotic in just about every sense of contemporary American life.

I wasn’t unoccupied, however. I wrote. I read. I kayaked. In these, I found hope.

God continued to say wait.

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