|Image of smoke from Butte fire-|
burning about 25-30 miles east and north of our home in Calaveras County
fire affecting two counties-Amador and Calaveras
This was the question that I asked myself yesterday as I went about the business of my day. To begin with there is a terrible fire burning in our area. It's about 30+ miles away from where my husband and I live but the effects can be felt over two counties. The smoke is very thick as the above image shot over the hillside shows. That was last night and this morning the smoke is even worse. It's difficult to function normally during this time; yesterday I was incredibly distracted by the thought of the fire, imagining what was happening to people affected by the disaster and wondering if we ourselves are in danger. It was difficult to leave the house but in the end, I did it. Rational thought has to prevail or else you are just living in fear.
My drive took me down to Madera, a smallish farming community about 2 hours away in the San Joaquin Valley. I don't think I have ever really been down there; I know I have never looked around that area, always believing it to just be an agricultural space. The freeway winds through some very flat land. There are no distant hills visible and no real markers on the land itself. What there is, in abundance, is space and buildings. Many, many ugly buildings. I say ugly because all of the structures that I saw were industrial, old, gray and just unattractive. They all seemed related to the farming industry which is not surprising given the fact that our central valley is one of the largest producers of agricultural products in the world.
taken from the EPA website:
California is the nation’s most productive agricultural state, and is home to a $35 billion agricultural industry. Of the ten most productive agricultural counties in the United States, nine are in California, and the San Joaquin Valley is the single richest agricultural region in the world. California produces more than 400 commodities. It is the nation’s sole producer of a dozen crops, including almonds, artichokes, olives, raisins, and walnuts, and is the leading producer of five dozen more. The state employs 27 percent of the nation's farm workers, and produces nearly half domestically grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Almost 22 percent of the nation’s milk and cream is produced in California, and the state is by far the nation’s largest producer of dairy products.
I include the above information because I find it to be staggering. The statistics support why the land and its features look the way that they do. It looks as if the land has been used up; that it is blighted in some way. Not devastated or desolate but exhausted. And people live in this area. They have to. They work here, raise their families, and likely love the land and proudly call it their home. And even though I had some strong reactions to what I saw yesterday, I don't believe that it is my place to pass judgment. It's not for me to say what the place looks like or how I feel about the consequences of our collective decisions. My experiences yesterday were overwhelming to me however and caused me to question the nature of God's presence. Was he only visible in positive things? Could I find evidence in a day that I felt was filled with negativity?
The answer is yes. This morning things look better. Careful consideration and reflection can turn things around even though the same conditions still exist. The fire is still burning, agricultural business still goes on, and people continue to go about their business. Finding God's presence can be very difficult for me when I focus on things that are external and negative. It hit me this morning that yesterday I was looking in the wrong places. All I was seeing was the external and the negative. I needed to look internally, to past experiences that were positive and good, in order to sense God's presence. If you wait for something beautiful or positive to come along then you may be waiting a long time. And while beautiful and positive things can help, isn't it better to have some alternatives when those things aren't readily available? Something portable that can be carried with you from place to place, no matter what that place looks like or what is happening? Maybe that internal feeling of faith in God's presence is the answer.